Reason #4: EU money is OUR money

Today’s reason for voting UKIP is quite a simple one. The other parties point to plenty of examples of ‘EU funding’ as evidence that we should be a member of the EU.

For example, on St. George’s Day we had the largest ever public meeting in the history of UKIP at the Sage, Gateshead. 1,200+ people turned up, and the atmosphere was electric. Labour’s lead North East candidate Judith Kirton-Darling attacked UKIP because ‘the Sage had received EU funding’. But all of this EU money comes out of the £55 million we hand over every single day in membership fees.

It’s not Monopoly money, it’s coming out of our taxes. £1.83 per worker per day may not sound a lot, but it soon adds up – try multiplying that by 365 and see how much it’s costing you in a year for example.

And that’s not to mention the tens of billions of pounds every year that the EU’s regulations, and Agriculture and Fisheries policies, cost us. I put it this way: Would you pay £20 for a £10 Marks & Spencers voucher? That’s what the EU does, but it expects us to be grateful for the £10 voucher!

If you vote UKIP on Thursday, you’re voting to get back control of our own money.

More thoughts from Blyth

Today’s campaigning was my second visit to Blyth Market; I didn’t think it was possible to get a better reaction than the last time. But what was surprising was how quickly Correx boards and window posters were being taken. People didn’t just want to vote UKIP, they wanted to show that they were voting UKIP.

The most interesting one was a young couple (mid-20s perhaps), who didn’t know very much about UKIP but wanted to hear more. The girl was concerned about unlimited immigration, having lost out on a job in catering to someone from Poland prepared to work longer hours than a standard week (which she couldn’t do with a young child) for lower wages. The guy worked in security, lamenting that due to immigration he now often has to work for minimum wage. I asked what he used to be paid a few years ago; he said that he’d often been on £15/hour.

Labour often point out that the percentage of foreign-born workers in the North East was low in the last census; the data for that is now over 3 years old. Regardless, the figure is misleading: it only takes a few percent increase in population from people competing for low-paid work to make a big impact on the employment market.

But they weren’t in any way racist – in fact, they gave me a good grilling to check I wasn’t a racist in any way. Their eyes lit up when I mentioned we should have a proper points-based system like Australia.

They pointed to the sign on the minibus about ‘make sentences mean what they say’ and asked about that; I said that criminals are often out having served just half of their sentences.

What happened next was a real eye-opener for me. She told me that she had been attacked by someone on licence from prison, who had been released after serving less than half of a 10-year sentence for a very serious assault which left someone in a coma. At one point, those with sentences under 4 years had to serve half – and those with sentences over 4 years had to serve two-thirds – before they could be considered for parole. After she was attacked, the aggressor got just 18 months (presumably will be out in 9). That doesn’t even take him close to the end of the original 10-year sentence. They felt badly let down by the criminal justice system, and felt (from a victim’s perspective) that the system hadn’t protected them.

It wasn’t ‘right-wing’ politics either from them, just their own personal experiences. Words like ‘right’ and ‘left’ weren’t mentioned, and I had the impression those words would mean little to them.

They knew someone else who’d been convicted for armed robbery, who has now (thankfully) turned his life around. They were pretty positive about that – they didn’t come with a political philosophy or political agenda. I got the impression that the girl, at least, was a previous non-voter. They were just an ordinary couple trying to bring up a child in a difficult economic climate.

UKIP offers three things which would address their concerns:
1. Controlling immigration to the UK
2. No tax on minimum wage
3. Making prison sentences mean what they say

These are simple, practical measures which address those concerns. They went away enthusiastic for the first time about voting, feeling they finally had a party that represented people like them.

I found myself wondering, what could Labour or Lib Dems or Conservatives have in their policies that would impact on any of the issues raised? The answer is probably nothing.

Reason #5: EU laws override UK laws

Since the Treaty of Rome, EU law overrides UK law. We don’t really have much influence either. The UK has opposed 55 measures in the Council of Ministers since 1996; every single one of those 55 measures has become law in this country anyway. Worse still, in areas of ‘EU competence’ our UK government is now powerless to act, and with ‘shared competence’ we can only act if the EU chooses not to. UKIP would like to ban the cruelty of live animal exports for the meat trade, for example. Whilst in the EU, we’re powerless to act on such basic animal welfare issues. One-size-fits-all laws for 28 different countries as diverse as the UK, Greece, Romania and Finland just can’t work out in everyone’s interests. It’s far better for each country to make its own laws.

