An Afternoon with the Brexit Party


 

An Afternoon with the Brexit Party 

By Neil Lock

On 30th June 2019, I attended a “rally” organized by the UK’s Brexit party in the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. At age 66, it was my first ever party political event, although I had been to an anti-EU meeting in London back in 2005. There were 5,500 people there, so I was told. There would only have been 5,499 without me!

Now, I am uncompromisingly pro-Brexit. Indeed, I see leaving the EU as the first step back from a cliff edge; the sine qua non for any possibility of change for the better in the politics of the islands called Britain. But I seek far more than just Brexit. I am, as those who know me will be aware, opposed to politics. All the dishonest, destructive politics that we suffer today.

Before the Brexit referendum three years before, I had not voted in 29 years. One of my main reasons for voting Leave was that, way back in the 1970s, the European project had been mis-sold to the people of the UK. Other reasons were to put an end to the ceaseless stream of pointless or actively destructive directives from the EU, and a desire not to be there when the EU’s ticking economic time-bomb goes off. Three years later, I am also angry that, in a supposed democracy, with the will of the people being so clearly expressed in a referendum, the political class nevertheless chose to renege on their promises, and to obstruct that will.

I find all the mainstream political parties – Tories, Labour, “slob dims” (as I call them) and greenies – to be criminal gangs. When I heard the Brexit party was gaining support – enough to get at least some “representation” in parliament, unlike their predecessors UKIP – I joined the party, and went to the rally to try to find out what they were about.

Can these guys and gals, I thought, really overturn the current system, and give ordinary people a proper say, at last, in how the UK is run? Or might they even, possibly, become in time able to do more; to unhinge the current system, and replace it by something that works for good people, not for politicized slime?

Before I went, two things had already impressed me about the Brexit Party. One, they keep you informed. I was pleased to receive an e-mail saying that, if I wanted to be considered to be a Brexit Party candidate in the next general election, I should fill out their on-line form. I didn’t do it, because I’m not a natural front man. But I did appreciate the invitation, a lot.

The other thing I liked was that they managed to put together a group of MEP candidates with a hugely diverse range of views. How did Nigel Farage manage to get Claire Fox, a former “Revolutionary Communist,” and Ann Widdecombe, a social conservative with the cachet of having voted against the Climate Change Bill, to stand on the same platform? (My answer to that shows me up as the radical individualist I am: They both care about people more than about politics).

So, to that afternoon in Birmingham. The hall was cavernous, and the occasion loud and full of razzmatazz, Superbowl style. Annunziata Rees-Mogg began the cheerleading, though I saw no pom-poms. “We’re here to fight the establishment and wake up politicians that have ignored us for so long.” “These candidates are people. Not the same old same old.” “This is where we start the fight. Real people start to shape the future.” Stirring words, indeed. But can the Brexit Party accomplish the deeds necessary to back them up?

Richard Tice, party chairman, followed up with: “This is a proper Party.” He told us of the policy team he had set up, and gave us their e-mail address. He said: “Get people moving, businesses moving.” He outlined a claimed £200 billion in government savings: cancel HS2, no “divorce” payment to the EU, cut “foreign aid” by at least half. All this to be used to develop “the regions.” And he proposed to cancel interest on student loans. That’s an idea I need to get my head fully around, but at first sight it looks positive.

The Brexit Party, it seems, has decided that it can cede London to the mainstream parties, and adopt policies that favour those outside London at the expense of Londoners. My first thought is, that’s good tactics, given that few people these days have much time for City slickers or bail-out bankers. Whether it’s good strategy, though, is another question. And whether it’s democratic (whatever that means) is a deeper question yet.

Next up was Tim Martin, founder of Wetherspoons. Now, I’m a Wetherspoon fan, eating (and drinking!) once or twice a week at my local, the Jack Phillips in Godalming. Tim has done a grand job to build his chain, and to maintain such high standards of quality for the price. And it’s great to see businessmen, who create wealth, in a position to influence and even direct the policies of government, which today is such a huge destroyer of wealth.

Tim said one very memorable thing: “I have no problem with European people; they are friends and allies. The problem is the EU.” Proost, mon ami! And he, rightly, cast scorn on the idea that there needs to be a “deal” to leave the EU. “Lots of little deals,” he said. And: “Everything you can buy from the EU, you can buy from the rest of the world.”

