Next June the 'citizens of the EU' (that's us) go to the polls, well probably around 20% will bother going to the polls. Working for an MEP who like me wants Britain out of the whole sorry mess, it does make me ponder, quite frequently, on these strange circumstances.
I think back regularly to about 20 years ago in London. Along with Mrs B I attended a meeting with Enoch Powell. During the meeting he was asked how he recommended people vote in the next European elections. Mr Powell thought for a second or two before responding that he wouldn't soil his hands on a European ballot paper. His argument was that voting only gave it a veneer of credibility, even a modicum of legitimacy.
In 2004 I was second on the UKIP list of candidates for the North West in the last Euro elections. On the day of the count, but before it began, I appeared on the BBC's Politics Show. Towards the end of the show Arlene McCarthy, a particularly unpleasant Labour MEP, accused us (UKIP) of lacking the principle of Sinn Fein, who refused to take their seats in the Westminster Parliament that they opposed. My thoughts at this comment were that their 'principles' hadn't stopped them taking part in the process or taking the taxpayers' money that came with having MPs. Having said that they are now power sharing in Ulster.
Since 1999 UKIP have had MEPs in Brussels/Strasbourg, 3 originally 10 now. While there have been very real benefits from this representation how near are we to a breakthrough in Westminster, other than defectors from another party? We must remember that even if all 75 or so MEPs elected next year for the UK were UKIP, they would not be able to get us out. In the meantime the building of the EU superstate continues apace.
If we look at a few parliamentary by-election results it is quite a depressing picture. In 2000 I stood in the Preston by-election and got 2.1%. In Crewe and Nantwich this May, nine years after our first MEPs were elected, we got 2.2%. In Henley last month, in the aftermath of the Irish referendum, we got 2.4%. To be honest there have been very occasional flashes of hope such as the Hartlepool by-election (10.2%) but, being slightly harsh and a little cliched, so soon after our success in the 2004 Euros a monkey could have achieved that result, and did actually top it in the following Hartlepool mayoral election when H'Angus was elected. In neighbouring Sedgefield last year we got 1.9%
Is it also inevitable that if a party's highest profile people are over in Brusssels/Strasbourg for a high proportion of their time, that the party's centre of gravity will inevitably move with them? If so focus on Westminster, let alone local elections, becomes virtually impossible.
Politics is an ever changing landscape and we have to constantly observe and question. Blindly following the same route is more than likely to lead you down a blind alley. I'm just wondering if there is another way.