My first article for the Huffington Post – UKIP: The Perception, and the Reality

Over many years, British politics has thrown up a number of anomalies. Perhaps that’s the nature of politics – a business in which perception can often seem more important than reality – but it can take generations before a sense of perspective is reached.

Let’s go back a few decades. The Labour Party was traditionally seen as the champion of the coal mines, and the Conservatives as the Party of Grammar Schools. Labour, it was said, care about the environment more than the Conservatives. The facts don’t always sit with our understanding of history:

  • Margaret Thatcher, as Education Secretary, closed more Grammar Schools than anyone else
  • More coal mines closed under Labour than under the Conservatives
  • Carbon emissions fell under the Conservatives from 1979 to 1997 (without trying)

The 2014 local and European election campaigns threw up some similar anomalies about UKIP. In this article I’m going to take five of the main ones, and compare the public perception with the facts.

 
Anomaly no.1: UKIP’s candidate list was more diverse than that of those accusing UKIP of racism

Opponents of UKIP throw around the word ‘racist’ like confetti. I believe that in today’s society, an accusation of racism is one of the worst accusations that can be levelled against anyone. Therefore, bleating ‘racist’ at regular intervals devalues the meaning of the word.

The Greens and Liberal Democrats were the parties who attacked UKIP the most on this. The first political irony of 2014: UKIP’s MEP candidate list was more ethnically diverse than the Lib Dems or Greens. Neither the Lib Dems nor the Greens had a single non-white face in a winnable position on their candidates’ lists. Yet UKIP had Amjad Bashir and Steven Woolfe elected in the current wave of new MEPs. Our candidates’ list even had an Orthodox Jew.

UKIP’s ethnic minority candidates have had to put up with a lot of racial abuse and physical assault during this campaign, with even so-called ‘anti-racism’ campaigners aiming such racist slurs as ‘oreo’ or ‘coconut’ at them.

Anomaly no.2: UKIP, accused of misogyny, now has more women MEPs than any Party other than Labour

In 2014, UKIP had 7 women MEPs elected. Only Labour had more – and they achieved that through a quota system. Selection procedures should be about getting the best person for the job. UKIP’s selection process didn’t consider gender to be a factor in whether or not someone is capable of doing a good job as an MEP.

In fact, although only around 10% of those who applied to become candidates were women, 30% of our elected MEPs are women. There was no need for any ‘positive discrimination’ (and in my view all discrimination is still discrimination) to achieve this. A democratic vote of Party members ranked women candidates highly on the lists.

Anomaly no.3: UKIP’s immigration policy, attacked as ‘racist’, is actually the most colour-blind policy of any Party

This one really should be self-explanatory. Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all support the current open-door immigration from 27 other countries in the European Union. However, they support limited immigration from those outside the European Union. The overwhelming majority of those who come into the UK from the European Union are white.

UKIP, on the other hand, believes that everyone should be treated on merit. Does a potential migrant have skills to offer the UK? Are they free from serious criminal record? Are they competing for jobs in areas where we have shortages at the moment? Have they learned to speak English to a basic standard? To UKIP, the answers to those questions are more important than which country you happen to have been born in.

And whilst we’re on the subject of racism, we’re the only Party that doesn’t allow ex-BNP, National Front or EDL members to join.

Anomaly no.4: UKIP’s LGBT track record doesn’t fit the ‘homophobic’ tag

Within UKIP, sexual orientation is something which isn’t made into an issue. Our newly-elected MEP for Scotland is openly gay, for example. But we don’t count how many people are gay in UKIP, we don’t label such people – people’s sexuality is their own business.

Our LGBT* wing is growing fast, but we believe that associations of members should be bottom-up rather than top-down. It’s a grassroots organisation, not a puppet or propaganda tool of the Party leadership. It has its own views on certain matters. Like UKIP’s ethnic minority members, our gay members are often subjected to abuse. They have even been accused of homophobia, just for being part of UKIP. I can scarcely imagine just how twisted a mindset has to be to accuse a gay person of homophobia, yet it’s a regular occurrence.

David Silvester – the one who made the ‘floods’ remarks about gay marriage – was allowed to remain in the Conservative Party for decades whilst making similar remarks. But they weren’t tolerated in UKIP, who expelled him. As UKIP is a Party of freedom of speech, I should point out that we defend his right to hold those views – however abhorrent they are. But when those views were associated with UKIP, he had to go.

Anomaly no.5: Other parties’ councillors and candidates have behaved worse than UKIP’s

Whenever one of the 2,200 or so UKIP candidates at this year’s Council elections said something out of line, it was front-page headline news. In any large group of people, it’s easy for some to slip through the net although we will be tightening up our selection procedures. The Party is in the process of dealing with those people, and don’t expect to see their name besides a UKIP logo again.

