Race Matters

Britain's Invisible Elections

With less than six months to go before the European Elections there does not seem to be any sense of urgency to engage the public. Where are the posters, the social media debates and television discussions?

We need buzz and anticipation like there was around the 2010 General elections. We should want to hear about the latest back stories, gossip and the marketing battles in the media.

With the surge of far right wing parties, this lack of awareness could allow these parties to win seats and implement their policies, which would be a nasty wake up call for our ‘sleeping society’.

I raised the topic of the EU elections whilst out with my friends. There was a unanimous sense of disinterest and lack of understanding surrounding the elections. One of my friends said, “If they were that important, surely the candidates would have tried to reach out to us by now.”

We need to find a way to mobilize the public, as the UK’s participation in the elections is just as important as any other European country.

The right wing parties are rapidly gaining support across Europe. There is an unsettling nostalgia about right wing manifestos, with many far right parties holding strong xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. In France, there is angst amongst many of the left wing parties as they feel that it will be a complete ‘right wash’. The French National Front leader Marine Le Pen has already launched an alliance with the Netherlands politician Geert Wilders. As the far right parties increase in popularity, so does the perceived sense of trust from the public. This ‘trust’ is some many utilize when choosing who to vote for.

It is likely that if there are conversations about the European Elections, immigration will play a huge part in them. This is part of a larger shift in the UK, which is moving discussions about race equality from the colour of one’s skin to whether you ‘belong’ in Britain.

Immigration is a hot topic at the moment, with widespread speculation that Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants are coming to the UK purely to ‘scrounge off the system’. For the Roma people, this is a continuation of a history of racism that began in the 12th century within Europe. The negative stereotypes of Roma people are deep rooted not only in our society, but also the media. How can they be expected to flourish if we constantly shun them at every opportunity?

I am interested to watch the preparations of the May elections unfold. It is already clear that immigration will be high on the agenda this year. However, it will be interesting to see how it will be used as a tool as positivity or negativity within the European Union debate. That’s if we hear about them at all…
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