A Wind of Hope Coming From Clacton

If there is a hope, then perhaps it lies in a gentle sea breeze blowing westward from Clacton.

A remarkable coincidence occurred last week on the train on the way back up to my constituency, sitting next to a colleague for whom I have enormous respect and discussing UKIP’s potential amongst the working class forgotten by our political elite.

He quoted a sentence from George Orwell’s 1984, which I’ve had on my mind for some time: “if there is a hope, it lies in the proles”. Neither of us would use the word ‘prole’ ourselves (although Matthew Parris might) to refer to the working classes because it has developed derogatory connotations since Orwell penned his ominous work in the 1940s. Orwell’s contention that hope against the Big Brother State lay with the working classes was explained “because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.” There’s a certain parallel with today’s political structure. It’s not in the trendy wine bars of Islington, or the seats packed with middle-class public sector workers, that anti-establishment feeling is likely to arise. Opposition to political correctness is unlikely to come from those who propagate it, and opposition to EU Directives is likely to come from those whose jobs are jeopardised by them.

The consequences of failing to comply with the politically correct establishment of today may be less horrifying than Room 101, but deviation from its path is enforced equally swiftly. Anything which strays from that message results in instant condemnation on Twitter and across the media. We’ve seen it in the last week. Nigel Farage comments that perhaps, in general, we should not allow those with serious life-threatening (and often communicable) diseases into the UK – at least not unless they can afford to pay for their own treatment – and witness the howls of outrage.

A University rugby team puts out a laddish, poor-taste, tongue-in-cheek leaflet. The appropriate reaction, to tell them to withdraw the leaflet and not to be so stupid in future, was missed. Instead, the club was suspended, it made the BBC news and students were ‘offered counselling’ in case they had been psychologically scarred from reading it. Anyone pointing out the overreaction, myself included, will no doubt be accused of ‘defending sexism’ or suchlike. No! I despise sexism, just as I despise racism, homophobia, and any other discrimination. I’m just saying that the offence taken should be proportional to the error, otherwise it cheapens the real ugliness of heartfelt racism like that I’ve seen for the first time in years in the European Parliament.

Political correctness is indeed hard to define, but you know it when you see it. But on the streets of the working-class constituencies which have the potential to be the future of UKIP, there is no such political correctness. The Conservatives are wrong to be so worried about UKIP ‘taking Conservative votes’, and Labour are wrong to be so complacent. Clacton contains Jaywick, the poorest Council ward in the country. UKIP did so well precisely because it was a working-class seat which has a huge disconnect with the Conservative Party. Thurrock and Boston & Skegness, both Conservative-held Labour targets which are likely to be snatched out of both of their hands by UKIP, may well be amongst the first to fall after Clacton.

But in the long-term, it is the Labour-held seats in working class areas which will be at risk in huge numbers. Clacton, Boston & Skegness and Thurrock fall into a very small category: strongly working-class seats with a Conservative MP. But in the longer term, there are far more such seats in Labour areas. In my own area alone (North East England) I might highlight Hartlepool, South Shields, Tynemouth, Blyth Valley, Wansbeck, Stockton South, Stockton North, Darlington and Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland amongst others as having potential for returning UKIP MPs in the longer term. Perhaps we won’t take many of those seats in 2015, but imagine how UKIP would do under an unpopular Labour government with Miliband as Prime Minister.

Labour can’t represent those voters because they don’t understand them. Up until now, they have relied on loyalty and Labour’s past reputation. Labour voters in those seats rarely provide a positive reason for voting Labour; rather, they explain that they have ‘always’ voted Labour – the Party which stood up for the working classes in the 50s and 60s. Once they finally get fed up with Labour, they will be just as loyal to UKIP as they were to Labour. In Sunday’s Survation poll which had UKIP on 25% of the vote, it’s noticeable that the Party was actually leading nationwide amongst the DE socio-economic groups.

Whilst Labour nationally seems complacent, local Labour constituency associations seem quicker to have spotted the UKIP threat. The challenge for UKIP here is merely to ensure that Labour’s lies go unchallenged. Where they claim that UKIP wish to privatise the NHS, we need to point out the lie – and go on to say that Labour are the Party of PFI. We need to point out that Labour peers Lord Winston and Lord Warner are the politicians who want to charge people to see their GP and pay for hospital visits.