Oddly enough, the national press passed by the Lib Dem councillor who got 18 years in prison for bombing his own constituency. And when a councillor was found guilty of racially-aggravated assault, that did not become a major news story. Nor did the councillor pictured with an AK-47. Labour has sitting councillors who are ex-BNP, and selected a convicted fraudster in Harrow. A Conservative councillor kept his job after tweeting (et al) “I’m watching Machete – now THAT’s how you deal with immigration”, another Conservative councillor stole £150,000 from a pensioner with dementia and they selected a former BNP activist as a candidate in South Kesteven. Then in the final two weeks of the campaign, 17 councillors from other parties were arrested on various offences – some as serious as child porn.

Opponents of UKIP have a vested interest in attacking us, but ultimately such distortions simply alienate more people from politics. Let’s hope for a much cleaner campaign at next year’s General Election.

 

North East local election results

The First Past The Post system continues to make it difficult for UKIP to take Council seats across the North East, but UKIP fielded candidates in 102 of the 121 Council seats up for grabs this time.  A few key facts in these seats:

  • UKIP won 2 seats, with a further 63 second-place finishes
  • In these 102 seats Labour took 117,337 votes, UKIP 62,123, Conservatives 40,608, Liberal Democrats 24,535 and Greens 3,697.  
  • Where UKIP stood, we took 23.98% of the vote – up even on the 2013 shares
  • UKIP did better in Labour areas (average 26.7%) than in Conservative areas (average 19.7%)
  • 56 out of our 102 candidates took over 25% of the vote
  • Both UKIP gains were in Hartlepool, where UKIP took 30.5% of the vote across the Council where we stood.  
  • The scores in other Councils: South Tyneside 31.7%, Sunderland 26.8%, Gateshead 23.0%, North Tyneside 21.7%, Newcastle 18.2% 

Overall, these results represent massive progress for the Party.  I’d like to thank all of those who stood for UKIP, and congratulate the victorious candidates.  All eyes will now be on the European election count tomorrow (Sunday 25th), when the results will be known sometime after 10pm.

Thank you

Well here we are. After months of campaigning up and down the North East, dozens of public meetings, town centre Action Days, many hours spent knocking on doors and delivering leaflets, the day has finally arrived.

Many will have already voted by post, and others will be voting today despite the rain. UKIP supporters are the most hardy souls of the lot.

The highlight of the campaign was, of course, Nigel Farage’s visit to the Sage. I enjoyed speaking to an audience of 1,200+ people as we broke the record for UKIP’s biggest-ever public meeting.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped with the campaign, and everyone who is voting UKIP today.

 

Reason #0: Our predictions were correct

There’s just time for the 8th in my 7-part series of reasons for voting UKIP. I hadn’t planned or written an 8th piece, but figures out today demand it.

 

Today there’s one more reason for voting UKIP. At the end of last year, we highlighted the fact that from January 2014 we would have open borders from Bulgaria and Romania (in addition to the open borders we already had from 25 EU countries).

 

Other parties promised that we were scaremongering. They promised that there would be no mass increase in immigration. UKIP has nothing against Bulgarians or Romanians, but we do want to be able to control immigration. If you’re wanting to come in to the UK then we would expect you to:

 

  • Learn to speak English
  • Not have a criminal record
  • Have skills which benefit the UK
  • Have adequate health cover
  • Not add to the current over-supply of unskilled labour

 

If I were to emigrate to Australia, they would automatically expect such things. They would consider the Australian national interest.  So when we talk about unlimited immigration from Bulgaria/Romania from January 1st, the problem is the word ‘unlimited’.

 

The figures released today show National Insurance number registrations from Bulgaria and Romania by quarter. In Q1 alone, there have been 45,000 new registrations from Bulgaria and Romania. Since we opened our borders, we’ve had new National Insurance number registrations from those countries at a rate of roughly 500 per week.  Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems were convinced this wouldn’t happen. Labour apologised because when Poland and others joined the EU, we didn’t have ‘transitional arrangements’ to smooth the flow of migration. Well, we had transitional arrangements this time.  My Labour opponent in this campaign, Judith Kirton-Darling, has consistently said that transitional arrangements ensure that there will not be a mass move of migration.

 

The graph speaks for itself. It’s drawn to scale, no political manipulation here.

 

NINO registrations

 

Those who once called us scaremongers owe us an apology. Will we get it? I doubt that very much.  Vote UKIP today – for a Party that has been vindicated despite slurs from our opponents and much of the media.