Yet, I disagree with Tim about what I consider to be his – and the Brexit party’s – “rose-tinted spectacles” view of democracy. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but in my view the problem with democracy is that it assumes that the people who live in a particular country have some kind of “general will” – as postulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. When you get a binary, divisive issue like Brexit or not Brexit, democracy fails. Whichever way the decision goes, a lot of people will be very angry. Of course, in this case there’s an easy solution. Britain leaves the EU, free movement is maintained for at least a couple of years, and Leavers say to Remainers: “If you want to live in the EU, emigrate to it.” (I told you I’m a radical!)

Then Richard Tice took over again, branding Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt “the blond and the bland.” Of Johnson, I have no personal experience. But I am unlucky enough to have Hunt as “my” MP, and my contacts with him have been far less than positive. “Insipid” would have been a better word than bland, I think.

Then Richard gave us the results of the five-issue poll, which the Brexit Party had sent out to its members a few days before. On that evidence, I found myself on the “moderate” side of the party. For example, I was among the 47% who wanted to reform the House of Lords, as opposed to the 40% who wanted to abolish it altogether.

And then, the most important moment of the whole show. (No, not the air-raid sirens!) Richard Tice introduced his party leader, and I finally learned how to pronounce “Farage.” Did it rhyme with “carriage?” No. With “garage?” No. It rhymes with – wait for it – “in charge.” “Put Farage in charge” is a half decent slogan, no?

Nigel Farage’s speech, I’m sure, is available in many places on the Net, so I’ll just quote a few of the things he said, which were most important to me. “Brexit is an opportunity to make a fresh start.” Yup. “Government doesn’t understand small businesses.” Having had my career ruined by New Labour’s bad tax law called IR35, initially opposed by but eventually more and more heavily enforced by the Tories, I concur heartily. “Genuine apprenticeships” for young people. Yup. “Sensible transport schemes so the country can get to work.” Yup. And back from work in the evening, too.

Here, I was disappointed that Nigel didn’t say more. In rural and many suburban areas, the car is the only viable means of getting around, especially for older people. Yet the political class have been conducting a witch-hunt against car drivers for more than 25 years. With more than 30 million cars registered in the UK, drivers are a huge constituency. Given that the witch-hunt is being conducted using emissions regulations originating from the United Nations, agreed to by politicians like Blair and Cameron that ought to have known better, and enforced by the EU, I think the Brexit party could maybe look towards drivers as a potential source of massive support. Even, perhaps, in outer London.

Nigel Farage ended with: “The old politics cannot be fixed. We need fundamental reforms. The Brexit Party will be the most radical force in British politics in over a century.” Amen to that – as and when it happens.

I stood near the hall exit for a while, people-watching. There was a fairly even gender balance among the audience. Not many were younger than 30, but ages from 30 to 70 were quite evenly mixed. There were a few black people, but I saw almost no Asians; unexpected, considering we were in Birmingham. (Though the gentleman seated on my left, as it happened, was originally from India).

Then, the day’s big disappointment. There’s a Wetherspoon right outside the Atrium exits, and those of us of a convivial disposition wanted to meet some new friends, and to drink a toast to Tim Martin at the same time. But no. We were told at 5:35pm that it would open at 6, so I walked to my hotel, dropped off the Brexit merchandise, and came back. Only to find the door locked, and the place taken over by a VIP party. (Presumably, Brexit VIPs). That was a pity. To build a movement on the scale the Brexit party requires, in my view, needs people new to the movement to be able to relax and socialize with each other after the formal events. The Labour party, after all, was founded on working men’s clubs. I do hope this problem will be rectified before the regional conferences in September.

I did, however, later in the evening meet a fellow Brexiteer and his wife (and dog) in the Little Owl pub, half an hour or so’s walk from the NEC. He was a plumber from Dartford, and a big fan of Nigel Farage personally. We did find some disagreements – my stance on migration is more liberal than his, for example – but we also found a lot in common, and parted friends. I also had some people in the hotel, who had come to the NEC for another event, say to me: “We wish we had gone to the Brexit Party rally!”

So, back to my question “Can the Brexit Party overturn the current system?” I didn’t, on the evidence of one day, find a clear answer either way; but my general impression was positive rather than negative. I’ll certainly keep in contact with them, and do what I can to help. I have also some amateur expertise in certain policy areas, notably “climate change” and pollution from cars. So, I’ll be talking to their policy people about those things. But I’m not letting my hopes get too high just yet.

