European elections are a battle for the soul of UK - Jayne Dowle

This May, elections seem to have come along with the frequency of Bank Holidays. Can it really only be three weeks since we weighed up our options in the local council polls?

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has a political discussion with a woman during the campaign trail in Exeter, ahead of today's European elections. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has a political discussion with a woman during the campaign trail in Exeter, ahead of today's European elections. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

We all know what happened next. And now, here we are again: the European elections. Few people would have put money on the possibility of us doing this. Indeed, right up until the last minute, the dubious task of electing representatives to a club we have voted to abandon could have been shelved.

If a week is considered a long time in politics, three seem a definite eternity. I don’t have space to recount everything which has happened since May 2, but let’s just say that the two ‘‘main’’ parties, Labour and Conservative, look set for another drubbing.

Opinion polls suggest that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is on for victory; in one, 34 per cent of voters asked about their intentions by Opinium said that they would support him.

Labour stood in second place on 20 per cent, the pro-EU Lib Dems were running third (15 per cent) with the Conservatives trailing at fourth place; just 12 per cent of voters say they plan to back the once noble, now wounded beast.

We shall see. Opinion polls have been known to get it wrong. However, what is clear is that none of us can afford to take these European elections lightly.

Whether we’re in or out, we’re not just helping to shape the future of the European Union – all other member states go to the polls too over the next few days – more importantly, we are battling for the soul of Great Britain.

Like all major voting experiences since the EU referendum, this too is loaded with extra meaning. It’s a deliverance on the failures of both Government and Opposition, and it’s being regarded by many as a proxy for a second referendum.

On one side stand the battered and bruised Conservatives, to the right of them, the Brexit party led by Nigel Farage and then to the further right, an array of extremists. You may have received their election literature through your door. I’ve found some content so offensive I’ve thrown the leaflets straight in the recycling bin before my teenagers arrive home.

On the other side, a Labour party with a leader even die-hard traditionalists find increasingly unpalatable. And in the middle, the Lib Dems rampant and the Green Party, quite possibly careering towards their most successful major showing ever.

My son, who is 16, says that if he could vote he would support the Greens. In my conversations with him, I am reminded yet again that our voter behaviour now should no longer be a simple reflection of our own beliefs; it should be a considered investment in the life-chances of our younger generations – they will be the ones to inherit the legacy of these turbulent years.

But what to do? I can’t tell you that. I can however say that each action has a consequence. To deliver a victory roll to the wrong party at this point will have repercussions far more serious to bear at home than in the far-off chambers of Brussels.

Sometimes, as many ordinary people would agree, we must be careful what we wish for. The strong and vociferous turn-out for the EU referendum brought narrow victory to Brexit supporters, which started off the whole sorry chain of events. Put simply, if fewer people had voted, the outcome might have been very different.

However, we should not allow fear to hold us back. We should take these last few hours to acquaint ourselves with our Yorkshire and Humber MEP candidates and cast our vote tactically if strictly necessary.

It’s not for me to tell you to overturn decades of personal belief on the basis of one poll, or to spoil your ballot paper or abstain. However, I would urge you to look closely into your heart and consider the relatively small price your conscience may have to pay for the sake of the nation.

Four years ago, only around one-third (35.6 per cent) of us bothered to turn out for the European elections. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that our vote, each and every one, does count. And we should also remember that although three weeks is a long time in politics, we have to look forwards, not back. Mrs May is on her way out and it will be interesting to see how long Mr Corbyn will cling to his grip on power if it’s not good news by tomorrow.

Eventually, new leaders will appear. New ideas will flourish and we will have a new modus operandi. Anyone who remembers the morass that was unelectable Labour in the 1980s, for instance, then witnessed the party’s revival under the idealism of New Labour will surely agree. So, let’s not use today as a Day of Judgment, but think about the future. Extremism does not heal; it breeds fear and contempt and alienates as many as it excites. Do any of us, pro-Leave, pro-Remain, or really not bothered either way, want that for our country?