Reason #1: Vote UKIP, Get UKIP

For over a decade, UKIP’s opponents have said that ‘a vote for UKIP is a wasted vote’. This time, opinion polls show that UKIP could not only take seats but win this year’s European elections. If you vote UKIP tomorrow, there’s a realistic chance that UKIP can win.

Labour has always suggested that a vote for UKIP could let the Conservatives in; Conservatives have always suggested that a vote for UKIP could let Labour in. This time, it’s clear to everyone: a vote for UKIP will let UKIP in. You could argue that a Conservative vote is a ‘wasted vote’ this time, as it’s only UKIP who could potentially beat Labour across the country.

From South Shields to Eastleigh, from Rotherham to Middlesbrough, we’ve proved that UKIP can be the main challengers in Parliamentary seats. Tomorrow, it’s time for us to aim to go one better. Can we be the first so-called ‘minor party’ to ever win a national set of elections?

Nigel Farage says that we can create a ‘political earthquake’ tomorrow. That will only happen with your support. Tomorrow, remember: Vote UKIP, Get UKIP.

What percentage of our laws actually come from Brussels?

In the wake of our opponents making various lower claims about what percentage of new laws in the UK come from Brussels, I thought I’d take a quick look at the UKIP claim that ‘75% of new laws in this country start life in Brussels’.  I apologise in advance that this is slightly more technical than most of my posts. In a sense it isn’t really a UKIP claim: it’s a claim from the EU Commissioner Viviane Reding which you can watch here for example.  All we say in UKIP is that such a figure broadly chimes with the evidence.  No two people will agree on exactly which ‘laws’ are actually laws, and in any case the figure changes from one year to the next.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg started his ‘political career’ as an MEP in Brussels.  At that time, he wrote this in the Guardian (source here): “Probably half of all new legislation now enacted in the UK begins in Brussels. The European parliament has extensive powers to amend or strike down laws in almost every conceivable area of public life.”  Back then it wasn’t fashionable to try to play down EU influence like he did on national television in debate with Nigel Farage, claiming the true figure was only 7%.  The percentage can only have gone up in the intervening years: the Lisbon Treaty has been signed since then!

There are five sources of new law in the UK. There’s the one everyone knows about – Acts of Parliament. Then there are Statutory Instruments, which are administrative measures laid before Parliament and take effect if neither of the Houses of Parliament vote against them. Many of these can’t be called ‘new laws’, but some can. More on that later. From the EU, we have Regulations (which become law automatically in the UK without going through Parliament), Directives (which tell us an end result that we have to achieve, so the UK government may use an Act of Parliament or Statutory Instrument to introduce a Directive) and Decisions (the situation here is complicated, and not all of these are really laws).

A few years ago, Labour’s Richard Corbett came up with the claim that only 9% of our laws come from Brussels. Nick Clegg said 7% on live television in debate with Nigel Farage, and 14% is the other figure bandied about by our opponents at present. So what is the source of these figures, and are they correct?

The original 9% figure used by Richard Corbett and others comes from the UK Parliament’s Standard Note SN/IA/2888, which states that 9% of statutory instruments in 2004/2005 were used to enforce EU legislation.  

The later 7% (6.8%) figure is taken from a misreading of Research Paper 10/62 of the House of Commons Library, written by Vaughne Miller.  It says that 7% of Acts of Parliament have been used to enforce EU legislation, and gives a higher figure (14.1%) for the number of statutory instruments used to enforce EU legislation in 2009.

The paper itself (RP10/62) states:

“These figures are indicative of the impact of EU legislation on national law-making but they are not the full story. For example, they do not take account of EU “soft law” or the overwhelming majority of EU regulations, which can be several times the number of directives, and which are usually adopted in the Member States by measures other than laws.”

Likewise, SN/IA/2888 itself acknowledges that the 9% figure isn’t the correct one.  It quotes Denis MacShane (then Europe Minister) admitting “It would entail disproportionate cost to research and compile the number of legislative instruments enacted each year in the UK directly implementing EU legislation.  The picture is complicated.”

So the 6.8%, 9% and 14.1% figures cannot be taken as being an attempt to calculate the percentage of new laws in the UK which relate to the EU.  An EU Regulation has to be seen as an ‘EU law’; it is binding upon the member state.

As the EU has moved from Directives to Regulations, the UK Parliament in Westminster is increasingly bypassed.  Accordingly, the figures which show up in primary and secondary legislation must go down.  Under the old proposed EU Constitution, regulations would (correctly) have been renamed as European Laws.  This terminology was changed for the Lisbon Treaty, but the impact of Regulations and Directives remain the same.  Since 2010 there have been at least 3,600 new EU Regulations which automatically become law in the UK.  Not one of those would be counted in the ‘9%’ or ‘7%’ figure.