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7 comments

  • “I was pleased to receive an e-mail saying that, if I wanted to be considered to be a Brexit Party candidate in the next general election, I should fill out their on-line form. I didn’t do it, because I’m not a natural front man. But I did appreciate the invitation, a lot.” You may not have noticed that this was also a pitch for a £100 donation if you wish to be considered (nothing wrong with that of course!).
    I have known and supported Nigel for quarter of a century now. He is a phenomenon. He just never lets up – I wish I knew where he gets his energy from! It is also worth considering that by common consent he is a very able politician, and could have had a very rewarding career had he stayed in the Conservative Party. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting he would now be on the short-list for Party leader and therfore PM. Instead of which, he has flogged away at what had every appearance of being a dead donkey for twenty years, losing deposit after deposit, speaking at village halls with an audience in single figures, prior to gaining some traction in the 2014 Euro-election. This tenacity and good cheer in the face of constant adversity, constantly having verbal excrement hurled at him from all directions, often by those purportedly on the same side, defies anything I have witnessed in my lifetime. If anybody ever deserved success, it is Nigel Farage.
    The Conservatives (and Labour) are running scared. They are (rightly) terrified of what he will do to them at the next election. We have built up an astonishing momentum in a few short weeks, and we need to keep up the pace until the job is finished.
    Boris is making all the right noises, but he is being clever with words. He says things like ‘deal or no deal’; ‘we must get Brexit done’, etc, but what do these words mean? I am certain he plans to ‘tweak’ Mrs May’s ‘deal’ (a.k.a. Barnier’s treaty) just enough to get it through the House. Then it’s back to business as usual. We MUST prevent that outcome.
    Incidentally, I well remember a hustings in Benson, Oxfordshire, prior to the 2001 election. Nigel was there for UKIP, Vince Cable for the Lib-dems, a rather plump middle-aged lady in a rather short skirt for Labour, and an empty chair where Boris Johnson should have been. Bloody coward – he was too chicken to debate with Nigel – in the days when nobody had even heard the name Nigel Farage!

    • Yes, Hugo, I did notice the £100 price tag. But these people are businessmen, are they not? Everything has a price tag, including the candidate selection process. (If you think of it in terms of how many minutes of the time of a lawyer, or even a plumber, it would buy, £100 begins to seem quite inconsequential).

      And yes, the Tories at least seem to be scared, and rightly so. And you’re right that Boris (like all the rest of them, of course) is not to be trusted.

  • Interesting report. At 79 I am a member of the Brexit Party, the Mises Institute. You may like the Institute of Public Affairs ( Australia) and their 20 policy headlines, campaign to cut Red Tape – I am also member of this ,( and MENSA)

    regards Keith Rothwell

  • The Brexit Party is a criminal gang too, just with more appealing branding and advertising. Surely all political parties are criminal gangs? The question is whether a complex society with so many competing tribal interests can be run any other way than hierarchically. If it can’t, then moral equality is practically impossible and it’s just a case of choosing an agreeable protection racket to oversee the political state according to some philosophical premise or other. A minimal state is one where we can bribe the elite criminals to stay out of our lives while fulfilling the necessary minimal competences on our behalf.

    Even the Brexit Party’s embryonic programme is incipiently hierarchical – telling the rest of us what we can and can’t do, patterned after the other parties Yawn. What’s the difference? They can’t even bring themselves to completely cancel foreign aid, only reducing it by half; meanwhile, they promise to cancel interest on usurious student loans when they should be cancelling that debt altogether, abolishing such loans and encouraging young people into meaningful work rather than the pursuit of plastic academic credentials.

    Furthermore, nothing is mentioned about immigration. Mass immigration, free movement and multi-culturalism impede liberty and are only commercial freedoms. You will perhaps deny this, but you only look at the surface. Arguments for the formal freedom to travel and settle any place you choose ignore the reality of what settlement and work involves – resources/infrastructure and acculturation are needed, and there is a tendency for people to bring one’s culture with them. If Pakistani Moslems have the freedom to move here as they please, that entails less freedom for me to live as I please. It’s a zero sum game. This is why the only field in which I would accept political direction from above is regarding the national good, which I define narrowly as ethnic/racial interests and national defence, including ensuring closed borders. The rest of it is largely just needless bossiness.

    So the Brexit Party is strictly a Downer party. They are politicals, not convivials. Your little anecdote about the Wetherspoons closed to the proles for a VIP event sums them up neatly. It’s all spin and hot air, beneath which they are the same pigs as the other pigs.

    • Well Tom, I went there to find out more about them. All the mainstream parties, as I said, are criminal gangs. So Q1, are the Brexit party already a criminal gang, and Q2, if not, would they become one, and how quickly? My answer to Q1 at this stage is “don’t know yet, more investigation needed.”

