History made as the South West elects its first ever Green MEP at the expense of its longest-serving Lib Dem MEP of 20 years - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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History made as the South West elects its first ever Green MEP at the expense of its longest-serving Lib Dem MEP of 20 years

Monday, 26 May 2014
• Greens win their first ever MEP in the South West of England and Gibraltar
Sir Graham Watson loses seat after representing region for 20 years
• 65% of voters in Gibraltar voted for the Liberal Democrats
• Tories and UKIP miss out on third seat as Labour regain seat lost in 2009
• Conservative MEPs Ashley Fox and Julie Girling re-elected
• UKIP MEP Earl of Dartmouth re-elected
• Turnout across the region was 37% (down 1.8% from 2009)

History was made in the South West last night as the region elected its first ever Green MEP to the European Parliament. Labour also regained the seat it lost in 2009 in a result that saw the region’s longest-serving MEP Liberal Democrat Sir Graham Watson lose his seat. Sir Graham first won a seat in the European Parliament in 1994 and has been named as one of the most influential Brits in EU policy making.

"It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve the south west of England and Gibraltar in the European Parliament. I shall miss it but I wish my successors well. Politics is the kind of profession that you live with winning and you live with losing and I have no doubt the Liberal Democrats will be back. Naturally I am disappointed but not terribly surprised. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have taken a beating," he said.

Responding to the news, George Ferguson, the Mayor of Bristol who was grateful for Sir Graham’s support in the successful bid for the city to be crowned EU Green Capital 2015, tweetedIt's sad that the South West loses Sir Graham Watson one of UK's very best MEPs. Big thanks for all you have done for Bristol and the region” before sending a message to the region’s new Green MEP:

The UK Independence Party topped the poll in 24 of the 38 districts in the region, taking 32.29% of the vote overall, up 10.23% from the 2009 EU election. This gave them two seats: the Earl of Dartmouth and Dr Julia Reid, the assistant of former MEP Trevor Colman. With Cornish party Mebyon Kernow opting not to present candidates, the UKIP vote share in the region increased, with the party polling three times as many votes as the Lib Dems with 53,943 votes.

The Conservatives finished second overall in the region with 28.89% of the vote, which was down 1.36% from 2009. This gave the party two MEPs, with Ashley Fox and Julie Girling retaining their seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. The third seat, previously held by retiring Giles Chichester, was lost preventing double Olympic gold medal winning rower James Cracknell having a crack at EU politics.

Labour increased their share of the vote by 6%, resulting in 13.75% of the regional vote and picked up the MEP seat it lost in 2009, with former Unite union official Clare Moody, who once worked in Gordon Brown's Number 10 Policy Unit, elected. She said: “People are starting to put their faith back in the Labour Party and we will work really hard to deliver on that faith for working people. We'll work to bring investment and jobs to the South West so people can really feel the benefit of our EU membership."

The Greens also increased their vote, recording 11.10%, up 1.8% over 2009. With the Liberal Democrats losing 10% of their vote, this small increase was enough to jump the Lib Dems by a slim margin of 0.4% and give the Greens their first ever MEP seat in the region. Dr Molly Scott Cato, an economist and keen apiarist, will take the seat. She said: "I knew it would be very close and possible for the Greens to win. With the electoral system it wasn't certain and it has been quite a tense evening. It is fantastic that the South West now has a Green voice in Europe."

The Liberal Democrat vote across the region fell and they failed to collect a single second place in any of the council areas; except in Gibraltar where Sir Graham Watson finished top and secured 65.95% of the vote on a turnout of 32.84%, the lowest turnout since Gibraltarians won the right to vote in EU elections. The party was the only one standing in the election to field a local Gibraltarian candidate on their lists.

Reacting the vote result, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo said: “Gibraltar has to be at the heart of decision making in EU as it affects The Rock. Need to be more engaged in European debate”. He indicated that he will be conducting a ‘post mortem’ on the poor turnout at the European Election. Deputy Chief Minister, liberal Dr Joseph Garcia told GBC he wasdelighted over the Lib Dem vote in Gibraltar, and a vindication of Sir Graham's work in EU for The Rock”, addingSir Graham Watson would be an excellent candidate for a Gibraltar-Brussels representative role should he not be elected".

Congratulations to the newly-elected and newly re-elected MEPs. I hope the region will be well-represented in Brussels and Strasbourg during the next five years. We'll be watching.

The full list of candidates who stood in the election can be found here.

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