RP10/62 gives a 14.1% figure, whilst SN/IA/2888 gives just 9%.  This difference is because RP/10/62 excludes at least some local Statutory Instruments, eg. the M4 Motorway (Junctions 17-18) (Temporary Prohibition and Restriction of Traffic) Order 2014.

Many Statutory Instruments cannot be seen as ‘new laws affecting the UK’.  Neither RP/10/62 nor SN/IA/2888 takes this into account.  These may be:

a)  Annual, eg. the ‘Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (Index of Chargeable Amounts) Order

b)  Commencement Orders, Instruments which set a start date for part of a previous Act of Parliament

c)  A minor amendment to an existing instrument, eg. the Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2014

d)  Statutory Instruments may be budgetary regulations rather than legislative in nature

e)  Those Statutory Instruments which deal with devolved matters, and apply in only one country of the United Kingdom

The Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009.  Both SN/IA/2888 and RP/10/62 related to legislation before the time of the Lisbon Treaty, and before the EU had taken power over other areas of British law.  These are out-of-date figures and underestimates.  It is worth noting in passing that the number of Statutory Instruments rose substantially in 2010 following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty:

It’s clear that to use the 6.8% or 9% or 14.1% figures are highly misleading.  The German figure of 84% comes from Roman Herzog and Luder Gurken using a calculation including all German legislation and all EU legislation of any form:  “From 1998 until 2004 a total of 18,167 EU regulations and 750 directives were adopted in Germany (including amending regulations or directives).  During the same period the German Parliament passed in total 1,195 laws as well as 3,055 statutory instruments [Rechtsverordnungen are a form of secondary legislation].”

Such a calculation in the UK would be an underestimate, because many Statutory Instruments should not be counted as laws affecting the UK.  Conversely, some EU Decisions should also be included.  As the European Commission’s website states: “Decisions are EU laws relating to specific cases. They can come from the EU Council (sometimes jointly with the European Parliament) or the Commission.”  In 2009 there were 901 such Decisions; 606 from the Commission and 295 from the Council.

RP/10/62 gives a percentage of 53% for 2009, taking into account only EU Directives/Regulations as compared with UK Acts of Parliament/Statutory Instruments.

We can safely say that the true figure must be much higher, but how much higher?  We should take into account that:

1.  One Statutory Instrument may transpose several Directives into UK law.  For example, in 2007 the Motor Vehicles Regulations enacted a total of four Directives

2.  EU Decisions affecting the UK are not included in these calculations for 2009

3.  Many Statutory Instruments fall under a) to e) above

4.  There may be a double-counting issue which would have moderately depressed the figures (an EU Directive enacted by Statutory Instrument should be counted as one EU law, not one EU and one UK law)

Time is not available to fully analyse these points, but a cursory analysis would suggest that perhaps half of the statutory instruments in RP/10/62 should not be included in such calculations.  This, not taking into account points 1 and 2 above, would suggest a minimum figure of just over 69% of new UK laws starting life in Brussels.

An overall figure of 70%-75% would be broadly in line with taking into account points 1 and 2 alone, and the figure would be higher still if everything were included, but it’s difficult to make a meaningful estimate without making far too many assumptions.  For example, not all of the 901 Decisions from 2009 should be included as some did not apply to the UK; this would therefore result in an over-estimate.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Open Europe found that 71.9% of the cost of regulation affecting British business is EU-derived.

75% is not a figure which is set in stone. But on the evidence at present, Viviane Reding’s figure is the only one that really matches the evidence.

Reason #2: It’s just not democracy

In our Westminster Parliamentary democracy, our elected government and Parliament have power (or at least they did until we signed away the right to make 75% of our laws to Brussels). The government of the day decides what the laws should be, and the Civil Service is entrusted with the detailed drafting. Bills then go through rigorous Committee stages, come before the floor of both Houses several times for serious scrutiny in debate, and eventually come into law after fine tuning. We have an Official Opposition which functions to deal with bad legislation. There are areas which we’d like to be more democratic, but fundamentally the system leaves power in the hands of those who have been elected.

In Brussels, the European ‘Parliament’ is more of a rubber-stamping chamber. It’s the unelected European Commission that decides the direction of EU policy. The Commission drafts the laws, and they’re sent to the European Parliament to be rubber-stamped. They go through Committees, but on the floor of the house there’s no real debate. MEPs may sometimes get the chance to speak for 60 or 90 seconds, but there’s no chance to advance a proper argument against poor legislation.

