Friday, March 19, 2010

Liveblogging from the UKIP Conference

Welll, OK, I didn't get here till the afternoon session and did not manage to see much of Milton Keynes on the 10 minute walk from the station to Jurys Inn where the Conference is taking place.

The large hall is fairly full, even allowing for people straggling in from lunch. Average age: somewhere around 50 and there were many people I did not recognize, which is a plus.

Gerard Batten speaking on immigration. His full policy document and a 2 page summary on the website and the booklet is on sale. These are the policies the British people have been waiting for.

All the data have been carefully researched from places like ONS. He veers on the side of caution.

Contrary to what we have been told, Britain is not a country of mass immigration; from 1066 to 1945 small numbers and assimilated. Soared since World War II and particularly since 1997 - 6 million came and around 1.4 million left.

Recent revelations have shown that this is a deliberate policy to create a "more diverse" society though the indigenous population [or so Mr Batten describes them] have not been asked.

2.15 pm Sat in on some of the policy Q&A session and could not help noticing that UKIP has now become a grown-up party in that many of the questions to the panel were random in the extreme. Also a lot of people preferred to stay outside, socializing and plotting. At least I hope so.

On the question of involvement in Iraq (no longer an issue as the British were ignominously slung out) and Afghanistan Gerard Batten, who has spoken on defence issues before, got the biggest cheer and applause. He may have thought he was cogent and logical but some of us do not think so.

He assured the audience that UKIP had supported the invasion of Afghanistan because that is where the Al-Quaeda attacks had come from. But we should have moved out of there very quickly. There is no point in trying to impose democracy on what he (somewhat misleadingly) described as a "primitive tribal society". That, he thought, was a politically correct way of looking at things. So we should move out and go back in if there is another attack.

As for Iraq, according to Mr Batten, we should not have gone in without the proper procedures through the UN first. One can't help wondering how a man who is dedicated to the idea of national sovereignty can think of the UN as being the supreme legislator for international affairs. Nor did those who applauded him see anything wrong with that.

3.10 pm Before I go in to hear the Leader's speech I had better write up at least some of what I have heard. It is, in fact, impossible to live-blog from a conference room where there is no separate desk for media, old or new. So I have had to wander in and out of the main hall and the office where my laptop stayed.

So, a bit more about that Q&A session about policies. If UKIP wants my advice (which they never did and are unlikely to do now) they will put Tim Akers, a young policy wonk, formerly of the Taxpayers' Alliance, who can put his ideas strongly and pithily, to the fore. They will not, of course, because they like codgers (old and young) who meander and do not come up with anything even remotely coherent.

Tim, as befits anyone who has worked for the TPA, is good on explaining what the tax and government spending would be like under a UKIP government (there is no point in having a Party Conference if you do not dream of going home and preparing for government): there would be money available for the few things governments have to pay for. That includes, naturally enough, defence, law and its enforcement and, also, doctors and teachers but there will be no money for five-a-day outreach officers and suchlike non-jobs. In fact, anything beyond the core state activity, as much as possible should be hived off into the private sector and the public sector employees will be "encouraged" to move to the private sector. In fact, he added, they will not have much choice.

It was also Tim Akers who answered the slightly odd question about mandatory sex education. Would parent be able to withdraw from it, if they want to, someone asked. With the voucher system we are proposing, said Mr Akers, the issue would not arise. If you do not like the school you child is attending, you cand withdraw said child and the money will follow him or her. I think [I shall have to read through that education policy in more detail before I pass judgement. Anyone can say "vouchers" and assume that all good things will follow.]

3.20 pm The time of the Leader's speech is approaching so I shall merely flag up the next issue I shall write about, which is the inevitable debate (or chasm, as one member described it to me) about whether to put up candidates against MPs or PPCs who have proved their credibility as genuine eurosceptics.

4.20 pm Leader's speech went down a treat. More of that anon. First, that disagreement about whether to stand against known withdrawalist eurosceptics. There is really no getting away from the fact that a goodly part of UKIP are amateurs in the worst sense of the word - they have an amateurish attitude and see political campaigning as little more than an expression of their own personal anger with many things that have gone wrong, in their estimation, with this county. Some of it is justified, some not so much. It does mean, however, that they do not like the idea of political agreements, discussions or even of achieving anything. Those are the people who do not like the thought of not standing against those few, very few candidates in the next election (and that term includes sitting MPs) who have announced that they are definitely for Britain withdrawing from the European Union.

The division line should be very simple - those who have signed up to the Better Off Out campaign, even if it does nothing at all, should be deemed to be useful to the cause. There are, altogether 8 MPs and no PPCs on that list. Yet, when David Campbell Bannerman tried to explain the necessity for such arrangements he met an unfriendly silence punctured by unfriendly mutterings. Mark Wadsworth who said that in the constituencies people saw individual candidates as little more than party machines who would not be allowed to vote on the subject, he was greeted with applause. The fact that those eight probably can get into the House of Commons and thus be in a position to raise the issue there escapes these people's attention.

4.50 pm Two speakers from Young Independence were pretty good and in their twenties. The possibly outgoing chairman, Michael Heaver, stuttered a bit but was full of excitement. In his view, opinions among young people are changing in universities and various educational establishments. He cited several examples of europhiliacs who repeat rather outmoded shibboleths being out-argued by people from various countries. In his view any eurosceptic youngsters are likely to support UKIP, who are leading the debate on the campuses, not the Conservatives. (Well, it would be rather difficult for a genuine eurosceptic.)

He also raised one other issue: education, quoting the results of a poll published in the Daily Mail. According to this 75 per cent of all respondents wanted to restore grammar schools fully but among the 17 to 25 year olds 85 per cent wanted to see their return. If this is an accurate reflection of opinion, it is of considerable interest. The generation that has barely heard of grammar schools, has learned of them enough to realize that their abolition has deprived them of any chance of a reasonable education and subsequent career.

He intoduced the man who was probably the most articulate and passionate of all this afternoon's speakers, a Fellow at the LSE (where, as I well remember, the party actually started all those years ago), Abhijit Pandya.

Mr Pandya swept the audience through a historical tour d'horizon, such as Mrs Thatcher would have been proud of. He spoke of British values being superior to others, of Britain refusing to knuckle under to European dictatorship, whether of the French (cue Nelson) or the German variety (cue Churchill).

Ringingly, he proclaimed himself to be against grand republican projects, which all end in corruption and violence; against utopianism, so close to fascism; against social markets that are the very opposite of free markets; against outmoded socialist ideas; against transnational organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and the EU who rule over people without their consent (though, oddly enough, he, too, excluded the arch-tranzi of all, the UN from his indictement); against the slavery of political apathy and of the status quo.

Equally ringingly he pronounced himself to be happy to be standing with the rest of UKIP in the battle for freedom and for real political change. Only UKIP, he added, can deliver them. He was proud to be on the road to freedom. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation.

5 comments:

  1. WitteringsfromWitneyMarch 19, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    Helen,

    Wish I had seen you - I would have taken the liberty of introducing myself, purely for the pleasure of having met someone whose writing (and views) I admire.

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  2. Excellent write up - thanks for this.

    Abhijit is certainly a rising star of the party - good luck to him for the future.

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  3. And if you are embracing a voucher system, then you need Grammar schools... why?

    DK

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  4. Yes it is a pity, WfW. Next time. :-)

    Not sure what your point is DK - we need grammar schools or we don't need them?

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  5. I think DK is saying that with vouchers Grammar schools, which are merely a synonym for good schools, will spring up spontaneously rather than needing to be created by state diktat.

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