As long as we remain in the EU, a condition of membership is that we have to stay in the European Court of Human Rights as well. In this country, we’ve led the way in bringing human rights. We started at Magna Carta almost 800 years ago. We’re the country of visionaries like William Wilberforce MP who defeated the slave trade, and we were one of the first countries to give power to the people through democracy.

But the Courts have a rather different interpretation of what ‘human rights’ mean. We should be able to deport foreign criminals, and we shouldn’t be forced to give prisoners the right to vote. On Monday, a Somali man with no family, a string of violent convictions and a 5-year sentence for manslaughter, was allowed to remain in the UK. Those who come to the UK are guests in our country. If a hotel guest trashes their hotel room, the hotel doesn’t invite them to stay for another night. Yet that’s exactly what the European courts force us to do.

A vote for UKIP is a vote to give power back to ‘the mother of all Parliaments’ in Westminster.

Some things are more important than party politics

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is 8 months pregnant. Her husband is in a wheelchair, and she has other young children. She’s also a Christian living in Sudan.

For refusing to renounce her faith she is kept in a prison, together with her 20-month son, in such appalling conditions that her son is ill from the lack of hygiene.
She has been sentenced to death and flogging. I salute her courage and strength of belief. Her resolve to stand up for her faith no matter the consequences, and I admire the example that she sets for people across the world.

The UK’s Minister for Africa has released a statement condemning that death sentence.

There are times, though, where a mere statement is not enough. What can be done? Perhaps the current levels of foreign aid to Sudan could be used to gain some leverage over this situation? As much as anything, this needs to be seen as a priority for the British government. It’s something where we should be putting pressure on the Sudanese government, day and night, until something changes.

Being involved in politics, there are times when there’s an overwhelming feeling of utter helplessness. I want to make the world a better place, and I hope that others do too (even when we disagree about how to do it). But what can I do, other than highlight the issue? Archimedes once said “Give me a lever long enough and I will move the world”. I don’t have a lever. Maybe the British government does.

Reason #6: Send them a message

The political establishment in this country has become so complacent. They take our votes for granted. In the last few months, UKIP has had dozens of public meetings up and down the North East of England. The meetings aren’t stage-managed and we take questions from members of the public wherever we go.

When was the last time you saw the failed old parties truly engaging with the general public? When was the last time you saw your MEP?

The Labour Party has presided over the North East for decades. We’ve seen plenty of neglect by local Labour-controlled Councils and after 13 years of Labour government, we were left with the highest unemployment in the country.

It’s bad for democracy for the North East to become a one-party state, and UKIP are finally offering a real alternative and a real challenge. The Labour Party are running scared – why else would they put out so many leaflets with such lies as ‘UKIP would privatise the NHS’ (remind me, which government introduced PFI and part-privatised our NHS?), ‘UKIP would put taxes up for the poorest people’ (under UKIP, people on minimum wage would pay ZERO in Income Tax/National Insurance) and ‘UKIP would scrap your right to paid holidays’ (just pure fantasy).

I’ve met so many former Labour voters on the campaign trail who are now coming across to UKIP, because they believe that the Labour Party has abandoned them. If people continue to vote Labour, they will remain complacent and nothing will change. Labour have taken the North East for granted because they assume people will vote Labour no matter what.

I think it’s time to send Labour a message: You can’t continue to ignore the needs of local people.

Reason #7: Jobs, jobs, jobs

In the week approaching the European elections, I’ll be looking at seven good reasons to vote UKIP. Starting with no.7, you should vote UKIP because outside the EU we’d have more jobs.

We’re going to start by nailing the Lib Dem myth that millions of jobs ‘depend on the EU’. They don’t. They depend on trade with the EU, and outside the EU we would still trade with the EU and keep those jobs. We’re guaranteed a free trade deal by Treaty at the moment, and regardless we’re the EU’s best customer. We buy more from the EU than we sell to them. They wouldn’t want a tariff war because it would hurt their own interests. In fact, we need to leave the EU in order to create jobs.

At the moment our trade deals are negotiated for us by the EU Trade Commissioner. The EU Trade Commissioner has a hopeless task, trying to negotiate deals on behalf of 28 countries at once. Talks stall because the interests of 28 countries are virtually impossible to protect. That means that Iceland – which has a population similar to that of Newcastle – has managed to negotiate a free trade deal with China, whereas we haven’t. Switzerland has more free trade deals with countries around the world than the EU does.

