My vote

An essential new website is launched to help voters decide whom to vote for in the European elections in May next year.  The website – visit it here – gives you 15 issues on which MEPs have voted in the last five years and asks you for your own opinion on each.  It then tells you which MEP is closest to your own way of thinking.  (Since you ask, mine turned out to be Andrew Duff, president of Federal Union’s European parent organisation, the UEF, which is just as well.)

Unlike previous votematch websites, this one is based not on party manifestoes but on actual voting records.  Using the objective record of votes cast eliminates the problem of interpreting the sometimes vague and contradictory statements in party election statements, although there is instead a smaller problem that some of the EP votes might have turned on technicalities rather than the big principle issues at stake.

I hope this website is widely used, for two different reasons.  First, it helps people sort through the competing parties and encourage people to decide how to vote on the basis of the issues at stake rather than on whether or not they like the incumbent government of their member state.  European democracy needs more of this issues-based way of thinking.

Secondly, the list of questions that people are asked to think about shows the sheer range and importance of decisions taken by the European Parliament.  From issues of human rights and equality – how to fight homophobia, extending maternity rights for women – to notions of European identity – should sports teams fly the European flag – to the biggest questions of all – whether to increase the cost of carbon emissions, should the EU raise its own taxes.  These are the questions that affect the way we live in matters large and small.

No national parliament addresses such matters in anything like the same way.  They can deal with some of the smaller ones, but the realities of interdependence mean that national parliamentarians cannot initiate continent-wide changes: all they can do is block them or opt their own countries out.

If Europeans are to fight climate change or restart economic growth, they can only do so together. The website helps them find out how.

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