Honoured to be selected as MEP candidate

I am delighted and honoured to have been selected as a UKIP candidate for the MEP elections in 2014. Roughly 200 candidates applied, and this has now been whittled down to the final 60. My assessment score was the 7th best in the country.

 

The members’ ballot comes next. UKIP members from all over the UK can vote in the members’ ballot (if you’re not a member, why not join online here). Members will have 10 votes, ranked in order. They can vote for candidates across the country, so even if you live in a different region, you could vote for a candidate in your area as your no.1 choice and me for no.2 – helping us both to get elected.

 

The team of candidates all over the country is very strong, so I wish all the best to all my ‘opponents’. Of course, they’re not really opponents because we’re all on the same side and working together for the same cause in 2014.

 

What is UKIP’s vision for Britain?

I had an interesting email recently from a UKIP parish councillor, who said that he’s constantly asked the question “UKIP want to leave the EU, but what is their vision for Britain?”    This is a massive question and a short article can’t do justice to it but any attempt is better than none.  I’ll give my personal answer to the question.  No doubt readers will have their own ideas as well.

UKIP can be summed up in three words: we believe in freedom, independence and democracy.  We believe in a strong nation state, working with other countries across the globe as friends and trading partners but not being governed by them.  We believe in Britain and Britishness.  I should be proud to be British (just as the Germans should be proud to be German) – our national identity helps to build a sense that ‘we are all in it together’.  And we believe in the rule of law: no-one should be better off (or ‘rewarded’) because they have broken the law.

The State exists to protect its citizens – whether we’re talking about defence or crime, to care for those who cannot care for themselves, or to provide a safety-net for those who are temporarily out of work and struggling to find employment.  The State does not exist to become ever-more intrusive.  Countless government departments, quangos and bureaucracies are regulating our daily lives more and more.

When we talk about words like ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’, we mean that decisions should be taken at the most local level possible.  On any issue, can it be left to the individual to make up their own mind?  If not, can it be dealt with at local level?  Is there really a need for the national government to get involved?  One of the problems with the State is that it tries to do too much.

As an individual, I can generally spend my money better than the government can.  The role of the State should be limited: “The State should only do what only the State can do”.

So how does this philosophy translate into policies?

1.  Every penny that is taken in taxation should provide value for money.  No-one likes to pay taxes, but they should be kept as low as possible.  Lower taxes encourage economic growth, and reward hard work.

From the idea of rewarding hard work flows our ‘no tax on minimum wage’ policy – currently for a flat tax to roll Income Tax and National Insurance into one and save much on collection.  Likewise, VAT is the ultimate bureaucratic tax – and costs billions on fraud each year.  We would replace it with a much simpler sales tax and get rid of the complex bureaucracy.  Ideally we’d like to get rid of employers’ national insurance contributions too – it’s a tax on jobs.  But the reality is that the country is in a financial mess (we’re currently borrowing £4,000 per household per year) and this would take time to achieve.

2.  We would scrap projects that are unnecessary and bad value for money: Leave the EU, have a bonfire of unnecessary regulations, scrap the so-called ‘green taxes’ that are hitting energy bills, do a proper job of cutting quangos, get rid of the unproductive Climate Change Act and scrap projects like HS2.

3.  The education system should reward hard work (including grammar schools) and give parents as much choice as possible (a voucher system to enable families to make their own decisions on schooling rather than let the State make them based purely on postcode).

4.  We treat crime very seriously.  Therefore we oppose watering-down of our basic rights and freedoms, and the erosion of the right to trial by jury or access to legal representation.  If I’m accused of a crime, I should have the opportunity to defend myself properly.  The other side of the coin is that sentencing should be tough to protect the public from criminal behaviour, and make sure that ‘crime doesn’t pay’.

In a recent high-profile case, a defendant sentenced to 8 months in prison was released after just 2 months.  We don’t believe that this sends out the right message to the public; sentences should mean what they say.

5.  On immigration, we could never support Boris Johnson’s idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants because it would reward an illegal action.  Why should an illegal immigrant be allowed to stay, whilst someone who followed the rules and applied for a visa was refused?

The system is in such a mess that we would put a 5-year freeze on permanent settlement whilst we sort the system, clear the backlog of cases and try to find out who is actually in the country.

6.  On defence, we have to protect the country.  The capability of our armed forces is getting lower; we need to slash bureaucracy – tens of thousands of people are employed by the MoD.  We cannot keep getting involved in conflicts which don’t affect us.  There is plenty of money to be saved – which could be used to buy the proper equipment, treat our heroes properly and bring the armed forces back up to full strength.

7.  Because we believe in democracy, it is wrong for MPs to decide moral issues on our behalf – especially when their Manifesto doesn’t cover it.  We have the right to decide those issues ourselves, and the people should be able to call a binding referendum on such issues.

Of course, I could have summed up our political philosophy and the policies that flow from it in just two words: Common Sense.

