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”.

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.