The first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 saw a 62 per cent turnout – in 2009 it was just 43 per cent and that speaks volumes, writes UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew
• Political parties are part of the fabric of democracy. Despite often being subject to criticism from various perspectives, they embody the clash of ideas and approaches which is at the heart of democratic politics. Indeed, real democracy requires such a clash and the political opposition it provides. The alternative, the one party state, is the classic negation of both democracy and freedom everywhere it exists - from Afghanistan through China, Korea and Russia to Zimbabwe.
There is no real democracy where there is no real opposition. Proper political parties arise organically, an expression of the coming together of people for a common purpose to advance a particular political programme in the face of those who disagree with them. In a properly functioning democracy, they form themselves. The European Union is trying to 'build' pan-European political parties, which are intended to represent voters in all 27 member states.
I have been vigorously opposing these proposals in the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee. The very fact that they are being ushered through by the European Commission is an admission of the EU's political failure and lack of democratic legitimacy. Across the member states, there is no shortage of political parties. Indeed, some might argue that there are too many and their proliferation is encouraged by proportional representation electoral systems.
In real democracies, political parties do not have to be built. They arise from the will of the people. So, what can we conclude from the fact that the European Parliament does not already have pan-European political parties and there is no sign of them coming together organically? Linked to this is the crucial question of voter turnout. As I pointed out to the EP Constitutional Affairs Committee - at every successive European Parliamentary election since the first voter turnout, which means voter interest, has fallen. The first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 saw a fraction under 62 per cent of the eligible EU electorate turnout to vote. In 1984, turnout the figure fell to 59 per cent. In 1989, it fell to 58.5 per cent and in 1994 it was nearly 57 per cent.
The significant decline occurs in the 1990s, with just 49.5 per cent voting in 1999 and further falls to 45.5 per cent in 2004; and then a mere 43 per cent in 2009. In the United Kingdom, those voters who do turnout are increasingly voting for the UK Independence Party - which came second in the 2009 elections and openly campaigns for withdrawal from the EU. And UKIP is now considered likely to come top of the poll in 2014. My countrymen do not want the EU at any price.
So, what we have witnessed over more than 30 years of the European Parliament's existence as a directly elected body is that people are less and less interested in voting. The parliament lacks the institution, the organic formation of political parties - which indicates and embodies proper democracy. The conclusion is obvious: people do not want the EU. Therefore, it lacks legitimacy. Seeing this, the EU's political class are desperately trying to artificially construct what should be there automatically, in a genuine democratic system. Unsurprisingly, they are going to do it in the only way they know how. They are legislating for the creation of European political parties and funding them from taxpayers' money.
The latter is an alien concept for the UK, which has no direct funding of political parties but it is nevertheless likely to be forced down our throats. In short, they pass new laws and seek to bribe the electorate with their own money. This at a time when that same EU elite has also brought about a devastating economic depression across almost all of southern Europe and one which the flaws in the euro are steadily bringing northwards. The EU has no democratic legitimacy. It is being rejected by the peoples of Europe who, at a time of real, genuine crisis, are turning to their own national parliaments and politicians.
European Parliamentary voter turnout and the absence of the organic growth of European political parties tells us what we need to know; this is another attempt by the EU elite to paper over the cracks in their rapidly disintegrating dream. As I said to the EP Constitutional Affairs Committee: "Respect the verdict of the voters." The roof is falling in both metaphorically and, funnily enough, literally. The roof of the plenary chamber in the Brussels Parliament has rendered the chamber unusable for at least a year and it will cost millions of euros of taxpayers' money to put right, if it ever can be. The symbolism could not be more apt.
Stuart Agnew MEP is a UK Independence Party MEP representing the East of England
See also: Godfrey Bloom: Eurosceptic parties entering new paradigm