West Norfolk could be set to buck the trend of European election apathy this week – and the Farage Factor seems to be driving the surge in interest.
Just over half of the people canvassed by the Lynn News in Lynn on Monday said they were going to vote on Thursday or had already done so through a postal ballot.
And, of those who declared their allegiances, a majority said they were backing the UK Independence Party.
One of them, David Earl, of Lynn, said he believed a large proportion of people were in a similar position to himself.
He said: “Many of them never vote but they’re going to this Thursday because they’re so fed up with what’s going on.”
Another, Adrian Ware, of Marham, said he agreed with UKIP’s policy to withdraw from the European Union.
He said: “Labour had their chance and they weren’t any good. This government we’ve got in now are absolutely terrible.
“I don’t think it would be a bad thing to come out of the EU.”
But others were inspired to take part by their opposition to UKIP, with one Conservative voter, who declined to be named, saying she would not vote UKIP “even if my life depended on it.”
Another Tory supporter, Christiane Groom, of Ashwicken, said she had considered voting UKIP, but added: “I think they haven’t got the whole package yet.”
On Monday morning, we asked 50 people whether they were planning to vote in the election or not.
Of those, 26 said they either would vote or had already voted, with 22 saying they would not be taking part. Two were undecided.
And, of the 15 who declared their allegiances, eight said they were supporting UKIP, with four voting for the Tories and three for Labour.
But Rachel Slingsby, of Downham, was not convinced that taking part would make a difference.
She said: “It almost feels like the decision has already been made so it feels like there’s no point.”
Another, Mandy Pointer, asked: “Why? It doesn’t make much difference.”
She said she was more inclined to vote in local polls, which she felt had more of an impact on her life.
Activists from across the political spectrum have also welcomed the apparent upsurge of public interest in this week’s European elections though there is some concern about how much voters know about how the polls will work.
Michael Stone, UKIP’s West Norfolk branch chairman, said he had not seen such high levels of interest in more than a decade of campaigning for the party.
He said: “We were in town on Friday and we had people coming up to us and we were offering them leaflets and they said, ‘No we’re already going to vote for you.’ The response is phenomenal.
“Traditionally, it’s always been a low turnout but I think people can see more and more of what goes on in Europe because it’s on the news every day, not just at election time.”
Conservative election agent, and Breckland councillor, Ian Sherwood, also reported that public interest has been growing during the last few weeks.
He said: “We’ve found it has been more positive as the campaign has gone on, for all sorts of different reasons.”
But he is concerned that some may be turned off by the electoral system , which sees people choosing a party rather than an individual candidate.
He said: “The biggest problem is the lack of engagement between an MEP and their elected area. However hardworking any candidate is, how do they connect on a one to one basis with an electorate of three and a half million people?”
Similar concerns were expressed by Peter Smith, branch secretary of Labour’s South West Norfolk constituency party and the party’s prospective candidate for the Parliamentary seat at next year’s general election.
He said the government should have done more to inform the public about how these elections differ from either local or Parliamentary elections.
But, despite that, he said the campaign had been the “most positive” European one of his 10 years working for the party.
He said: “It’s surprising just how many people want to talk about the issues and state they intend to vote.”