There is no ‘government’ or ‘opposition’. If you don’t like what one ‘party’ has done, you can’t vote them out at the next election. There are roughly 170 different parties represented in the European Parliament.

A week or two ago, there was a ‘debate’ between Schultz and Juncker, two people who are likely to be proposed by the biggest groups for the job of President of the European Commission. That’s one of the few powers the European Parliament actually has, to choose the Commission President. You really couldn’t put a cigarette paper between them, and when pressed by the moderator Schultz said “Why should we act as if we do not agree?”. When pressed on EU enlargement, Schultz opposed new countries joining the EU for ‘at least 5 years’. Juncker opposed it ‘for the foreseeable future’.

The whole process is a sham, in so many ways. Hardly anyone watched the ‘debate’, whether you get Schultz or Juncker doesn’t matter anyway, virtually no-one in the UK has heard of either of them, and you can’t even be totally sure who to vote for if you want Juncker to win. This is what passes for democracy in the European Union.

We’re just a couple of days away from Thursday’s European elections. If you believe in democracy, you should vote UKIP on Thursday.

Can Christians support UKIP?

Tonight I’ve been asked (presumably because I’m known to be both a Christian and the General Secretary of UKIP / lead North East candidate) what my thoughts are about Christianity and UKIP. Is it even possible, some have asked, for a Christian to support UKIP? If the polls are correct, as a Christian I won’t just be a UKIP member a week from now but a Member of the European Parliament for UKIP. So how can this be?

 

Given some of the negatives written about the Party in recent weeks, I’m aware that some Christians struggle to understand the UKIP perspective. Others warmly embrace it. In my own personal experience, in many evangelical churches there is strong support for UKIP.

 

Perhaps I can’t change people’s opinions, but I’m writing this for those who don’t agree – or who maybe can’t fathom the UKIP mindset at all. Agrippa asked Paul “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Even though it wouldn’t succeed immediately, Paul still tried. Likewise, even if I can’t persuade those who have seen a media onslaught in recent weeks to support UKIP, I would rather spend time talking to those who don’t already agree with me than those who do.

 

I’ll look at some of the various objections to UKIP which I’ve heard raised by Christians so far in this campaign and explain how I see things from a Christian perspective.

 

Objection #1: UKIP supports a cut in the foreign aid budget, which is hardly charitable or Christian

 

The problem is that the foreign aid budget is so often mis-spent. Foreign aid currently goes to countries which have nuclear and space programmes, to countries in the G20, and – in the case of Argentina – countries which have forcibly attempted to capture British territory. Foreign aid should be used to assist with natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis. It can be used to assist with a one-off famine (though extreme caution is needed to avoid accidentally doing more harm than good by putting local farmers out of business and precipitating an even greater famine the following year). These limited forms of foreign aid are what I think the general public sees as ‘helping our neighbours’. We should be doing much more than that – but it’s about developing those economies, not about handing over aid packages.

 

The European Union imposes a tariff of 1% on the import of cocoa from Africa, but a tariff of 30% on the import of processed chocolate. Result? A disincentive for African countries to turn cocoa into chocolate before export. Remove the trade barrier, and we would genuinely help cocoa-producing countries’ economies in the long term.

 

My brother spent 6 months as an aid worker in Malawi, in an area where some people were quite literally starving. The ‘Traditional Authorities’, as they were known, owned large chunks of farmable land and there were many people unemployed. For the sum of roughly £5,000 he could have purchased a piece of land and farming equipment, and paid the wages of local workers to farm maize until the first couple of crops had come through. The local people, most of whom lacked even a rudimentary education and any money to set up such an organisation, could not do so. The project would have saved lives and the £5,000 could even have been repaid within less than a year if that were the intention. An interest-free loan, and a bit of vision, would have made a massive difference but sadly the project went outside the objectives of the charity he was working for and they had to pursue other projects instead. I use this example merely to illustrate a point: helping people to grow things, or to trade, is far better than spending money on foreign aid which all too often ends up in the hands of the wrong people.

 

Objection #2: Christians are called to welcome strangers, even if it were to hurt us financially. That doesn’t fit with UKIP’s immigration policy.

 

Christians are indeed called to welcome strangers and help those in need. Many times, I’ve invited people to stay at my house who were short of money, had nowhere to live or were in need of support for a period of time to deal with other problems.

 

But I don’t think it follows from that, that the country should pursue a policy of open borders. In my view there’s a big difference between the role of the individual, and the role of society. In general, the Old Testament deals with society and the New Testament with the individual. Much of what is written in the Old Testament does not apply legalistically today (Christians can eat pork for example, and do not have to follow the religious requirements which Orthodox Jews do for example from the same text), but it provides a context for the understanding of the New Testament. So whilst we are (as individuals) called to welcome strangers, we (as a society) need to balance the needs of the stranger with the needs of society.