Save money, cut a quango

A group of academics at universities in Sheffield and Birmingham have claimed that UKIP’s plan to cut spending on quangos is over-simplistic.  I don’t agree.

It is always possible for researchers to find some quangos that do good work, whereas others (for example the Potato Council – yes, it does really exist and pays its staff an average of over £47,000 per year: www.potato.org.uk) have clearly had their chips.

Professor Flinders suggests that the BBC (which costs an annual £145.50 per household – £3.8 billion) is an example of a good quango. But in its current state it is poor value for our taxes; how ironic that the report was published on the day many former BBC employees were revealed to have received hundreds of thousands of pounds each in payoffs!

Dr. Dommett is quite right to point out that previous governments have failed to achieve massive savings through quango reform, but this is a symptom of a lack of political will rather than evidence that savings can’t be made. It’s not just about the savings either. A quango carrying out an essential function could be streamlined to become part of a government department and subject to greater democratic accountability.

Nigel Farage speaks at Leeds mosque

I am delighted that Nigel Farage has spoken today at the Ghousia mosque in Armsley, near Leeds.

What has been really striking is the reaction online.  Those who claim (mainly the ‘Hope Not Hate’ lot) that UKIP has some soft undercurrent of racism have been thoroughly shown up.  I’ve seen precisely one UKIP supporter complain about the visit online, and they were roundly shot down by other UKIP members pointing out what we stand for.

UKIP believes in Britishness.  We believe that there should be such a thing as ‘British culture’, which celebrates the positives about our nation.  A common belief that we should make our country the best that we can.  And I’m sure that we all have our views of what Britishness means.  Whether it’s a belief in standing up for what’s right, or the dogged tenacity of those few who defended our nation at the Battle of Britain, or the courage shown by William Wilberforce MP in making us the nation to lead the way in abolishing the abomination that was human slavery, we all have a view on what being British means.

I’m English every bit as much as I am British.  I believe in the Union because England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland work better together.  Those who try to create tensions between our nations for their own political ends weaken our greatest strength.  Bring on the referendum in Scotland!  I believe that the SNP will be soundly defeated, and rightly so.  

If we believe in Britishness then it follows that we in UKIP must reach out to the Muslim community.  Everyone, whether Christian or Muslim, Jewish or Sikh, agnostic or atheist, should be proud to be part of our great nation.  It’s what binds us together.  When we see ourselves as united and working together, we achieve far more than we do when we are divided.  We should never feel guilty about being proud to be English/British.  Every Spaniard I’ve ever met has been proud to be Spanish – and rightly so!

It’s not a negative ‘nationalist’ fervour.  I’m proud to live in my local community, and I’ve lived within 10 minutes walk of here all my life.  I’m proud to be a Sheffielder.  I’m proud to be a Yorkshireman.  And yes, I’m proud to be English and I’m proud to be British.

If it weren’t for the insidious European Union redefining what the word ‘European’ means, I’d be proud to be European too.  I’m still pro-Europe – and therefore, passionately anti-EU!

Nigel Farage mosque speech

I believe….in immigration?

As a right-winger and UKIP member, I believe in immigration. That sentence might sound slightly surprising coming from the General Secretary of a Party which is perceived by the media as anti-immigration. So let me explain. I reject uncontrolled immigration. I reject immigration beyond the ability of our country’s infrastructure to cope.

 

Recently, I’ve been listening to the Bruce Springsteen song ‘American Land’. It starts off well enough, talking about people relocating to America as it grew and helping to build the country. That’s the kind of immigration that I believe in. Those who believe that they can have a better life (in this case in the UK), who come over and are determined to see themselves as part of British culture and will put their heart and soul into improving this country for all of us. I’m talking about the kind of person who is proud to come to the United Kingdom and shows that pride at every opportunity. Such people are a real asset to the country.

 

That’s why I’m so angry at the ‘left-wing’ in British politics, which has consistently pursued an effective open-door immigration policy. Uncontrolled mass immigration doesn’t provide any of those benefits, but instead creates huge cultural problems for us. Worse still, it creates resentment. In Sheffield, I see workers losing their jobs to immigrant workers. All that does is create resentment and fuels the kind of racism that we’ve painstakingly worked to get rid of from our nation.

 

We don’t know who’s in the country. We have no idea how many people will come to the UK after the doors are opened to anyone from Bulgaria and Romania. We don’t know how many of those people are coming to improve our way of life and theirs, and how many are coming for the wrong reasons. That’s what happens when you lose control of your borders, and yet another reason why we shouldn’t be members of the European Union – which forces an open-door immigration policy from 26 other EU countries (and anyone entitled to apply for a passport from one of those countries) on us. Why should someone from Poland or Hungary have more right than someone from India, China, Australia or the USA to come to the UK? Any common-sense policy would look at the value of that immigrant to the UK, not which country they come from.

