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Monday, 13 September 2010

The Talking Clock interviews Tim Congdon

The Talking Clock interviews Tim Congdon

Monday, 13 September 2010


UKIP Leadership Special: The Talking Clock interviews Tim Congdon - EXCLUSIVE!

As the race for the UKIP leadership gets under way, The Talking Clock is proud to assist UKIP members in their decision - and inform the wider public about the characters involed in the race to lead Britain's fourth biggest party - through a very special interview series.
We invited all of the leadership hopefuls to spell out, through The Talking Clock, their vision for the party and where they stand on a number of issues of interest to our readership.
Today, we present for you, our EXCLUSIVE interview with Tim Congdon.

Note - in order to present a level playing field, this is a verbatim transcript. It has not been tidied to erase speech hesitations and is as accurate a record of every word as is possible.

So, the first obvious question then is why do you want to be leader of UKIP?
I am appalled at the betrayal of our rights, our constitution, in many ways our way of life by a political elite – a political class, all the three main parties over the last forty years. Britain’s independence as a nation isn’t quite extinguished, but it’s been very much reduced. It affects our living standards, it affects our civil liberties, it affects our way of life and I want my country back and – by becoming leader of UKIP – I can make my contribution to that cause.

And, in that vein, what would you say are the main things that you would offer to the party if you were to win the leadership race?
I’d emphasise three things. The first thing is that I want to be leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party in the United Kingdom. I promise to spend over ninety percent of my time in the UK – most of that probably in London. There is a huge organisational job to do in this country. I don’t want to be distracted by being an MEP in Brussels or Strasbourg.
The second thing I bring is – since it is a very important organisational job – I bring organisational skills. I built up a business from scratch from a hundred pounds to employing lots of people, a turnover of about four million pounds and I have skills in terms of contacts with the press, of organising mailing lists and so on, because I had to do it before for my own businesses and so on – so I have organisational skills.
Then the final point is that I have been an economist for most of my career. I was on the Treasury Panel in the mid-1990s – a very good period, by the way, for the British economy when I was advising British Government and I would bring UKIP the best economist in British politics and actually, by the way, most people wouldn’t dispute that.

How prepared are you for the media scrutiny that the leadership role would place you under?
Well in terms of the… going on press conferences, going on media - radio, television, I’ve done that already. Although I have only – on the Treasury Panel – that was my only formal public position, if you like, I’ve been involved in British public debates for over thirty years in various ways so it wouldn’t be very new to me. I’ve been, for example, on Andrew Neil’s programme, I mean, I know a lot of journalists.
You then say what about media scrutiny? My private life, my financial affairs are totally blameless. I have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of and I’m not bothered about that at all.

So, is the UKIP leadership election something purely for UKIP members to be interested in or can you see interest in the wider electorate in the leadership race?
Well obviously, it’s nicer if there’s wider interest. I think, if we’re realistic, that we had a bit over three percent of the national vote – that’s a million people, obviously the interest is probably more like two or three million people at least, so yes – I hope there is wider interest but, in practise, it’s very much going to be party membership as such so we’re talking about a few thousand people. I wish it were more, but there we are.

Have you been happy with the direction UKIP has been heading in and what do you think UKIP has done well so far?
Well, UKIP has been an extraordinary development in that it didn’t exist twenty years ago and it’s now blossomed into a party with an organisational structure and capturing almost a million votes in the General Election – that is a fantastic achievement. Having said that, this is… because of… an attack, it’s an attack on our country from, from Europe with which – to be frank – we have both historical friendships and also historical antagonisms and, given that this is a major attack on our nation we should have done better, in my opinion, and I think that there has been wonderful organisation at the branch level, at the regional level mostly on a voluntary basis and those people need encouragement and help – often strokes of inspiration. But having said all that, there is a lot to be done organisationally in this country, in the United Kingdom itself, to get our message over.
There has been too much distraction of effort by the fact that we have twelve or so MEPs in the European Parliament and then the whole distraction because of all sorts of problems they have with their monies, expenses, exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, all the rest of it – I want to be leader of UKIP in this country, concentrating on this country, pursuing the battle here.

So, going forward then, what changes would you like to see in the UKIP focus?
Okay, the first thing is that we must have a London office. Now, of course, this [interview] is being held in what is, in a sense, a London office but it’s also – of course, the European Community’s office in London. This is not supposed to be a party political office. We must have an office in London from which we can do party political things without any question. That requires a bit of money.
I will help the financing of the office if I become leader. I will obviously need to be involved with fundraising. I know a few people, I can’t make any promises but I think that they would regard me as a credible and important public figure. We would need to organise journalists, press releases, press lists, parties – all these things must be done, I’m afraid I’m not implying anything against the regions – but essentially in London. So, you know, that is where I think we’ve been falling down – there’s more to be done in the regions, more to be done in the branches, more to be done to build up the membership – all these things need work. But, there we are, I think I’ve answered the question.