 

This concept of individual and society is easier to see in another context. Suppose that someone were to murder my brother. It would be my duty as an individual to forgive that sin, but it is the role of society to punish the crime. I don’t think any Christians would seriously suggest that a murderer should walk free because we choose to forgive.

 

In the same way, of course we – as individual citizens – should share our wealth with others. Society has a role to play. In Biblical times there was the concept of a ‘tithe’ which was used to help the poor. In modern times, a much higher percentage of our wages is already used in taxation to help those less fortunate than ourselves. On the other hand, overly high taxation acts as a disincentive to work: there is also a principle in the Bible that the worker is worthy of their hire. Policy designed to share wealth with the best of intentions can lead to disaster; the devastation caused by Communism across the world is evidence of that.

 

There are of course many immigration cases where this country should be compassionate. For example, a few years ago I helped a lady from Uganda, who had become a Christian in the UK and had been threatened with death if she were deported (the issues relating to her husband, who was fighting against the government at the time). When I got involved with the case, she was being moved to an immigration deportation centre. She was eventually given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and I hope that the work I did on that case played a part in that decision.

 

What I oppose (and UKIP opposes) is the uncontrolled immigration which comes as a part of our EU membership. In Bulgaria for example, the minimum wage is in the order of 80 pence an hour. People with even a high level of education from Bulgaria can make more money working in the UK at minimum wage. This has two effects: firstly, it impacts upon UK unemployment. At a time when almost a million young people in this country are unemployed, it deprives young people of their first career step. Secondly, it doesn’t help Bulgaria – they are losing many of their talented people.

 

Visiting, and working in, other countries is not something which is exclusive to the European Union. Indeed, more British citizens live in Australia and the USA than in the 27 other EU countries combined! But this should not be an automatic right: if I had a serious criminal record for example, I would expect other countries to have the right to refuse me entry to live and work in those countries. I wouldn’t expect to be allowed to compete for jobs in sectors where those countries already have a massive oversupply of labour.

 

UKIP seeks to regain control of our borders, and to have a fair points-based immigration system where those from India or China are not discriminated against, in favour of people from France or Spain. All should be treated equally.

 

Objection #3: Christians should be good neighbours, and therefore we should work together with other countries within the European Union

 

This raises the question: what does being ‘good neighbours’ mean? Who is our neighbour in this context? Is France our neighbour because it’s separated from us by the English Channel, or does that apply to every country in the world? I think every country worldwide is our neighbour. Being part of the European Union makes it harder for us to be good neighbours to countries outside it – for example, we’ve neglected the Commonwealth since joining the EU.

 

Leaving the European Union would have many practical benefits. It isn’t truly democratic (the unelected Commission proposes the laws, and the elected Parliament – which lacks many of the features of a Parliamentary democracy – amends, accepts or rejects them).

 

The idea of one-size-fits-all laws for 28 different countries does not work, leading to bad legislation for all. There is a substantial cost saving, and we would regain the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals once more. We’d regain the right to legislate for ourselves in many areas (UKIP would like to ban the live export of animals for example, but can’t do it inside the EU). I’m currently being lobbied by Christians, and have received dozens of emails from those who fear that under proposed amendments to the Equal Treatment Directive they will be unable to vocalise their support for traditional marriage. Whether you agree or disagree, there’s a fundamental freedom of speech issue.

 

I believe that being good neighbours is about trading freely and fairly. Tiny Iceland, which has a similar population to Newcastle, has a free trade deal with China. The UK is powerless to negotiate deals for ourselves; the EU Trade Commissioner negotiates them on our behalf. As a result negotiations often stall, or do not actually represent British interests.

 

There are very few genuine disadvantages to leaving the European Union. We could, if we wished, retain any EU legislation which has been beneficial. Outside the European Union, we’d still trade with them (we’re guaranteed by Treaty to be allowed to do so). We would be able to develop trade globally, and would also be in a position to develop genuinely fair trade with the world’s poorest countries rather than imposing tariff barriers on them. 40 years of attempted reform of the EU has failed; it’s time to leave the EU but remain good neighbours and trading partners with them.

 

Objection #4: UKIP candidates have said some bad (nasty/racist) things

 

I’ve never understood this objection, except in the context of those who accept everything they see in the media at face value. If you don’t vote UKIP for that reason, then you have ample reason to not vote for each of the other parties as well. The problem here is that UKIP has over 2,000 people standing for us as candidates this year. In any large group of people, there will some ‘bad eggs’.

