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EU elections shed no light, says Baines

23 May 2019


The Brexit leader Nigel Farage after he was doused in milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle, on Monday

The Brexit leader Nigel Farage after he was doused in milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle, on Monday

THE Brexit Party was expected to gain the most votes in the European Parliament elections on Thursday, multiple polls suggest.

Amid division over the subject, votes were cast for new MEPs, as a result of the delay to the process that was agreed last month (News, 18 April).

Speaking on Wednesday, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that it would be “impossible” to interpret the results of the election, just as it has been difficult to ascertain the meaning of the original EU referendum.

He argued: “Reality, factuality, and truth are now fairly meaningless. . . It is the next General Election that will decide everything.”

The campaign for to the European Parliament elections has been unusually fractious; three high-profile right-wing figures have had milkshakes thrown at them, in apparent political protests at their views.

Last week, the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral banned the UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin from a hustings, arguing that he could be a risk to public order. The decision came after milkshake had been thrown at Mr Benjamin.

PABarred from Exeter Cathedral’s hustings, UKIP’s candidate Carl Benjamin

Mr Benjamin, who is also under investigation by the police for comments that he has made about whether he would rape the Labour MP Jess Phillips, was due to speak at the event on Wednesday of last week. The Dean and Chapter, however, asked UKIP to send another candidate to the hustings, owing to concerns about public safety.

A cathedral spokesman said: “Under the rules of the Electoral Commission, we may exclude candidates from a non-selective hustings for a number of reasons, including concerns about public order.

“In this case, the cathedral believes that the presence of one particular candidate may cause a risk to public order, given a number of incidents over the last few weeks. UKIP has been invited to send another candidate from its list of six candidates standing for election in the South West region.”

On Monday, milk shake was thrown at the Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, during a visit to Newcastle. The far-right MEP candidate Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, endured similar treatment in Warrington and Bury last week.

Bishop Baines said: “There is no place for physical attacks on people. Violent language leads to violent action. Chucking milkshakes might look amusing, but it is not helpful to politics.”

He argued that the situation would seem different if a milkshake was thrown at Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP who left the Labour Party over its handling of anti-Semitism, rather than at Mr Farage.

Before the elections, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, and the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, urged people to vote.

In a joint statement, they said: “As the Anglican Bishops who serve Lancashire, we see it as our prime responsibility to pray for the people of our County and, especially at this time, to ask God to heal divisions and help us build stronger communities. . .

“We feel there is a danger that, when turnout is small, there is a benefit to politicians who thrive not on building unity but on fostering division and this would seriously impact the well-being of our local communities.”

Earlier this month, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, also asked people to vote. He said: “Whatever happens now with Brexit, Anglicans have been on the continent of Europe for over 400 years, and we are here to stay as an active Christian Church among our brother and sister Churches across Europe and, for many of our members, as voting residents or citizens of EU member states.”

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