So, what do you think of the way UKIP is portrayed in the media and do you think you can improve our image and depth of coverage in the corporate media and, if so, how?
The media image is not very good and we need to raise our game. We need to have quality research documents. We need to have constant contact with journalists. We need to make sure that anything unfortunate in our private lives, whatever, is kept out of the – I say that, I’m not worried at all myself but – you know… the important thing is publicity, you know – the oxygen of publicity, yes, and in particular good publicity. We want favourable comments in the press to what we believe in for the future of our country and favourable comments to the things that we write and we say.
And can I just say before I finish on this question that I, myself, have built up a research business where media contact and media ‘passing on the message’ was very important and what I did was highly respected and remains so.

So, has a finite level for potential UKIP electoral support been reached and, if not, how would you envisage that we could excite and energise the public to vote positively…
We are only scratching the surface. The opinion polls are showing that more people now regard the European Union – our membership of the European Union – as a bad thing than a good thing. The opinion polls are showing that, maybe, fifty-five percent of people in Britain want us to leave the European Union, full stop. They’re showing eighty percent of us want to change our relationship with the European Union, so that it’s mostly an economic matter not a political union.
We have overwhelming public support for what we believe in. It’s true that there are other issues that people regard as important, okay, and so they don’t vote for us because they regard us as – you know – a kind of amateur political party which has focussed in on one issue. I, by the way in saying that, I don’t mean any disrespect to the existing, the amount of hard work people do but that’s – I’m afraid – how they regard us. So we are only scratching the surface.
The obvious way of showing this, of course, is the General Elections we get a bit over three percent; in the European election, we get sixteen, seventeen percent. There is huge potential support that we would have if we have credibility and also, by the way, if the governing party or parties are unpopular and I think our great opportunity is going to be in 2014 when I think it’s quite possible that we will vote more – with good leadership, with good publicity, with hard work in the United Kingdom, we will get a higher share of the vote than any other political party and that could transform British politics, that could get us out of the European Union.

So what would you like to see the local UKIP branches do differently and what do you think they are doing well?
I think it’s… I think they do a wonderful job in the sense that it’s all voluntary, people have got their own lives, they’ve got errr… you know, many people running businesses and so on. What I’ve found from, you know, talking around the party is that… what normally causes somebody to join UKIP and then to support it continually is that they have seen the European Union affecting them in their daily lives and there’s a whole host of things that are relevant here but obviously, it’s fisheries, it’s farming, mad cow disease, the way we were treated in 1997, 1996/97 on mad cow disease, it’s – it’s things like, like regulation that’s expensive and penalises us in markets outside the EU, it’s something like the two lads who’ve just been in a Hungarian prison, it’s something that affects them directly and they see an immediate impact and they then say we don’t want the European Union at all – full stop – and then they join UKIP and I think those kind of people, in other words they’re still voluntary, so what I want is more branch meetings, I want the centre suggesting the topics of branch meetings to the branches, I want letters from the party leader to the branch chairmen, county chairmen, regional organisers, saying ‘I want these meetings this year, please’ you know, ‘can you please raise some funds for yourselves’ – I’m not suggesting the money should come from the centre at all. I want a lot of money built up in the branch, in the constituency branch, bank accounts between now and 2014 and 2015. We need to do this through, as I said, a number of branch meetings, and then all the help that we can provide centrally in terms of the content of those meetings, in terms of the contents, it’s partly speakers, it’s partly publications, it’s partly things like videos of what we had at the party conference. Then also we must try and raise the membership of the party and – you know – I think that we’ve had, through the list as it were, something like fifty thousand people but the current membership bag is only about ten. We must do our best to get those people back and – you know – we have got a very good cause, a very important cause so, again it’s a matter of finding money, but I would like to have adverts in the – start off with where we can afford it, but adverts in the local papers initially, probably – join UKIP – there’ll be some revenue from them joining UKIP so the ads can pay for themselves. There’s various things – a lot of things to do.

What role does UKIP’s youth wing, Young Independence, play in your vision for the party?
It’s very important to catch people young. I would say the kind of things that I’ve just been talking about for the branches also apply for the youth wing. It’s important also in universities – some extent in schools – particularly in sixth forms, particularly in universities, that we should have people who – almost kind of a list actually – of potential contributors to, you know, Oxford Union, Cambridge Union, Leeds Union debates – alright? I know Nigel Farage does this but, you know, there are other people, should all be involved in contributing to these debates at the student union level. Otherwise, I think the agenda is pretty much the same as for the branches. It’s giving them ideas for meetings, supporting and so on.

