Peter Whittle joined the party in 2012, and is an MEP candidate in London.
Peter is the founder and director of the Westminster-based think tank, the New Culture Forum. He is also a columnist for Standpoint magazine, and the author of six books which deal with different aspects of British culture.
He has just been appointed the new Culture Spokesman for UKIP.
Q1. Why did you enter politics?
Well, I’d always been quite actively interested in politics. I joined the Young Conservatives at about 14 – earlier I think than you were actually allowed to. Amazing to think there were thriving branches up and down the country at that time – this was the mid-70s.
When I went to the University of Kent, I became Chairman of the Conservative Association. This was during a period of radical left-wing student politics, so being a conservative meant you had to run the whole gamut of hostile reactions. After that I kept up some sort of activity at local constituency level. I stood for the Tories in a local election in 2006, but even by then I’d become disillusioned with them.
Q2. What was your previous working background?
Most of my adult life I’ve worked in the media in some shape or form. For a good 14 years I made TV programmes as a producer and director – mostly documentaries, and mostly about the arts. I worked for years at the South Bank Show, when it was still on ITV, and also did programmes for Channel 4, 5 and the BBC. I then took myself off to Los Angeles where I carried on doing the same thing, for UK as well as American television. I have an enormous fondness for the US and still go there regularly, whether for worth or pleasure.
When I returned to London, I concentrated on print journalism, writing extensively for the Sunday Times but many other papers and magazines too. During this time I reviewed film and theatre, and did numerous interviews with film and arts people. But politics never left me, and my feelings about the way Britain was going led to my setting up the New Culture Forum. The NCF though is quite independent of my personal involvement in UKIP.
Q3. Was there a defining moment when you knew UKIP was the party for you, and what was it?
I’m not sure that there was one particular moment. But I do remember looking at length at UKIP’s set of principles and thinking – there’s absolutely nothing here I disagree with. It wasn’t long before I was convinced that the party was the only one which was giving a voice to the country beyond the insulated Westminster bubble. Joining and then becoming publically active was brilliant in that, instead of merely commentating on what’s going on, you can finally get out there and do something.
Q4. What are your personal long-range goals and objectives for the next 5 years within UKIP?
I’m standing as an MEP candidate in May, but certainly hope to stand for Parliament in the general election next year.
As the party’s Culture spokesman, I think it is a priority now to look at how we best achieve integration, as opposed to the failed policy of multiculturalism which had been entrenched for years. Voices from both the left and right have admitted that a doctrinaire multicultural approach has led to social segregation, and a fragmenting of the kind of communal values which are crucial to the survival of any society. To this end I’ve set up a group within the party to discuss where we go, post multiculturalism.
In the more immediate term, I’m hoping to organise a UKIP event for the end of the year which marks the forthcoming 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. Magna Carta goes to the very core of who and what we are. It’s imperative that we as a party celebrate it and promote its enduring significance.
Q5. What would you consider to be your major strengths?
Personal strengths? Well I guess I’m tenacious. I don’t give up. I can be dogged if I think something is worth it. On a practical level, having worked for so long in the media, I have a good sense of how it works, and that can only be a useful thing, especially now that the party is where it is.
Q6. What would you consider to be the accomplishments that have given you most satisfaction to date?
Personally, I think setting up the New Culture Forum is something I’m pleased about. And writing books that get well received, even if they haven’t brought me Jackie Collins’s millions!
Q7. What UKIP policy would you consider to be the one that most resonates with you and why?
I’d have to say our stand on the need for controlled and sensible immigration would be right up there. Immigration is one thing, but unprecedented mass immigration of the sort Britain has experienced over the past 15 years is quite another. It is appalling the way in which discussion of this issue, which effects so many aspects of our economic and social life, was for so long effectively shut down.
Q8. What is your favourite…
Wine? I am a bit of a philistine about wine. I have no sense of smell and so would never make a connoisseur. But I get through my fair share – cold and white usually does it.
Newspaper? I don’t have a favourite. But everyday I read the Telegraph, Times and Mail online. As far as weeklies are concerned, I’ve been reading the Spectator for over thirty years.
Meal? I’m very easy to please. But I like hot and cold together – warm roast chicken and cold potato salad for example. Also chocolate in any form is fine by me.
TV Programme? I like American sitcoms such as Mom, Big Bang Theory or New Girl. Also, the US version of House of Cards. I’ve just rewatched the whole of Simon Schama’s History of Britain, and the Channel 4 adaptation of William Boyd’s novel Any Human Heart from a few years ago. The glories of DVD!
Political interviewer? Political interviewing is currently at a low ebb I think. So I have no favourite.
Q9. What would be your favourite or ideal day off? It would have to be in the summer, very warm weather, by a pool or next to the sea, somewhere like Broadstairs in Kent. Swimming, sunbathing, something to drink, a nice shower, then dinner outside with some friends.
Q10. Name 5 politicians, alive or dead, you would have loved to have had dinner with all together and why?
Tricky one! I would certainly say Churchill, but I think he transcends the label ‘politician’ for obvious reasons. Could I stretch the label a bit more and say Elizabeth I? One of the most remarkable and brilliant women in history. I would choose Ronald Reagan too, interestingly quite an enigmatic figure, despite the popular image over here. That’s only three I know, but think what a great intimate conversation there’d be!