Bernard Ingham: This isn’t the election that will free us from Europe

AS one of the minority voting in tomorrow’s European elections – I have already done so by post – I am in an unassailable position to tell you what I think of them.

They – the European elections as distinct from the local elections being held simultaneously – will, whatever the outcome, change absolutely nothing.

This does not mean you should ignore them. To do so would be to forfeit your moral right to criticise Europe and 
all its works, including its so-called Parliament.

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In truth, I doubt that the outcome would matter more if more British people had bothered from the outset to go to the Euro-polls.

The best turnout was 38.5 per cent in 2004. On average only one-third of the electorate has taken the trouble since 1979 to influence whom we send to the peripatetic assembly that meets in Strasbourg and Brussels at entirely unnecessary expense.

We clearly do not take it seriously.

That is why the UK Independence Party might top the poll tomorrow. In these circumstances, it is one thing to vote for a protest party. It is entirely another matter voting for it in an election for something – e.g. the Westminster Parliament – which still does condition our lives in spite of Brussels.

If Westminster was of no use to man or beast, we would not now be increasingly optimistic that a real economic recovery is underway while, please note, the Eurozone – hamstrung by its single currency – continues to languish.

It could, of course, be argued that it is important that tomorrow we signal our increasing concern about Europe to strengthen our arm in any future negotiations with the EU.

But, leaving aside Nick Clegg’s slavish support for all things European, only those dead from the neck upwards on a Continent not overly in love with the governance of Brussels either will have missed Britain’s disaffection.

That disaffection is reflected in no fewer than eight critical or anti-EU parties among the 17 that appeared on my lengthy London ballot paper with its list of 127 candidates.

With the exception of Nigel Farage, all the winners are destined for obscurity on the Euro gravy train. We, the voters, do not own any candidate. They are elected by proportional representation to sit for a region.

Virtually all MEPs who are returned will remain unknown to the vast majority of electors.

Worse still, its electoral system is promoting fragmentation – witness the length of my ballot paper – and disillusion with democratic politics.

But it suits the essentially undemocratic and elitist Europhiles admirably.

They will continue to divide and rule and, of course, ignore the public in pursuit of a United States of Europe.

So, sending a rag, tag and bobtail, however Euro-sceptic, off to the Continent will achieve nothing other than to perpetuate the continued march towards federalism and the eventual obliteration of nation states.

The issue is what are we going to do about it. On that tomorrow’s vote is irrelevant.

Britain’s future will be decided in the British Parliament and not in some pretentious and remote European assembly, even if its members have been elected.

This is where we come up against an uncomfortable reality.

Two of the three major parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats – will do nothing to shake off the yoke of Brussels.

Only the Conservatives are pledged to hold a referendum on our future relationship with the EU after a renegotiation of our terms of membership.

Those minority parties that would cut and run without renegotiation are as unrealistic as they are unlikely ever to be in a position to lead us out of Europe into a wider world.

I do not happen to think we shall get much out of Brussels over the next three years – certainly not enough for an honest politician to look us in the eye in claiming home rule has been restored.

But that is not the point. The inevitable logic of the situation is that it is next year’s general election, not tomorrow’s complicated nonsense, that really matters if you are serious about recovering Britain’s ability to govern itself.

It may well be Britain’s last chance to save itself from a constitutional fate worse than death – becoming the mere province of an undemocratic and corrupt EU. I hope that when the electoral sound and fury dies this week, the British people will increasingly come to recognise that tomorrow was but a diverting sideshow for an activist minority.

The real test is a year away. That is when we can show we mean business. We must not fail ourselves.