Voting UKIP

23 May

If anyone could make me support UKIP it would be their General Secretary, Jonathan Arnott. He wouldn’t make a pretty postcard, his favourite pastime according to his twitter account is taking part in chess tournaments and he’s a maths teacher. I’m not a fan of chess, UKIP or maths, so he wasn’t off to a great start. However, after meeting him, hearing him speak, and chatting with him for almost an hour, he’s won me over.

 

Last week, I went to a party meeting/conference/whatever. I’m not sure what you’d call it, it was basically a handful of over forties, but mostly over fifties, congregating in a pub in Redcar. (I was by far the youngest there.) It had two main UKIP speakers; Jonathan Arnott and Ray Finch, both of which, are MEP candidates. The former for the South East and the latter for the North East.

Cleveland Bay Pub

 

Finch was described at the event as being “Nigel Farage’s right-hand man”. He was a Scouser with a sense of humour. He made a couple of funny jokes but he didn’t say anything that surprised me of a UKIP MEP candidate. He wasn’t a bad speaker, but he wasn’t that thought-provoking either.

Jonathan Arnott, on the other hand, was much more impressive. His answers were balanced and appeared steeped in knowledge. When the floor was open to questions, someone asked him why is it was that immigrants pass through France to come to the UK. I thought he’d give the obvious UKIP response; something along the lines of ‘because they know they can take advantage of our welfare system’, but he didn’t. Instead, he said he thought it was most likely because most foreigners second language is English. English is an international language so it made more sense to go somewhere you can speak the language. ‘Of course! It makes perfect sense. Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?’ I thought to myself. He spoke also of the common-wealth, how Iceland’s, Norway’s and Switzerland’s non-EU position had been advantageous for them and so therefore could be for us, of the Lisbon Treaty going ahead; despite the Conservative’s promise to give us a referendum on it etc. The only thing I would say, is that he did what a lot of politicians do, and went on too much about how the other parties keep slagging them off. Of course they slag you off, you slag them off, you all slag each other off! If they were in agreement with all your policies it’d wouldn’t make sense to have separate parties, would it? There was talk from both Arnott and Finch that suggested the Media was some kind of conspiracy against them. I’m not sure about that one, like I said in my previous post Nigel Farage has had loads of airtime on TV’s Question Time. Farage and his party have been caught saying many things it would be almost impossible not to report, for lack of entertainment, if nothing else. Plus, the rise in popularity of a fringe party like this is unprecedented, they’re bound to get attention.

Jonathan Arnott came and sat with me and some of my family once the speeches came to a close. I think it struck him that I was quite sceptical about UKIP, possibly the fact that I didn’t clap every time Finch or he had finished speaking, or it may have been my facial expressions. (I have quite telling facial expressions, so I’m told.) I asked him questions which I was afraid to voice out-loud in a pub surrounded by avid UKIP supporters. I told him that I found it worrying the amount of members with abhorrent racist views that have been rearing their heads in the media lately, that I have concerns that coming out of the EU would limit my options to live or travel abroad, that I volunteer part-time helping refugees and immigrants to speak English, that I feel more should be done to  he to help immigrants and ethnic minorities integrate into British society, I asked him why UKIP have such bad attendance in EU parliament…He answered all my questions and confronted all my concerns and more. His thoughts and opinions were reassuring. All his responses were coherent, logical and very well informed. I was amazed actually.

The question about UKIP’s attendance in EU parliament was a question Nigel Farage was asked on Question Time just days before this event. Farage said something along the lines of, ‘we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t’. I can see why he would say that – they should have good attendance because they’ve been voted in, yet at t,he same time, it seems hypocritical for them to attend a parliament they want out of. However, I didn’t agree with this stand point at all. Surely, having been voted in, then their whole purpose, as MEP’s of UKIP, would be to stop any legislation coming through which they believe, and their party believes, to be detrimental to the UK? The way I saw it was – if they’re not their to vote against it, then what’s the point in voting them in in the first place? Jonathan Arnott explained, partly in his speech and partly in his conversation with me, was that there were two different types of EU meetings. Some, in which, you merely sit and listen with little to no input. These meetings, he told me, you get paid something like 300 Euros  just to attend. He said he’d been told that they were a waste of time, but said that if he were to be voted in as MEP, he would attend the first couple to form his own opinion. The other kind of meeting is a one in which you can vote. Those, Arnott said, were the ones that they always attend. He then did a bit of opposition party bashing, asking how often I thought David Cameron and Nick Clegg attended EU parliament. On the whole though, his response was far better than Farage’s and made a lot more sense. It made their attendance, or lack thereof, sound reasonable. He didn’t come across as contrived and wasn’t as evasive or as convoluted in his answering of questions as most politicians are. He seemed, dare I say it, honest. 

