It's more fun than Eurovision, but there’s no bearded lady. Only Nigel Farage. Political Editor Chris Lloyd offers a beginner’s guide to tomorrow’s European elections
BY Sunday evening, 751 MEPs will have been elected in 28 countries to represent more than 500 million citizens in the European Parliament.
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Voting will begin in Britain for our 73 MEPs tomorrow, at 7am; the rest of Europe will have caught up with us by 9pm on Sunday, when counting will begin across the country.
- Click here for a European elections map showing seats, polling days by country and the results from 2009
EUROPE is made up of regions.
The North-East runs from the Tees Valley to the Scottish border, has 1.9 million inhabitants and three MEPs.
Yorkshire and the Humber is a gargantuan geographical constituency, running from Whitby to Sheffield and Richmond to Grantham. It has 3.7 million people and elects six MEPs.
IN Britain, we chose our MEPs using the D’Hondt system of proportional representation, which was devised by 19th Century Belgian mathematician Victor D’Hondt. It is not simple.
The number of votes a party gets is divided by the number of seats it has won plus one.
For example, in Yorkshire, the Tories topped the poll in 2009 with 300,000 votes. They won the first seat outright, and their 300,000 was then divided by two to give 150,000.
Because Labour, Ukip and the Lib Dems had all polled more than 150,000, they each got a seat, but because the next largest party, the BNP, only had 120,000 votes, the Tories got a second seat.
The votes were then divided by the number of seats the parties had plus one, leaving the BNP as the biggest remaining party, so it won the last seat.
The parties places their candidates on a list. If a party wins two seats, the top two names on its list become MEPs.
If it wins one seat, only the first name on the list is lucky enough to go to Brussels.
IN 2009, the North-East equitably elected one Labour, one Conservative and one Lib Dem MEP.
However, Labour’s Stephen Hughes, MEP since 1984, and the Lib Dems’ Fiona Hall, MEP since 2004, are standing down.
The polls suggest that Labour and Ukip will each win a seat, with the third seat being a scrap between Labour’s second candidate and the sitting Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan.
In Yorkshire, the picture is more complicated, because in 2009, the Conservatives won two MEPs, and Labour, Lib Dems, Ukip and BNP each won one.
Only a true student of D’Hondt would be brave enough to predict how the cookie will crumble here, particularly because Edward McMillan- Scott was elected in 2009 as a Conservative, but has since become a Lib Dem.
MEPs sit in the European Parliament, which revises and blocks legislation proposed by the unelected European Commission.
It does not originate legislation, although for the first time it will be asked to approve the new president of the commission.
The MEPs form 13 transnational political groupings. All Europe is seeing a rise in anti- EU parties, which will reshape the groupings.
The British Perspective
WHATEVER you think of Ukip leader Nigel Farage, he has certainly spiced up a drab campaign.
The third of Britons who vote in the European elections find an element of freedom that they do not have when choosing a national government that will have direct control over public services.
Therefore, they are prepared to flirt with parties such as Ukip, BNP or the Greens that they would not consider in a General Election.
Labour will want to top the poll to show that Ed Miliband, who is struggling to make an impact, has what it takes to win next year.
The Conservatives seem resigned to be beaten by Ukip.
It may cause their Eurosceptic wing to demand David Cameron strengthens his referendum pledge, but the Tories are taking heart from the improving economy.
Mr Farage has said Ukip will win. Anything less would be embarrassing, although the last week of very bad publicity may have dented the party’s chances.
The Greens could overtake the Lib Dems, for whom these are dark days, possibly facing the loss of all 11 MEPs.