Nigel Farage – Straight talking?

[May 2010]

Tonight I attended a ‘public meeting’ for the UKIP party, headed by Nigel Farage, you know, for a bit of political diversity. Broadening my horizons – or shrinking them.

UKIP stand for the UK Independence Party. Don’t know anything about them? Liberalist, nationalist (non-racist [in comparison to BNP maybe]) party… Here’s some of their mini manifesto for you to chomp on.

1 The Economy: Tax, Budget & Regulation
· Save up to £120bn a year by leaving the EU. No British jobs or trade will be lost
· Take tax off the minimum wage by raising the tax threshold to £11,500
· Reduce everyone’s taxes with a 31% flat tax

2 The Economy: Jobs, Enterprise & Skills
· Create one million new skilled jobs with public and private investment in a five-point public works programme to provide defence equipment, nuclear power stations, flood and coastal protection, transport infrastructure including high-speed rail lines, and new prisons
· Abolish costly EU schemes such as carbon capping, emissions trading, and landfill taxes

3 Immigration & Asylum
· End uncontrolled mass immigration
· Introduce an immediate five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement
· Regain control of Britain’s borders to stop foreign criminals from entering our country
· End abuse of the UK asylum system and expel Islamic extremists
· Introduce a strict new points-based visa system and time-limited work permits
· Triple the number of UK Borders Agency staff engaged in controlling immigration (to 30,000)

5 Defence
· Boost the military budget by 40% so our armed forces are properly equipped
· Demand one clear achievable mission for Afghanistan or seek a negotiated exit
· Keep Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent strong
· Look after our service heroes with better pay and conditions
· Expand the Army by 25% and double the TA
· Provide more RAF helicopters and aircraft

6 Healthcare & the NHS
· Keep the NHS free at the point of delivery and make no cuts to frontline services
· Replace overlapping tiers of NHS bureaucracy (SHAs/PCTs) with locally-elected County Health
· Introduce ‘Health Credit Vouchers’ to allow people to opt out of the NHS if they wish
· Restore free NHS dental check-ups and eye tests

7 Education & Training
· Bring back the ‘three Rs’ and teach reading with phonics to provide a proper educational foundation
· Encourage the creation of new grammar schools, but make the 11-plus vocational as well as academic
· Give parents ‘School Vouchers’ so they can choose between schools – state or private

9 Welfare & Social Security
· Reform the ridiculously complicated welfare system (currently more than 70 different benefits)
· Help families by rolling childcare benefits and credits into one enhanced benefit
· Allow part-time workers to continue claiming ‘Basic Cash Benefit’ until their wages reach £11,500
· Ensure UK benefits are only available to those who have lived here for at least five years

10 Foreign Affairs & International Trade
· Leave the EU and continue in free trade with the other European countries. No jobs will be lost
· Establish a Commonwealth Free Trade Area with the other member countries
· Regain Britain’s currently dormant seat at the World Trade Organisation
· Promote democracy, genuine human rights and free determination around the world

14 The Constitution & How We Are Governed
· Give the British public a right to binding local and national referenda on major issues
· Introduce proportional representation into national and local elections. UKIP favours the Alternative Vote Plus system
· Give voters a right of recall over corrupt MPs, enabling them to force by-elections

15 Culture & Restoring Britishness
· End support for multiculturalism and promote one shared British culture for all
· Be fair to England by introducing an ‘English Parliament’, ending the discriminatory Barnett Formula and making St George’s Day a national holiday in England
· Ban the burka and veiled niqab in public buildings and certain private buildings
· Require UK schools to teach Britain’s contribution to the world and celebrate cultures, languages and traditions from around the British Isles
· Scrap political correctness in public affairs

Okay if you skipped that, I don’t blame you. But some of their stuff is pretty interesting, engaging, arguably sound policy. Some, I don’t like. Freezing immigration for 5 years? Not sure. Not sure about the EU, but in general, it’s a good idea, too much control is in Brussels.

