Campaign urges Wigan voters to back hope over hate in European elections

A campaign event in Douglas ward
A campaign event in Douglas ward

Wiganers are being urged to send a positive message at the ballot box on the eve of the European elections.

Activists have been leafletting across the town in recent days trying to persuade voters to give a thumbs-down to extremism and the politics of hatred when they decide who to send to Brussels on Thursday.

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Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Labour councillors have been backing the Hope Not Hate campaign, with trade unions and anti-racism groups also supporting.

Voters will cast their ballots to decide who will be the eight members of the European Parliament (MEP) representing the North West.

A number of faith leaders from Wigan churches have also penned a joint letter urging the victory of hope over hate.

Those backing the drive held placards this week proclaiming refugees and migrants were welcome in Britain and outlining the positive contribution of foreign-born workers to the NHS.

The town's Westminster representative Ms Nandy has been supported by the likes of newly-elected Labour representative Coun Sheila Ramsdale, with leafletting taking place in her Douglas ward on Monday evening.

Other backers of the campaign include the RMT union, Hope Not Hate and other anti-racism groups.

Ms Nandy also travelled to Liverpool this week to stand alongside fellow Labour MPs and MEPs at an event organised by trade union Unite encouraging voters not to give their support to extreme candidates at the ballot box.

Ms Nandy said: “Across the North West, trade unionists and anti-racism activists have been joining forces to stop the fascists who have caused so much trouble and division in our towns in recent months.

“In the last few days, volunteers in Wigan have delivered thousands of leaflets urging people to use their vote in the European Elections to reject hate.

“Wigan is a decent, tolerant town that has seen off this sort of trouble before and we will do it again.

“Racism and xenophobia has never solved any of our problems and it never will.”

Meanwhile 10 Wigan ministers, representing the Baptist, Methodist, United Reform and Anglican churches as well as the Salvation Army, wrote to say they hope extremism is not the victor tomorrow.

The signatures included that of the Rector of Wigan, the Rev Will Gibbons.

The letter said: “In recent weeks a number of European election candidates have visited our town trying to stir up tensions and divide us from one another.

“Here in Wigan we have a long and proud history of rejecting hate and pulling together to support one another.”

Unite is particularly encouraging voters who may think about giving Thursday’s election a miss to think again and get to the ballot box, saying more extreme options may do better if there is a small turnout.

Barely one in three people voted in the North West in the last EU election.

Nine parties and two independents are standing in Thursday’s election to contest the eight seats for MEPs from the North West.

The election uses a proportional list system, with those taking part able to select up to eight candidates. Voters have to choose one party or independent.

The party with most votes gets the candidate at the top of its list elected.

Its vote is then divided by two and whoever then has the largest number of votes gets its top candidate into the parliament.

This process continues until all the seats for the region have been allocated. Once parties have multiple MEPs elected their vote is divided by the number of parliamentarians they have plus one for each round they win.

The results will be counted and announced on Sunday.

For a full list of candidates and other information, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/Council/Voting-and-Elections/Elections.aspx