At present, 95% of British businesses don’t trade with other EU countries. They either trade internally, with UK customers and businesses, or trade outside the EU. But they still have to obey EU regulations. Think about that for a moment: we have to obey US laws when we trade with the USA. But if a British business sells to another British business, we don’t have to obey American laws to do so. It’s none of their business, and it should be none of the EU’s too.
Ernst & Young did a survey (UK Attractiveness Survey 2013) last year, which found that two thirds of businesses in North America and Asia thought the UK would be a more attractive destination for investment if we were outside the European Union.

To sum up, outside the European Union:
• Businesses trading within the UK only would be better off not having to obey EU rules
• Businesses trading outside the EU would no longer have to obey two sets of rules
• We’d be free to negotiate our own trade deals for the first time since 1975
• Jobs from trade with the EU wouldn’t be at risk: we’d obey EU rules when we trade with the EU
• We’d get more foreign investment into the UK

That’s why (amongst others) economist Ruth Lea reckons we’d have half a million more jobs in this country if we were to leave the EU.

10 days to go…

We’re just 10 days away from the European elections, and many people will have already voted by post. UKIP is at the top of the polls, but at the bottom of the ballot paper here in the North East. Today, we filmed in Gateshead for Look North. There was nearly two hours of filming, for a piece which will be edited down to 6 minutes. I was surprised that the other candidates all gave long-winded answers to every question: we’ll each get about a minute in total in the final version, so there really wasn’t time to develop a long narrative. There’s no guessing what will and won’t end up on the chopping-room floor, but hopefully I’ve got some good crisp answers in there!

If what we’re seeing on the streets is anything to go by, this election really is looking massive for us. A few recent experiences on the campaign trail bear out what we’re seeing in the opinion polls. I was surprised that two members of the public actually recognised me from the Sunday Politics last week. One lady had attended Sage Gateshead and heard Nigel Farage and I speak already; she tells me that she’s planning to join the Party. Another was enthusiastically pro-UKIP (if wanting an even tougher line than we would take). Still another, local to Gateshead, will (after speaking to John Tennant) even be going out leafleting for UKIP at the weekend!

Members of the public sitting in the ‘hot seat’ were a good spread. There were two pro-EU questioners, four anti-, one concerned about unemployment, and one non-EU national currently fighting deportation from the UK. One of the two who was pro-EU came with a file of paperwork, having clearly decided he wanted to grill anyone who disagreed with him. More there to make a political point, than being a member of the public passing through, I think. The other pro-EU member of the public was more interesting: he believed the scare stories about Nissan – but then, he had worked for an energy company. He didn’t seem to spot the connection between the decline in manufacturing and artificially high energy prices thanks to the EU. I could have pointed this out, but not in a ‘soundbite’ that would work well on television.

I believe the programme will be shown on Wednesday evening. In the meantime, I have BBC Radio Newcastle for half an hour tomorrow morning and then it’s a public meeting at the Cleveland Bay in Redcar in the evening. Wednesday I’ll be teaching (for the last time?) and then a public meeting in Darlington in the evening. Everything’s busy, and all the candidates are clearly quite tired from the campaign.

On Saturday, we saw yet another positive reaction to UKIP in Darlington. With a team of 3 candidates covering the area from Darlington to Berwick-upon-Tweed, we have to split up. Neil Hamilton supported the campaign in South Shields, whilst I was in Darlington with the local branch. I know that North Tyneside also had members out on the ground, and no doubt other branches were out campaigning too. We didn’t just see new UKIP voters where I was, but potential new members. Even the pouring rain at some points didn’t deter people coming up to the stall. My personal favourite was a couple who had never in 40 years voted the same way. She’d voted Labour all her life; he had voted for almost everyone but Labour and in recent years he hadn’t voted at all. Now both enthusiastic UKIP voters; for the first time, they’ll both be voting for the same party.

This year, I think turnout will be higher than in 2009. That year, people were staying at home in protest over the expenses scandal. This time, I think those who intend to vote UKIP are fairly motivated. The fact that UKIP is topping the opinion polls has galvanised our opponents too, to try to stop us. Last time the turnout in the North East was just 30.4%. I expect it to be substantially higher this time, and if I had to guess I’d say somewhere around 35-37%.

People care about immigration, and jobs. These issues are hit time and time again on the doorstep. Ultimately, only UKIP offers answers: the other parties won’t control immigration. And if you want to create jobs, the answer is to make British businesses competitive.

Finally, Guido Fawkes posted a picture of the UKIP North East minibus parked in a disabled bay. Our opponents were quick to judge, forgetting to check the rather obvious point. The bus was displaying a badge because the driver is, in fact, disabled. Yet another failed attempt to smear UKIP.

Our opponents are terrified of us, and with good reason. Bring on the election!