There is an old Yorkshire saying “I don’t mind having my leg pulled but when they are yanking it out at the joint, I am not playing”
This saying only applied to one aspect of Conference this last weekend. It was when at the Gala dinner someone on my table was charged £25 for a really cheap bottle of rose. It is the only complaint I can levy.
The conference venue was superb, it oozed a feeling of professionalism, the theatre seating plan so much more suits this type of conference and certainly makes for a better atmosphere than the old fashioned level chairs on a floor, whereby people had to strain necks to get a view.
The mere fact that the Leader and Chairman of the party were seen on both days circulating out on the concourse, talking to members, making time to hear everything they had to say best reflected the sea change I think was tangible throughout the conference.
Another first for me was when Sebastian Fairweather the party treasurer actually put on the big screen for all to see, clear figures alluding to the party finances. This was a very welcome change and left one in the full knowledge of where we are as a party and disavowed all the rumours surrounding staff and salaries, that so often dominated conversations throughout the party.
Speakers came to talk to conference from a fabulous variety of areas covering an interesting and often emotive series of themes, gone thank goodness was the conveyor belt of MEP after MEP espousing their own particular topic.
Topics covered were very relevant to both the problems encountered within this great nation of ours and the interim manifesto that was, to be truthful, an enormous stride forward. Fantastic that we actually have a manifesto to work with and it is in plenty of time for the forthcoming elections in May 2019. What is even more fantastic was that unlimited copies were available to members, free of charge to take back and share amongst their branches. As an activist and campaigner I cannot tell you how much that is welcome!
On day one for me personally, Neil Hamilton gave one of his best speeches, serious, comical and well researched. I did wonder beforehand just what Mark Meechan (Count Dankula) was going to say but again his speech was both well researched and informative. Both these speakers in their own and very different ways drew our attention to just how mad the political correctness is pervading all our lives on a daily basis. What was also a very stark message to members was just how easy it is to get into serious trouble now with the wrong post or tweet.
Gerard Batten gave his keynote speech before lunch on the first day. I suppose the timing of this speech is always difficult to timetable. For me it would have been better as the last item on the Agenda on day one. This would send away those attending one day only, feeling very uplifted and those returning, doing so with a real spring in their step.
It was a quietly delivered speech. A speech which still left all members understanding that things have changed, a speech which encouraged, supported and re-invigorated those present. A speech to take away and digest. A speech to commend, delivered by a leader we can get behind in the confidence that he has us, the members, at the forefront of his thinking.
Day two is always difficult yet it did not disappoint. We had three speakers who I simply have to mention, they really brought home the real and present problems we as a party must address. Lord Pearson who, via video and devoid of emotion, in a thoughtful and reasoned way, tackled the Tommy Robinson issue and Islam. Please forgive me but the next chap I did not get his name. He is a black cab driver, he has been for twenty five years and runs a ‘knowledge school’. He was the very first black man to do the knowledge and become a London cabby.
He told conference that TFL (Transport for London) were doing their utmost to do away with the requirement to do the knowledge prior to becoming a licenced cabby. Uber were contributing to many problems as is the amount of traffic he now faces on a daily basis. He explained that often he can be stood still for a great deal of time, especially around Buckingham Palace and the Mall. Perhaps this a cause for the two London AM`s to take up.
The third speaker was Sharon Binks bravely speaking on behalf of the Justice for Women campaign in Sunderland. Understandably nervous, she spoke clearly of the problems they were encountering with migrants, sexual assaults and rapes in this locality.
There is no doubt in my mind leaving the conference, that Ukip is on the verge of a new dawn. Ukip has, under the steerage of Gerard and Tony, re-invented itself. Gone are the personality politics and most certainly gone are the egos and secrecy.
Onwards and upwards is my motto and I can honestly say this should be the clarion call of all members of Ukip. The fight is on, the fight is a very tough one but it is a fight we can collectively win.