Sunday 14 April 2013


It had always struck me that the idea of staying in the European Union from a leftist position was cracked. The Tories under McMillan had been the party that first mooted the idea of Britain signing up to what became the EU in the 1960s, then it was Edward Heath's regime which took Britain in a decade later. Thatcher signed up to the single market, and today the most vociferous supporters are the Confederation of British Industry, the economic wing of Toryism.

Labour had opposed the whole idea under Hugh Gaitskell with his 1962 thousand years of history speech and it was the Communist party and Labour left that had united to campaign against Britain remaining in the organisation in the 1975 referendum. Labour is still the only major party that has ever had a full withdrawal form the EU in its election manifesto and the Communist supporting Morning Star is the only daily newspaper that has consistently opposed the whole capitalist adventure. There is nothing right-wing about opposing the European Union - quite the reverse.

The problem was that UKIP had a reputation as the voice of saloon bar fascism, but a quick trawl around my old North Manchester stamping grounds showed me that more than a few of my old political cronies and drinking partners from the 1980s had made their homes in UKIP. One bloke told me that when he had signed up he was the only member for miles around so if he wanted to turn his branch into the Petrograd Soviet, circa 1917, then that was up to him.

Very well, so UKIP was an independent political party that was united around the idea that Britain would be a better place if it left the European Union, but flexible in other areas.  That struck me as fair enough and on that basis I joined last year and that was why I agreed to run as an official party candidate in the May 2013 county council elections.

UKIP's policy structure is very idiosyncratic, with the party manifesto being little more than an uncosted collection of policies, which candidates can dip into to create a personal list of priorities for their campaigns. If elected, there is no whipping system to keep anyone in line, with each councillor being answerable only to his constituents.

In other words UKIP can be seen as a vast umbrella beneath which refugee socialists from other parties can gather, to run candidates in working class districts such as Nelson, Lancashire. For their part the men of the shires can run their people in the leafy villages and so long as everyone sticks to their own areas and chooses their own goodies from the same sweetshop, then the party should hang together.

My campaign began well and by the end of the first couple of days I had already given out a dozen or so posters, with mine being the only ones seen in any Nelson house. I was already reasonably well known as the bloke who helped people fill in their benefit claim forms, so I had a mental list of contacts that I could go to and remind them of just what the Tories had in mind for them and their families. When asked what UKIP would do I could reply quite honestly that I had no idea, but that my policy was to defend them against the council pen pushers who collaborate with central government in making ordinary people's lives a misery. "If they can pay for an army of fat social work rabble then they can pay you your council tax benefit in full," was a good line that always went down well with my target audience.

Apart from that my campaign was pretty bog-standard, with the proviso that as a semi-cripple who walks with a stick and is in near constant pain, I obviously could not walk around my district and had to rely on party friends to lend a hand with the leafleting campaign. Other than that I behaved as any other candidate, and then like thousands of others I joined in the celebrations on the day that the gates of hell opened to receive Thatcher.

Which was when someone in UKIP had a brain fart of quite entertaining proportions.

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