      You make a good point about foreign aid (which is a hangover from the 1970s/80s, originally inspired by Willy Brandt if I remember rightly). The idiots back then pledged 0.7% (I think) of GDP per year to “foreign aid” – otherwise said, poor people in rich countries being forced to subsidize rich people in poor countries. That commitment was open-ended, and until recently I hadn’t heard of anyone challenging it. I had heard beforehand that Farage and co wanted to scrap it altogether, so I was rather disappointed to find it was only to be halved.

      I did notice that the I-word, immigration, wasn’t discussed. I didn’t expect it to come up at a rally of supporters, but they will need to be quite careful on where they position themselves on the issue. I suspect they will end up trying to be “moderate,” and won’t go nearly as far as you, and many of their supporters such as that plumber, would want them to.

      Nor, more surprisingly, was the C-word (climate) mentioned at all. That issue is where, I think, I will be able to detect their true colours. If they are really serious about “fundamental reforms,” that is the first place they should show it. In my view, they ought to pledge a full and independent audit of the history, science, economics and reporting of the “climate change” issue, and of UK government involvement in it. That would find a skeleton in just about every closet of the current political class! The cars issue is also very important, as I noted.

      As to Wetherspoon’s being closed for a private party, I shall be writing to Mr. Martin about that in due course.

    • I have to disagree with your rather nihilistic analysis. Why do you describe the Brexit Party as a ‘criminal gang’? I have known Nigel Farage for quarter of a century and, at least as far as he is concerned, I would say you could not be more wrong. So to whom are you referring when you describe them as criminals? Without supporting evidence, that is nothing but a slur.
      “Even the Brexit Party’s embryonic programme is incipiently hierarchical – telling the rest of us what we can and can’t do, patterned after the other parties Yawn. ” Again, what is it that you are referring to here? I have yet to hear of anything the Brexit Party has set out to prevent us doing. Did I miss something?
      On immigration, you say ” there is a tendency for people to bring one’s culture with them.”. Well, what is wrong with that? You then go on to cite Pakistani Moslems, saying that “if they have the freedom to move here as they please, that entails less freedom for me to live as I please. It’s a zero sum game.” Pakistani Muslims are a peculiar case, since they not only bring their own culture with them, they also seek to impose it on us, while refusing to adapt to their adoptive society in any way. But what about the Chinese, for example? Is there any way in which their culture is detrimental to ours? I would argue that on the contrary, it brings a bit of colour – and some very good food – to our society.
      As for the Brexit Party’s policy on immigration, the essential point is that once we have secured our liberty, it will be for us to decide, rather than being dictated by the EU/UN. The Brexit Party is only a few weeks old – I think it is unfair to expect it to have fully formed policies in every area. Watch this space!

      • Neil Lock stated that the mainstream parties are criminal gangs. Do you agree? If you do, then what is it that makes the Brexit Party different? I can’t see any significant difference. As far as I can tell, it’s the same modus operandi.

        All political parties support the confiscation of people’s money against their will. That is criminal, or quasi-criminal. It would be more honest if they stuck to robbing banks. Of course, it may be that there is no other way of running a complex society, and I will also admit that there are some worthy outlets for the money they take. For instance, I don’t particularly mind being required to pay for the NHS. I would also ensure that there is a state to, among other things, look after national borders and national territorial defence, but I don’t regard confiscation for that purpose as thievery.

        You obviously haven’t been paying attention to the Brexit Party’s policies. The Brexit Party announced that it will be maintaining foreign aid, so that means money that I could save or spend on myself or give to people who matter to me will instead continue to be spent on people in far-flung places who can’t look after themselves and to whom I have no connection. I have no choice in this matter and should I refuse to pay, I could be committed to gaol.

        I didn’t say the Brexit Party should have fully-formed policies in every area. I said that there has been nothing announced on immigration, which I find surprising. It might not be politic to have such a policy, but I doubt that is really the case. I think it’s more down to a malaise in British political culture in which people lack self-assertion and national self-confidence is frowned on. I don’t want Jews, Pakistanis, Indians (even Sikhs, who let’s not forget, are ‘More British Than The British’, according to you), Hong-Kongers, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, blacks or any other non-white group in my country. I have nothing against these groups per se. This is not about liking or disliking. The point is that this is Britain. It’s a white European country. But just saying that is somehow seen as low class or grubby and dirty in some way. Why? Is there another racial group outside Europe that practices this neo-Christian self-abnegation?

        The Chinese and other seemingly-placid immigrant groups – including other white European groups – are, in my view, worse than Pakistani Moslems. At least I know where I am with the Pakistani Moslems. When the times comes to throw them out, they’ll be easy to spot.

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