The population of Gateshead and Newcastle settled in the UK last year

New figures released today by the Office of National Statistics show that net immigration into the UK rose to 318,000 during 2014, an increase of 109,000 on the year before. The total immigration figure stands at 641,000. These troubling figures come despite continuous pledges by the Conservatives and David Cameron to reduce immigration to less than 100,000 per year.

UKIP’s North East MEP, Jonathan Arnott said “Yet again we see figures that highlight the continuing and growing problem of uncontrolled mass immigration. The numbers of people that have settled in the UK last year are greater than the population of Gateshead and Newcastle combined, it’s ludicrous.

“People all across the North East are seeing a huge strain on our public services. It affects everything from getting GP appointments to finding school places for our children, not to mention the huge impact such numbers have on rent prices and jobs.

“The free movement of people from the EU to the UK must be halted, and a sensible points-based system introduced not only cope with the strain on our services, but to ensure we get the right quality of people settling in the UK.”

Show’s over, now it’s back to business for UKIP

I’ve been in UKIP since 2001, not that you’d know it from a Party database that stubbornly insists I didn’t join till 2005.  Believe me, I’ve seen all this before.

I caught the back end of a massive internal row from 2000. In 2003 I was involved when the Party suspended two of its own regional committees in a candidate selection row.  There’s been Kilroy, the Petrina Holdsworth saga, the end of Roger Knapman. I defended the two court cases over UKIP’s 2009 European election candidate selection and the case of the missing laptop in Morocco.

 There was the Nikki Sinclaire nonsense and the Marta Andreasen spat, not forgetting the David Campbell Bannerman dummy-spit, so I’ve seen more schisms and other isms than most.  And there’s dozens more you could never possibly have heard of – some bizarre and others just good old-fashioned slanging matches.

In 2015 we’ve had our internal row in front of the world’s media. We’re the third party now in the UK in terms of votes (and by the way, weren’t the previous third party – the Lib Dems -venomous when THEY decapitated a leader?) so it’s no surprise that the UKIP soap opera is worth watching this time.

Tomorrow’s papers will be harsh.  There’s been briefing and counter-briefing, spin and argument.  And, just as quickly, the whole thing is over.  The Party will shed a couple of Nigel’s closest advisors, the sacrifice offered to the metaphorical gods has been accepted and the whole thing can now pipe down.

Nigel Farage remains as leader of UKIP.  There’s no leadership election on the horizon any more.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.  The spectacle will be well and truly over, provided that there are no recriminations against those who dared to speak their minds.

Does the Party need a change of direction? I’m not ashamed to say that it does, although I wrote this article on Monday evening before the fuss started:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/news-opinion/ukip-understand-argument-immigration—9259149#ICID=sharebar_twitter

If I’d known what was coming, would I have written it? Possibly not, or at least I’d have waited a couple of weeks.  But whilst Labour’s internal wranglings will last till September, UKIP is ready to take stock and make the few changes that we need to make.

A more positive narrative, a broader message and a bit of attention to detail over candidate selection.  There are some big issues coming up in British politics, and I don’t for a minute believe that UKIP will allow these to be ignored.

I’m off to do the Daily Politics tomorrow, to talk about the big issues  coming from across the channel, and to refocus on what matters: a common-sense agenda for transforming British politics.

Or to put it another way…nothing to see here, time to move on.

Letters – Mental Health Awareness Week

Dear Editor,

This is Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event which has my full support because it highlights an area of health which I believe fails to receive the funding and publicity it deserves.

It is basically the Cinderella of the NHS because mental health issues may not as obvious as physical ailments, but the reality is they are just as important and debilitating.

They cause anguish for the sufferer and their families who deserve all the help they need from health professionals but funding shortages mean they face long waiting lists.

This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, we have all read of those who have taken their own lives while waiting for help. Mental health services must be properly funded for the sake of those afflicted as well as society generally.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

My Column – The Firing Squad in Indonesia

I went to the European Parliament chamber last week for a ‘debate’ about the death penalty in Indonesia following executions of Australians for drugs smuggling. A woman from my European Parliamentary constituency, Lindsay Sandiford, is on death row in Indonesia facing charges. Naturally, I wished to contribute to the debate.

I didn’t want to talk about the issue of the death penalty itself, for two reasons:

1. It’s not our business to tell Indonesia to abolish the death penalty

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage MEP is strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances; his deputy Paul Nuttall MEP is in favour of the death penalty for certain types of murder. Different views and opinions occur naturally in a democratic society.

The UK may have views on elements of the Indonesian justice system, of course, and we may wish to point those out through diplomatic channels but we should also recognise that it’s a sovereign self-governing nation.

2. It’s probably counterproductive to tell Indonesia to abolish the death penalty

If they think that we’re opposing the death penalty in and of itself, on a point of principle, then they’re probably less likely to listen to the specific reasoned arguments that can be put forward in Lindsay Sandiford’s case.

I intended to speak of those reasoned arguments in the European Parliament. It is fundamentally, morally wrong that she should be sentenced to death after having co-operated with police – and being told that such co-operation would lead to a prison sentence not a death sentence. But it’s also hugely counterproductive to Indonesia’s fight against the drugs trade. If those caught feel that they can’t trust an offer of leniency in exchange for identifying drug kingpins, what will happen? They will have no incentive whatsoever to assist in the capture of those who make millions from the drugs trade. I planned to make these arguments in the European Parliament, to urge President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to consider clemency in this case because it is in his interests to do so. Such an argument is likely to prove more persuasive than an argument on a moral basis.

You can read the rest of this article on my Huffington Post blog here.