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Statement on the UKIP leadership election result

First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations to Henry Bolton on winning the UKIP leadership election. His will be a difficult, and in many ways unenviable, task.

We must now get back to showing what we stand *for*, not what – or who – some wish us to stand against. The Party has made its decision. Barely one in five Party members supported the ideology which would have dragged this Party into the gutter. I am glad that this is the case.

There is a huge amount of work ahead for our new Leader. He will be given a window of opportunity by the media, because his election was unanticipated by them, in which to define his position.

He now has a huge challenge, and I’ll limit my comments for space reasons to just five of the biggest ones:

1. To persuade the many good UKIP members who left the Party over the last year to return.

2. To prove that UKIP is relevant to people across the country. That means that we need to start talking about the issues which people raise with us on the doorstep, not the other way way around: not just Brexit, but jobs, the economy, health, education, crime, housing, and everything that people care about which affects their everyday lives.

3. To put together a ‘top team’ which is able to appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate, a team with the talent, ability and drive to make a difference.

4. To organise and professionalise the Party. This means that we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, as we have already done many times in just the past few days. It means that we need to take firm action, kicking out of the Party those who deserve to be kicked out. It also means that we need to become a credible and effective fighting force at elections once again.

5. To motivate our activists to get out and campaign. The lifeblood of any political party is its activists, and in UKIP perhaps even more so than most because we cannot rely upon a tradition of a century of past successes, of laurels to rest on. We need to enthuse our people with a drive and determination to go out there, work hard, and to succeed.

I have not agreed with everything which Henry Bolton said during the election campaign, but there are many things which I could support.

He has vast leadership experience, but this is not political in nature and it will be an incredibly difficult and steep learning curve for him to transfer these skills to the leadership of a political party.

This Party has been given another chance, one final opportunity to bounce back from the mistakes that have been made over recent times.

I truly hope that Henry Bolton will prove himself to be equal to this task. Please, Henry, deliver a party which I can once again feel that absolute sense of pride in representing. It’s felt so distant of late; please give us a future.

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My Column – £350 milion per week for Brexit? The lowdown

Discuss Brexit, and I’ll bet you a euro to a cent that sooner or later someone will mention Vote Leave’s bus which claimed post-Brexit we’d have an extra £350 million per week which could be spent on our NHS. Boris Johnson has repeated the phrase again, and reignited the whole row. Thanks a million, Boris. Or three hundred and fifty million, I suppose. I’m pro-Brexit, naturally, but I don’t have a dog in the fight defending Vote Leave: I always put the figure in context as a gross one, and explained that the rebate and EU funding should be taken off. And to be fair to Vote Leave, they did put that figure into context elsewhere in their spending plans – but they weren’t as widely circulated.

The Vote Leave figure is widely criticised (and up to a point, rightly so) – but I recall George Osborne’s predictions (23/05/16) that a vote for Brexit would lower GDP and cost 800,000 jobs by 2018. In fact, GDP has grown and unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. When it comes to lies told in the referendum campaign, Remain certainly have a few whoppers of their own. The EU Council President said Brexit could end ‘Western political civilisation’ and David Cameron threatened that Brexit could lead to war in Europe. When continuity Remainers criticise the £350 million per week figure, they develop an instant selective amnesia: Biblical phrases about hypocrisy, and taking the plank out of your own eye before complaining about the speck in someone else’s, spring to mind.

But what actually is the truth over £350 million per week? The picture fluctuates from year to year, with changes to each economy, the EU budget, and exchange rates. No figure will ever be perfect. The latest accurate data available is the Pink Book 2016 produced by the Office of National Statistics; the most impeccable source because it looks at what’s actually been paid in the past, not estimates or projections in the future. It puts the EU contribution for the previous year at £19.593 billion (gross), which is roughly £376 million per week.

Out of that, though, the UK gets the famous ‘rebate’ (technically, Fontainebleau abatement) won by Thatcher: a recognition that the way the EU budget is calculated leaves the UK out of pocket. Our £4.913 billion rebate comes to around £94 million per week. Think of that as being instant cashback. Leave the EU, and we can’t spend that money because we lose the cashback.

Out of that, the EU gives us some of our own money back in ‘EU funding’. We’ve paid for it; indeed, some £9.24 billion is shown as credited to the UK’s account (but nearly £5 billion of that is the rebate we’ve already accounted for).

We’re almost done, I promise! The EU does, however, give some money directly to UK businesses et al – bypassing the UK account altogether. So, cross-referencing with the Commission’s own figures and applying the average pound-euro exchange rate from 2015, we get a figure of about £102 million per week for EU money coming back to the UK.

So take a deep breath, and the picture for 2015 is actually very simple: we paid £376 million a week, which became £282 million a week after cashback. After all the ‘benefits’ of EU funding, there was £180 million left. Personally, I’d have preferred Vote Leave to just stick £180 million per week on the side of the bus. It wouldn’t have altered the referendum result in the slightest, and we wouldn’t be still having this discussion 15 months after the referendum. But what’s done is done; as the tart-tongued Lady Olenna Tyrell famously said in Game of Thrones “Once the cow’s been milked, there’s no squirting the milk back up her udder so here we are”.

There’s a sting in the tail though. Whilst I’d have preferred a figure of £180 million per week, the £282 million per week ‘post-cashback’ figure is easily defended if put into context. And the Office for Budget Responsibility projects that figure will rise to £335 million per week by the end of this Parliament.

Would I have made the same claim as Vote Leave, in the same way? Would I have repeated it, as Boris Johnson did? No. Is it absolutely 100% watertight? No.

But on a dishonesty scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is honest Abe’s ‘I cannot tell a lie’ and 10 is David Cameron’s threat that Brexit could lead to war, I’d rate the Boris Johnson claim as somewhere around a 3.

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EU ‘daft’ spending plans slammed

Following the green light for an EU raft of “daft” spending proposals North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has hit out at the massive waste of taxpayers’ money.

The Eurocrats have earmarked €12 million to fund gap year teenagers with free ‘inter-railing’ around Europe and a further €2 million to help them volunteer in Africa for up to a year.

A further €800,000 is to be spent helping volunteers plant trees in the same continent and €3 million-plus on ‘ocean literacy classes’; teaching refugees to play football and on a butterfly monitoring project.

UKIP Euro-MP Mr Arnott, a member of the EU parliament’s budget committee, said: “This EU budget and so-called Brexit Bill are outrageous.”

“The EU is barking up the wrong tree if it thinks splurging taxpayers’ money on pointless projects will make it more popular.

“People are sick to death of the EU trying to bribe young people, and throwing money away. These outrageously daft proposals just reinforce why people were right to vote for Brexit,” he added.

The spending plans were amongst some 2,324 amendments to the EU’s draft Budget agreed by the Parliament’s Budget Committee this week. They will go to a full vote of the European Parliament on 25 October.