 

The same is true of all the other parties, but it just doesn’t make front page headlines. I could choose many examples; I’ll use just a few from the Liberal Democrats but could easily do likewise for Labour, Conservatives and Greens.

 

Have you heard anyone suggest that they can’t vote Liberal Democrat because one of their councillors was sentenced to 18 years in prison for bombing his own constituency? Or because of the sex scandals surrounding Cyril Smith, or because of Chris Huhne’s jail sentence for perverting the course of justice, or because a councillor was convicted of racially aggravated assault?

 

These aren’t just ‘saying’ bad things, or writing an inappropriate post on social media. These are convictions for serious criminal offences! So why are UKIP’s the ones which make front page headlines? It goes against the grain for me to even mention these examples – politics shouldn’t be about this kind of mudslinging – but the attacks on UKIP are so ferocious that it’s important to point out that there is a certain double standard at play.

 

The test for UKIP is whether we deal with those people. The candidate who made the remarks about Lenny Henry? Gone. Any UKIP member found to be a former member of a racist organisation like the BNP or National Front? Kicked out immediately (Conservatives and Labour have ex-BNP members as candidates and councillors). We don’t tolerate racism or racists in our party. I’m often asked about UKIP expelling the person who claimed recent floods were a consequence of gay marriage. Some deride us for allowing him in our party (though he’d said similar things for decades when he was a Conservative and nobody batted an eyelid). His opinion was ridiculous, but that shouldn’t stop him from being a member of the Party. He was expelled because he associated UKIP with those beliefs.

 

The average UKIP member or candidate couldn’t be further from this media stereotype. We have more candidates in winnable positions from ethnic minority backgrounds selected than the Lib Dems or Greens at the European elections – and perhaps more than the Conservatives and Labour too. That’s why the accusations of ‘racism’ are so hurtful to us personally. The word ‘racism’ is a serious one and it should not be thrown around like confetti.

 

Objection #5: We can’t support a single-issue Party

 

UKIP is not by any means a Party of only one policy. The elections on Thursday are to the European Parliament, and therefore they are a single-issue election. At this election we aren’t talking about our policy of ‘no tax on minimum wage’ which would help struggling families, because it isn’t relevant to the European elections.

 

One of the policies which attracts me as a Christian to UKIP is the policy of allowing the public to force a binding referendum on moral issues through a petition of 5% of the electorate. In such circumstances, gay marriage could not have been introduced without the consent of the British people – and there would exist a democratic mechanism for change to the law on abortion, for example. UKIP was the only Party to oppose the introduction of gay marriage, and for precisely that reason: because the people of this country were not consulted on the matter. We were also concerned about the protection of churches’ rights not to conduct such ceremonies.

 

Objection #6: UKIP now supports gay marriage, which is anti-Christian

 

This just isn’t true. The objection stems from a draft statement which was accidentally put out, by individuals in the Press Office, without having authorisation to do so. Nigel Farage issued the following statement:

 

“UKIP’s objection to same sex marriage was two-fold. First, we did not think it should have been made a political priority at a time of many other pressing issues and pointed out that the measure had no mandate from the electorate. Secondly we were concerned that because of the role of the European Court of Human Rights in British law that faith communities which had strong objections were at risk of being forced to conduct gay marriages.

 

“The statement attributed to me was not made by me and not approved by me. It was a draft by a staff member that should never have been sent out. There is an ongoing debate within UKIP about how we can protect faith communities from ultimately being compelled to conduct same sex marriages against their beliefs and their will. We note that some gay rights activists are already talking about taking legal action in Strasbourg to force this issue.”

Reason #3: Uncontrolled immigration doesn’t work

Whilst we’re in the European Union we are required to accept unlimited immigration from 27 other EU countries. UKIP isn’t opposed to immigration, but we are opposed to uncontrolled immigration. It’s an important distinction, and one that our opponents ignore so that they can caricature us.

The logic of the other parties goes like this: “Overall, immigration from the EU is good for the country. Therefore, unlimited immigration is good for the country.” They point to a study at UCL which suggest EU immigrants contribute 34% more than they receive in benefits.

This research doesn’t take into account the cost of schools, hospitals, policing and other public services. With 2.3 million unemployed, British citizens would be doing these jobs anyway and bringing this money in. British citizens are out of work as a result, and that costs us money.

But the claim is disingenuous anyway. If we had two people come into the country, one bringing a skill to earn £50,000 a year and another claiming benefits, the country might well be ‘better off’ having both than having neither. But we’d do better still to just have the skilled worker without the drain on our finances.

Finally, the figures are just plain wrong. The research relies on assumptions that employees earn the same as the UK-born population when their own figures show they do not, that self-employed migrants contribute far more than those employed when they have no evidence of this whatsoever and that all of them own the same investments, property and other assets as the UK-born and long-term residents from the day they arrive in the UK.