As you obviously know, polls show that that the majority are opposed to or are to some extent unhappy at our relationship with the European Union. But if Parliament is supposed to represent the will of the people, how did we get here?
I think there’s two things. One thing, it’s corruption – that there is a separate class of people who are politicians. They don’t have money of their own. They therefore regard politics as a career. They failed to get into Westminster Parliament, there are other jobs around. There are jobs to some extent in this country and there are jobs in the European Union and the European Union is just another job. So, certainly at the end of your career, you know, to become a Commissioner, you’ve then have got various powers and patronage - it’s another job but it’s a sort of, you know, quite a nice job, you know, a lot of flunkies around, nice cars and life’s rather fun, yeah? So these people have become corrupt.
The second reason, may amaze you, is laziness. You know, what the job, the life of a Minister is incredibly pampered. You have – I’ve got many friends who have been through this life – you actually have… (aside)… a diary secretary, you have a car, you have your papers, you have, you know, all the red boxes that you have to read and decide what to do – the civil servants initiate, you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – by the way, if you reach a decision they don’t like they steer you, they control what you do. The bureaucracy doesn’t want democracy, the bureaucracy wants to control the politicians and, bit by bit, it’s the European bureaucracy has taken control of more and more of the European agenda, the European agenda has infiltrated national life and so now you have a situation where directives, regulations essentially coming from the European democracy become law in our country without any, without any control by our own politicians, without any control by our own Parliament and that disgusting state of affairs it arises because these politicians are pampered and lazy, they aren’t prepared to fight with and quarrel with their bureaucrats and say ‘you do what I want to do and you obey my orders…’ because actually, actually, they depend on the bureaucrats for their own pampered, soft way of life.

So, what are the alternatives away from the European Union – if we got sovereignty tomorrow, what are the alternatives for Britain and trade?
Can I just say Britain was a self-respecting, a very proud nation for centuries until 1972. So you ask… the answers there, you know – we had a past we are proud of so we don’t have to belong to this wretched thing. New Zealand doesn’t belong to the European Union! Australia doesn’t belong to the European Union! Canada doesn’t belong to the European Union! Does that mean life doesn’t go on in New Zealand, Canada? Does that mean that people are not rich and prosperous and hard-working and protected by lots of basic rights including the right to proper justice? Oh, come on! We don’t have to belong to the European Union at all! What a joke! Stupid nonsense!

Some detractors of UKIP label the party as a “one trick pony” and that’s despite a very comprehensive manifesto at the last General Election. So, imagine that you were to win the leadership, what would be the first thing you would put in a UKIP manifesto?
Well the first thing is, of course, withdrawal and that just isn’t something for negotiation – that’s completely straightforward. The question then is how much other things do we want in there? I think we should limit the length of the manifesto to fifteen thousand words, ideally keep it to ten. And if we have particular issues which are very important such as about the European Arrest Warrant, civil liberties and so on, then that might have a larger section, say fifteen hundred words.
Also, about things like immigration, gypsy encampments and so on, also very important and immigration from the European Union – difficult controlling it. Again, you might want to say a thousand words for that. But, but the – you know, that’s for a meeting at the start – ‘that’s the word budget, that’s how many words you can have, that’s it’. And then if there are things we want to develop – you know, say I have a long policy statement on immigration, fine. Then we just put, on the website, a hypertext link, ‘immigration’, bash through and there you get the ten thousand word, fifteen thousand word document explaining, justifying, defending the immigration policy.

Because I know the kind of people who I see showing interest in UKIP from the internet, something that comes up an awful lot is the West Lothian Question. So, do you think the West Lothian Question requires an answer?
My own view about this is that this is a much larger topic and I think the United Kingdom would be a far stronger nation if we had a simple federal structure in which Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland were the four states in a federation. And with a lot of devolution to the, you know, the Scots have already got health, education, and so on, it continues – but I would actually… and so, there would, of course, be a national Parliament and at the national Parliament some things decided nationally but I would want the English Parliament - actually, there would be the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, it’s not the Assembly anymore – and the… and they would actually decide those certain set of issues for England, yeah.

Is the UK a police state?
I think it’s horrifying that question could even be asked. You know, this is a nation that pioneered the ideas of freedom from arbitrary arrest, the idea of the rule of law, the idea of jury trial, the idea of – you know – no imprisonment without clear evidence and so it’s horrifying this question could even be asked and I think that we have surrendered far too much to essentially a foreign power, actually, which is what the European Union is really. We have surrendered far too much of our basic freedoms and we’ve moved much too far in the direction of a rather unpleasant European police state. The notion that the planning of European justice system can be in the hands of somebody who was a member of the Hungarian Communist Party is terrifying.

And just one light-hearted question to finish on. The result of the leadership ballot is announced on November 5th. Would you like to comment on the significance of that date?
Oh heavens! I hadn’t really thought of it as a… but this was a… James the First of England, James the Sixth of Scotland was a disappointment to the Catholics because he clearly believed in the Protestant succession, something that Queen Elizabeth had sorted out and, ummm, I think it’s a wonderful day to choose for the result of the leadership ballot and I will, if I, well, if I become leader, when I become leader I would actually want to steer the contents of any press release towards reference to the Gunpowder Plot and I think – there we are – sorry it’s not funny!

We would like to thank our very special UKIP contact for helping to make this possible. We won't embarrass them by naming them - they know who they are. Thank you!
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