Local UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott spoke at a public meeting in Horden (Easington constituency) last night, alongside West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge. At just a few days’ notice, the venue had to be moved due to serious damage to the roof at the previous venue. Fortunately everyone was hugely accommodating, with another excellent venue around the corner hastily arranged, and people who had received leaflets were directed to the new venue on the night.
Jane Collins MEP had been due to attend, but sadly had to miss the event due to a service for the 1400 victims of the child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham. Thanks to Bill Etheridge MEP not only for stepping in at such short notice, but also for a superb speech highlighting his working-class background from the steel industry and how UKIP truly is a Party of the people.
With the local branch having been in existence just a few short weeks, the vast majority of those present were non-UKIP members and had never been to a UKIP event or meeting previously. It was clear that Jonathan and Bill did much to persuade the audience of UKIP’s message; five new Party members and the promise of help and support from some who didn’t join will attest to that!
The biggest issue was that of jobs; with unemployment a huge problem in the area, UKIP’s education policies and positive vision for a focus on apprenticeships and technical education as well as on the academic side were discussed in some detail. Business owners lamented a lack of current skills; fixing the current mess in Jonathan’s opinion could take years. But we cannot continue to overlook our manufacturing sector.
What did Jonathan think of the Conservatives’ economic record in government? Not much, it seemed: they have achieved little for working people, the gap between here and the rest of the country economically is growing, not falling. Bill added that the Conservatives have added more to the national debt in 5 years than Labour did in 13.
Is it futile to believe that we can develop manufacturing jobs in this country? No, Bill replied, the British spirit is to never give up. And UKIP’s Redcar PPC Chris Gallacher was in the room to point out that prior to his personal intervention, new jobs at a plant in Redcar were due to go exclusively to foreign workers; now, the vast majority will go to local people.
It was heartening to see that former non-voters and Labour voters alike were turning to UKIP. “I haven’t voted at the last two General elections, because I haven’t felt there’s anyone to vote for”, one confessed afterwards. But he assured us that this time would be different, and we were left in little doubt where his cross would be going!
One local Labour Party official turned up to the meeting – furiously taking notes throughout and then asking a string of questions which were easily responded to.
Don’t we need immigration for our NHS to cope? He was boxing at shadows: UKIP’s policy recognises that we need skilled immigration, but in the long term it’s irresponsible not to train doctors and nurses ourselves. After all, we are depriving some of the poorest countries in the world of desperately-needed medical personnel.
Would ex-pat Brits living in EU countries be deported back to Britain under UKIP proposals? Of course not, just as no-one proposes to deport existing migrants in the UK who remain law-abiding citizens. And, for example, the Spanish government would hardly shun Brits taking their money into Spain.
Would British people wanting to live in France have to learn to speak French? That would be a matter for the French government. What business of ours is it to tell the French how to run their country? Jonathan speaks as much French as possible in Brussels and Strasbourg, trying to learn the language to help the work he does in the European Parliament – and also out of respect for local people.
The message of the evening was clear. No-one has challenged Labour in Easington for decades. But there’s no such thing as a no-go area for UKIP, and we will give the people a real choice.