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University published a report on 1st May, which showed that there are 2.6 million EU citizens living in the UK (and roughly 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU). Our public services are overstretched, and there is a severe housing shortage in this country. Stopping the madness of uncontrolled immigration is essential. The numbers are frightening – 292,000 net immigration over the last year, and according to the latest figures immigration will add another million to the UK population over the next five years, despite the fact that England is already the most densely populated country in Europe.

Perhaps the worst part of all this is the impact upon the lowest-paid workers. With the minimum wage in Bulgaria standing at just 80p an hour, even highly-skilled Bulgarian workers can come to the UK and be happy on minimum wage. Business now has an oversupply of people prepared to work for minimum wage, so if you’re a young person looking for your first job – your first step on the career ladder – it’s very difficult to find one. If you’re a plumber, builder or electrician, then there are plenty of people willing to undercut you and work for lower wages. Do you go out of business, or accept a massive pay cut? That dilemma faces countless people across the country.

With a controlled immigration policy, we could allow people into the country who have the skills we need. For the time being, until we get rid of the Working Time Directive and train enough doctors and nurses, our NHS relies on immigration. Most of this is from non-EU countries, so when the other parties use the NHS as an argument for unlimited migration from the EU, they’re shifting the goalposts. Outside the EU, of course we’d allow people to come to the UK to work in the NHS where we have shortages of labour ourselves. We should remember that we’re depriving some of the poorest countries in the world of their talent at the moment, so importing labour from overseas may be hurting the countries in most need of development.

Current policy discriminates: no matter how brilliant you are, if you come from India or China then you will struggle to get a visa for the UK. But if you come from Greece or Romania, you can walk in to the country no questions asked. The traditional parties, who bleat ‘racist’ at UKIP, seem to forget that UKIP’s policy is the most colour-blind policy of any party.

A vote for UKIP on Thursday isn’t a vote to end all immigration, it’s a vote to bring back control over immigration.

What about the local elections?

I’m standing in the European elections, so for the vast majority of this campaign I’ve been talking about the European elections. But in many areas of the North East and throughout the country, we have UKIP candidates standing for Council elections on the same day. It’s become almost the forgotten campaign, with very little media coverage by comparison.

As I’m in the middle of a series of reasons for voting UKIP at the European elections, I thought I’d at least do one article on the Council elections on the same day.  Every local area is different, so I’ll stick to general principles of what we stand for.  In local government, UKIP offers a unique philosophy which sets us apart from the other parties.  So why should you vote UKIP at the Council elections on Thursday?

 

Reason #1: UKIP’s councillors work harder than councillors of any other Party

UKIP councillors have the BEST record of any Party for attendance – even the Times and Guardian have had to admit this.  Our councillors take their responsibilities very seriously.

As one example, Huntingdonshire District Council tried to close the public toilets in Ramsey as a cost-saving measure.  UKIP’s Cllr. Pete Reeve fought this all the way, to keep a much-needed service open for the public.  Signs went up in homes across Ramsey ‘Save our toilets’, but eventually it was to no avail.  The Council couldn’t afford the cost of cleaning them, and pushed them to close.  So Pete Reeve rolled up his sleeves, and now cleans the toilets himself.  Being a councillor is about serving people in your community.

 

Reason #2: UKIP councillors stand up for you, not Party bosses

In other parties, diktats are handed down from the Party telling councillors how they must vote.  UKIP is different.  We don’t have a whipping system for local councillors, because we recognise that councillors are supposed to be the champions of their local community, standing up for local people’s needs.   If you vote UKIP, you know that UKIP councillors will stand up for our core values – but you also know that they will work on behalf of local residents, rather than be controlled by a Party’s central office.

 

Reason #3: UKIP is the Party of local democracy

We’re the Party that wants local people to be able to decide key local issues through local referenda.  Major planning decisions which impact on the community should give you a real say – far too often, planning ‘consultations’ lead to the wishes of local residents being ignored.  We’re the Party campaigning against the Cabinet system in local government, so that backbench councillors can regain a say in how a Council is run rather than power being in the hands of a centralised few.  In fact, UKIP has already managed to achieve this change in some Councils.

 

Reason #4: UKIP is the Party which would spend your money wisely

We recognise that Council Tax is a big drain on many people’s finances, so we want the money collected from you to be spent more efficiently.  That’s why UKIP councillors highlight Town Hall waste, whether it’s senior staff who earn more than the Prime Minister of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent on advertising.  As we often say, “Cut bureaucracy but protect front-line services”.