Who said “A fully privatised NHS is the best option”? Actually, nobody said it. That’s just what Labour claimed on their leaflets in Heywood & Middleton that UKIP’s Deputy Leader said. He never did. He did once make a personal comment about procurement in the NHS, bemoaning the fact that we pay up to 30 times over the odds for some drugs. It wasn’t Party policy even so.

Likewise, some UKIP members are calling for the resignation of Labour’s Richard Howitt MEP after his sick tweet “UKIP says abort disabled children, put people w/learning diffs in camps & bans disabled candidates.” It’s about time that the Party started fighting back against such things. UKIP’s disabilities spokesperson Star Etheridge said “As a disabled person myself who encourages all other disabled people to enter politics, I find Mr Howitt’s repulsive comments deeply insulting and it is clear that he is not fit for office. He should hang his head in shame, issue an apology and stand down as an MEP. I am proud to be a UKIP councillor, I am proud to be UKIP’s Disabilities Spokesman. Mr Howitt’s comments are despicable.”

Strangely, nobody is claiming that Labour plan to charge patients to see their GP. Perhaps UKIP should offer Labour a deal: if they stop telling lies about us, we’ll stop telling the truth about them.

Rejuvenate and sell empty homes in Durham to protect our green belt

Durham’s County Council should make much greater efforts to rejuvenate and sell empty properties rather than ‘carve up’ the city’s green belt, according to Durham’s UKIP Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott.

The County Durham Plan earmarks land for 5,200 new homes around Durham by 2030, including 4,000 on green belt land.

Durham County Council chiefs say protected countryside must make way for new homes and businesses to reverse the county’s long-standing economic decline.

Arnott said “It is disgraceful that Durham County Council seem quite content to carve up the City’s countryside in order to build new homes, whilst thousands of properties still remain empty.

“Durham is a beautiful city, and we would be far better utilising the land to promote tourism in the local area, rather than make it into yet another look-a-like city centre”.

According to the most recent figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Durham is the local authority with the third highest number of vacant dwellings in England.

Sue Childs, from the Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, told a public inquiry into the authority’s 15-year masterplan that the City of Durham could “be left with a cathedral and castle as a token heritage site, encircled by a large housing site”.

Where I stand on TTIP‏

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade deal between the EU and the USA, which is already proving to be controversial – although I suspect it to still be years away from coming to fruition. Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation being put out about my position – including by 38 Degrees. I am therefore publishing my views here on my website.

TTIP is a very complex proposal.  It is vital that we have a thorough, public debate on this issue; at present, MEPs do not have access to the full text.  To an extent, we are therefore running blind.

As a Party, UKIP is committed to the principle that there must be an exemption from the agreement for the NHS. I recognise the importance of this issue to many local issues, and I have submitted two written questions to the European Commission about the proposal. I have raised the issue of the Investor-State Dispute Mechanisms and sought clarification over the proposed power for multinational corporations to take legal action against national governments. Both of these, if they are as reported in the press, would be unacceptable in my view.

As a UKIP MEP I have other concerns; the EU Trade Commissioner negotiates this deal on behalf of all 28 countries of the European Union.  They may well not look out for British interests in areas where we are traditionally strong; a one-size-fits-all deal won’t work.

I understand the benefits that a genuine free trade agreement between the UK and the US could offer (and indeed, so could a free trade deal between the UK and many other countries including our forgotten Commonwealth partners). However, I am far from convinced that TTIP will be in our national interests.

Addressing Child Poverty in the North East‏

In the wake of today’s story in the Chronicle that child poverty is rising to such an extent that almost 50% of young people in some parts of the North East (47%, Elswick, Newcastle) are living in poverty, I was asked on Twitter for my views.

Sometimes, 140 characters just isn’t enough to do justice to an issue.  I don’t think that even a single article is enough to do justice to it, either.  I believe that we have genuine poverty today in a way that we didn’t see when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  At that time, people spoke of poverty in relative terms.  But I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about in the 21st century.  We’re talking about families who literally struggle to put food on the table, children going to school hungry and without having suitable clothing.

Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s first elected MP, said “If we speak with passion, let it always be tempered with compassion”.  In just a few words, he’s articulated exactly what UKIP should be about.  I may be passionate in opposing the waste of our foreign aid budget, when it goes to countries in the G20 or those with nuclear and space programmes.  But I am equally compassionate when I hear of those suffering with and dying from Ebola, those whose livelihoods are wrecked by tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. In those cases we should be the first to help.