 

UKIP’s immigration policy is tough. But the actions of successive Labour and Conservative governments mean that our policy is absolutely necessary. Our population is now growing beyond the country’s ability to cope. The 5-year freeze on permanent settlement gives us time to take stock and assess who is in the country before deciding what level of immigration can be allowed after that.

 

Bruce Springsteen’s song sadly shows the attitude of the Left to immigration: “The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep out” – assuming that the immigrants who helped to build America are the same people looking to settle there today. But this is a prime tactic of those promoting mass immigration – to mislead about the true nature of immigration at the moment.

 

I believe in immigration, when it is properly managed and controlled. Thanks to ill-considered policies, immigration is seen as a bad thing by huge sections of the population. The blame lies with the tired old political parties which have systematically failed in their duty to control immigration.

Speech in Doncaster

On Saturday I was the guest speaker at the Doncaster branch social meeting.  A number of new members (and some who’d been members for a while but never attended a meeting turned up.  It was also good to catch up with Rob Bower, who had leafleted for my Police Commissioner campaign last year but had also not got involved at branch level until now.

One of my pet political theories is that UKIP’s best chances of success generally come in towns which are satellites of major cities.  For example, Eastleigh fits this mould – as do Corby, Rotherham and South Shields.  Some of our first ever council seats were taken in Hartlepool and Dudley, whilst in Bootle our 38% of the vote at a Council election happened at a time when UKIP was at just 1% nationally.  I could give many more examples, but Doncaster fits the bill as a town of real UKIP potential.

At the meeting, there was a real sense that Doncaster has been ‘left behind’.  Whereas the city centre in Sheffield has been regenerated (some with the waste of money known as ‘EU funding’ where we are given some of our own money back and told how to spend it), Doncaster has seen little improvement for decades.  People are desperate for a change, and UKIP are in a position to offer that.

This feeling of being ‘left out’ or ‘left behind’ is one of the main reasons that such seats are attractive for UKIP: people  want change.  But there are other factors as well.  There’s a much stronger sense of community than in a big city.  And the demographics least likely to vote UKIP are not present in a smaller town.

Either way, the people of Doncaster need an alternative to Labour.  Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats will provide it.

 

Belfast meeting a huge success

The Party’s support in Northern Ireland is increasing quickly.  As well as myself, the speakers were David McNarry MLA and Paul Nuttall MEP with Cllr. Henry Reilly as the Chairman.  The first surprise of the night was the sheer number of people who turned up: a venue with space for 70 members had been booked, and the start of the meeting had to be delayed so that a couple of dozen extra seats could be brought in.  By the start of the meeting, almost 100 members were in attendance.

My speech worked focused on the potential in Northern Ireland for UKIP success.  Council elections are held under Single Transferable Vote, which makes it much easier for a developing Party to take seats.  The European elections provide a real opportunity for us – breaking through in Northern Ireland politics is difficult because of fears that UKIP could ‘split the Unionist vote’.  But we have heard similar concerns over UKIP success on the mainland – and voters are prepared to leave their traditional parties at European elections.  There should be a real chance of getting a UKIP MEP elected in Northern Ireland.David McNarry’s intellect and deep understanding of politics was impressive.  He inspired confidence in UKIP’s potential in Northern Ireland and came across as an assured and confident leader.  Previously, UKIP has had Henry Reilly elected to the Newry & Mourne Council – topping the poll by a considerable margin.  Paul Nuttall’s speech was easily the most impressive that I have ever heard him give: full of passion and commitment.  He well deserved the standing ovation that he received at the end of his speech.

 

UKIP Councillor meeting

Last Tuesday I had the privilege to chair a meeting of the UKIP County Councillors in Lincolnshire. Some of the new councillors had worked hard over months or even years to get elected; others were elected because of the national swing to UKIP and hadn’t really considered the possibility that they might actually find themselves being elected.

 

I wonder, out of the 153 (unlike the national newspapers, I’m not forgetting the 6 by-election wins) councillors elected for UKIP on May 2nd, how many of them actually believed that they were going to be elected? Or did it come as a complete shock to them?

 

When we say that UKIP members are ‘real people not career politicians’, this is what we mean! But what really encouraged me about the Lincolnshire group was seeing the enthusiasm amongst those names that I hadn’t heard before. These are the people who found themselves elected without really expecting it, and rather than be daunted by the challenge they want to use their position to make a difference to their County and for their Party. It will take time for new UKIP councillors across the country to get used to the rather arcane rules and procedures of County Councils, and therefore it could be a few months before the full UKIP impact on those councils is seen.

 

But that doesn’t mean UKIP councillors aren’t already making a difference. In Cambridgeshire, our councillors have already managed to ensure that the Cabinet system of local government will be abolished. In Norfolk, they’ve not only repeated that feat but gone one better by managing to get the Conservative administration voted out. The leadership of both Groups has done a fantastic job in negotiating the right deals to bring power back to the people and away from the hands of a small, virtually unaccountable Cabinet.