UKIP are breathing new life into our elections and engaging with people that seemed resigned to political apathy. As each election and by-election passes, more and more people are voting for UKIP who did not vote at all for many years. I spoke to people in Clacton desperate to get on the electoral register just so that they could vote Carswell. People with no previous interest in party politics whatsoever find themselves pounding the streets in all weathers stuffing leaflets through doors. There is still some way to go, but the excitement and interest around UKIP is hugely encouraging. The decline in UK politics no longer seems inevitable or terminal.
The former Labour Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said that the age of big public meetings is over. In Clacton, 700 tickets sold within 24 hours for an open public meeting. People were invited to ask real, unscripted questions of their local candidate and they responded in enthusiastic droves. It was the biggest public meeting in Clacton in living memory. This is unheard of in modern British politics. The establishment parties have been quite happy to isolate themselves from the public. Their only contact with the masses is through the filter of hand picked TV audiences or focus groups. When they do come across real people they have no idea how to react, as we have seen most recently with Emily Thornberry.
This is excellent news for UKIP. While the other parties may control various newspapers and media channels, UKIP is rooted in popular support. It is a true grassroots movement, that has grown resilient through having to repeatedly make it’s case, often in a hostile environment. Every inch of the people’s army’s advance has been hard won. It is no surprise then that when the hot house orchids from the other parties are forced to descend from their ivory towers at election time they are ill prepared to seriously challenge UKIP’s battle hardened troops.
Hustings are taking place up and down the country to select UKIPs candidates to fight the next election. If you can make it to one near you then I would thoroughly recommend it. I recently attended the hustings for the South West Norfolk constituency. I’ve enjoyed so many new experiences since joining UKIP, and this was my first political hustings. The meeting was very well attended, standing room only for late arrivals, and I’m told there were at least five times the number of people present than at the last hustings. Just shows how much the party has grown. A wide range of people had come out to witness proceedings, I spoke with an A-level student and an 83 year old. I even met a chimney sweep; you know Labour are in real trouble when the chimney sweeps are backing UKIP!
The atmosphere was convivial and upbeat. As is no doubt the case up and down the country, the candidates are given 7 minutes to address the audience, to make their case for selection. There is then time for questions, starting with any submitted written questions, then things open up to questions from the floor. On the night, these questions ranged from how best to organise regional police forces to the merits (or lack thereof) of the party whip system. After what must have been a full hour of questions, all given straight, knowledgeable and excellent answers, a vote was held. We marked our ballot papers, and Paul Smyth was elected as our prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) to stand in the 2015 General Election.
If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Paul is a sometime contributor to these pages. As with many UKIP folk, Paul is ex-military having served in the RAF for 25 years and retired at the rank of Wing Commander. After leaving the RAF he worked at RUSI, the internationally renowned Defence & Security think-tank in Whitehall. He subsequently worked briefly in the Middle East and as a self-employed Defence Consultant. Paul was elected to Norfolk County Council in May 2013 and is now Chairman of the County Council’s cross-party Communities Committee. All in all a superb candidate who came across very well at the hustings. Certainly about as far removed from a ‘career politician’ as you can get, and someone we can really get behind as we bring the fight to our current MP, Liz Truss.
Paul had this to say on his selection:
“It is clear people are fed up with the existing political class and want change. Over the last decade the three main parties have all shown that they do not govern well, and their track records in government illustrate why they do not deserve to be simply entrusted with power again.
The difficulties they have had in responding to the rise of UKIP shows how much they have lost touch with many of the people they are supposed to represent. UKIP, however, is attracting support from voters across the political spectrum because it offers people the change Britain needs.
UKIP has already had a major influence on British politics and the three main parties. With more MPs it will continue to do so, especially in a hung Parliament, which is the most likely outcome in May’s General Election. So if people feel alienated from politics, want their country back and have had enough of decades of one party rule in South-West Norfolk, then UKIP’s ‘People’s Army‘ is there for them.”
I’ve been fascinated by politics all my life, I stay up late on election nights, I’m a bit of a political geek. But if you had asked me a couple of years ago if I thought I would ever go to my local hustings, or to a party conference I would have thought it very unlikely. That’s the UKIP effect. Get along to your local hustings if you can, it’s your chance to quiz the candidates and vote for the one you think most appropriate. Then get right behind them for the next six months!
Photo by mfhiatt