What was also very enlightening, was a text Arnott said he had received from a big pharmaceutical company. I think he said which one, but my memories fails me. The company had invited him to a big conference in a Hotel in a European city, it could have been Zurich, but again, I can’t be sure. He’d obviously been given the invitation in anticipation for him being elected. He said it’d most probably be  the kind of affair where they would ply you with fancy free champagne in an effort to persuade him to vote in their favour in European parliament, if he were to be elected. He said he wouldn’t be attending, he was disproving of the entire nature of it, but I did find it a little disconcerting that this is what happens in European politics. I’m probably very naive to think it wouldn’t though. Where there is power, there closely follows corruption.

Whilst he was sat with us, a relative asked him what he thought about the recent furore in the media over Halal meat being sold unknowingly to British consumers. He said he thinks that supermarkets should be transparent in regards to the products they sell, so that consumers is aware of what their buying; clearly a fair point. I mean, we don’t need a photo of the abattoir on the packet or anything, but something on the packaging ought to indicate whether or not it had been killed in-line with Islamic guidelines or not. Arnott said he’s been told by a friend of his, who had visited a Kosher abattoir, that although they killed the animal in a similar way, (by slitting it’s throat and allowing the blood to drain away), that it was done, humanely – killing the animal almost instantly and very hygienically. Therefore, he concluded that we should look into how Kosher animals are killed and see if there is a way that it could also meet Islamic guidelines too, and still keep it as humane as possible. He also made a point of mentioning that at present, there is no official law in the UK that states how animals should be killed, despite it being most common to stun the animal first. Someone interjected at this point, I don’t think they’d had heard or had taken in the full extent of the conversation. They came across quite angry, forcefully saying that he didn’t think that THEY should be able to overrule British law.  More was said by the man, but in effect, he was saying that THEY, (they being Muslims or those from Islamic countries), shouldn’t be able to come over here and enforce their laws on us. It may sound harsh, but he didn’t make complete sense. Arnott’s response was brilliant! He very calmly, yet assertively,  put him in his place. “First of all, I don’t think you should use the word “they””, he said, which I was very much in agreement with. Whenever you start to use that kind of detachment vocabulary to refer to a group of people,  it’s as though their ‘the other’, the opposition, the enemy, it’s very risky territory. Arnott, then proceeded to explain that he’d gotten the wrong end of the stick, we don’t actually have a law that dictates how animals should be killed. It was clear that he disagreed with him but he asserted his opposing view calmly and quite respectfully.

Another surprising point Arnott made was that he agreed with some of the things Europe has done, not all, but some. He said if the UK came out of Europe he’d want to keep many of the laws that are already in place, the changes he saw as positive and the ones that made it conducive to economical trade and business. Whether, they’d be able to pick and choice like this is unknown.

Overall, I thought Jonathan Arnott was very personable, down-to-earth and spoke a lot of sense. I think if UKIP was Jonathan Arnott and people like him, then I’d be inclined to vote UKIP. Despite his best efforts, I still won’t be voting UKIP in the near future. I’m still too wary about some of it’s members and the kind of people UKIP attracts. Also, I’m still not convinced we should be coming out of Europe, although I do think it ought to have much more transparency and needs a great deal of reform. I also think we should have the right to opt in and out of laws, if possible, that don’t always have Britain’s best interests. I think it needs more balance. As far as referendums go, on the one hand, I think it’d be great if British people were able to have more say in politics – but on the other hand, the general public put Jedward through to the final twelve acts on series six of the UK Xfactor!!!

To follow the outcome for the EU election live click here.

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