Anyway, side tracked. As I went in, we’ve got some nice UKIP posters all over the front ‘stage’, about 100 chairs laid out, and about 30 people in them. Probably about 50 people showed up overall, though all middle class looking, all white, all middle aged and above apart from me a few exceptions… So I took a seat in the middle-back-ish of the hall, sent a quick text, stared around the room and watched everyone dribble in.

Someone who didn’t introduce themselves introduces John, and whose second name I didn’t catch. I’ll work on that as a journalist, don’t worry… He’s labour, he’s represented constituencies from 1964, he’s been defeated, and has defeated conservatives in local elections. He opens up by explaining why he’s there, as a social patriotist… because he supports what Farage wants to do in terms of political limitations; knock them down and work together. He makes a good point, which I’m sure everyone in Buckingham constituency thinks right now… it’s unfair that the people who get the privilege of having the Speaker as their MP, are thus unable to vote for who they like. I completely agree, a call on constitutional reform please!

Next, Sir Nicholas Bonsor. Ex conservative MP. Began in politics in 1972. was MP for Utminster in 1997. Minister of State 1995 – 1997. His views of supporting Nigel stem from his anti-Europe opinions. In his opinion, the EU creation in the 1960s and 70s has taken away our federal system. We are now not in control of our country. 75% of our laws come from Brussels, and once we receive them, as have no say in even amending them. We can’t control immigration. David Cameron’s cap on those outside of the EU won’t affect much, as the problem is the people within the EU. He reckons that 80% want to get out of Europe, and we should have a referendum to make it happen. I agree, when we’re spending £45 million a day on it… we should at least get the chance to vote.

Up next, Simon Heffer. I read an article of his on Bercow the other day, wow, he really doesn’t like him. Let’s Turf Bercow Out Of Office.
See? Conservative, from the Daily Telegraph, rejoined in 2005. Also worked for The Daily Mail from 1995-2005. This is an old friend of Nigel’s, who has known him for 15 years and has represented him every single time he has stood for election! ‘Despite this’ (!) he is ‘a man of absolute principle.. a sovereign democrat.’ ‘he believes in our country’s opinion to govern itself… that we should govern ourselves.’ He argued in favour of our vote, and how important it is ‘it is crucial to have a vote which is meaningful… crucial to save our democracy.’ He mentions the two World Wars, the fight from the 17th century onwards to give our people the vote, which only ended in Britain in 1928. Then we had ’45 years of where it mattered’ before 1973 (did we join the EU then?) and it now, no longer matters. On issues such as mass immigration, we have a right to be consulted (this was when I noticed the last of any other ethnicities in the room). In places, the NHS can’t cope. Our country is on the verge of bankruptcy, and we need to do something about it, we need to be more honest. He then goes on to describe his privilege of attending a grammar school, and saying how we need to fight to keep them open. The ‘cosy consensus’ about ripping off the taxpayer in terms of MPs Expenses was emphasised.

Back to Nigel… he has ‘great charisma, conviction and determination’ and that he has a ‘real chance of winning’. Apparently he’s against the smoking ban because it’s making pubs close down. Okay, I’ll give you one good point so far. Just one. [8.29pm: Getting tiresome now.]

After a lengthy Q+A session and a chat with the owner of what was described as ‘a liberal, intellectual blog… a place to voice political ideas and suggestions’ I headed out, quite buzzing with all this policy talk. I don’t think it was Farage that gave me that inspiration, in fact I’m pretty sure it was the counter arguments to every single policy he had that popped up on my head, and the need to rant at someone to voice them all down.

Overall, few policies I really agree with were brought up here. I’m a middle class, fairly well off grammar school student, and UKIP really have nothing to offer me. But hey, seeing as my minimal vote means nothing anyway, due to silly speaker practises, I thought I may as well see what they had to say. I did almost walk out at the mention of only teaching British history – dear God. My political view has not been widened, I’ve just seen that non-mainstream parties aren’t in the spotlight (or government) for a reason – this one is anyway.

Likelihood of John Bercow being toppled? Slim.

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