I may be passionate about having a controlled immigration policy, but equally compassionate about helping our fair share of refugees who are genuinely fleeing persecution.  I may be passionate about having a much tougher stance on crime, yet believe in compassion and mercy where the circumstances warrant it.  I may believe that our National Health Service should not be an international health service, yet still believe that it’s right to make exceptions in a case like that of Malala Yousafzai – whether on humanitarian grounds or simply to send out a message to the world.

That’s the UKIP way: passion, tempered with compassion; libertarianism, tempered with common sense; democracy, tempered with nothing.

I’ve seen the problem of child poverty through visits to food banks.  I don’t believe that in the 21st century we should still have a society where food banks are needed – but we do.  And whilst we do, as well as having a responsibility to speak out as an elected Member of the European Parliament, I believe I have a responsibility as a citizen to do my bit in donating.

Many children in poverty have parents who are in work, for whom the minimum wage just isn’t enough.  What can be done?  We can’t adopt Labour’s £8/hour minimum wage plan, because it would be beyond the ability of many companies to pay (particularly here in the North East).  That would just increase unemployment and wouldn’t help anyone.  Instead, we should raise the tax threshold so that those on minimum wage aren’t paying a penny piece in income tax.

For others the problem is sick leave; some people fall through the gaps when they’re ill and only capable of working sporadically.  In the absence of a regular income, the bureaucratic nature of the benefits system means that they often get nothing at the time they need help the most.

The answer here is to simplify the benefits system; well-meaning but misguided Labour politicians from 1997 to 2010 made the system so complicated that many people don’t get the help they need when they fall on hard times.

Still others struggle for lack of a job, and our North East unemployment is the highest in the land.  The answer here is to create jobs: to have a bonfire of EU regulations, make British business more competitive, scrap laws pushing our energy prices higher, and to provide tax relief for small businesses.

Politicians of all parties will say things like “we have to do more to stop child poverty”.  I don’t disagree, but the best approach would be to unravel the mess that they’ve created.

No tax on minimum wage, a simpler and fairer benefits system, and encourage businesses to grow and create jobs.

Shock new figures show UKIP could be set to win Hartlepool

UKIP could be set to win Hartlepool at next year’s general election according to shock new figures released by a national newspaper over the weekend.

UKIP came just 617 votes off Labour’s Liz McInnes in last Thursday’s Heywood and Middleton by-election, with the party increasing its share of the vote from just 2.63% in 2010 to 38.69%.

Figures reported in The Sun show that if the same swing was reported in Hartlepool, it would see Labour’s Iain Wright lose his seat, and UKIP pick up their first in the North East of England.

UKIP’s North East Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott, said “Hartlepool will be a two horse race between UKIP and Labour next May. Lazy Labour have taken their voters for granted in Hartlepool, and people don’t just feel neglected, but completely and utterly betrayed too. We got a fantastic result last week in Heywood and Middleton in what was an incredibly short campaign. If we emulate that next May, we will win here”.

UKIP picked up two councillors last May and came top in the town in the Euro elections.

Arnott added “Many people across Hartlepool like our policies such as ‘no tax on the minimum wage’, having a fair Australian-style points based immigration system, and stopping the political elite from continuing to privatise our NHS. Rather than focus on the tiresome left/right struggle, we’d much rather prioritise what’s right and wrong”.

Seized cash should be used for communities

Jonathan Arnott, the region’s local UKIP MEP, has thrown his weight behind calls for communities blighted by crime to receive all of the assets and cash seized from local criminals by councils

“I fully support the Local Government Association (LGA) in their demands for communities affected by crime to benefit from the assets seized from those responsible.

“At the moment councils get less than half the assets they recover from convicted crooks and the government keeps the rest,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP’s North-East Euro MP.

The LGA says that councils help recover an estimated £40 million in cash and assets fraudulently stolen by benefit fraudsters and rogue traders using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 every year.

The money helps fund support and compensation for victims, crime prevention initiatives and further trading standards investigations into fraudsters and counterfeit goods. It also goes towards improving local areas and has paid for park regeneration schemes, anti-graffiti projects and youth clubs.

Amjad Bashir MEP, UKIP’s Communities spokesman, added “It is plainly right that criminals should have their cash and assets confiscated and to my mind it is also plainly right that all of that should come back to benefit the affected community.

“It should all be spent improving the lives of local people and not just disappear into government funds. We are talking of millions of pounds which would make a huge difference to our communities and help fund further investigations and prosecutions.

The Government is strengthening Proceeds of Crime Act powers under the Serious Crime Bill, which returns to the Lords on October 14.