We are joined by Ian Woodley, the SDP organiser for Surrey, as we discuss the Covid Vaccine Rollout, the Biden Inauguration and the Government’s Levelling Up Agenda. We then chat with Ian about the SDP and their plans in Surrey..
Did Brexit get done? Time will tell, first impressions suggest it’s not perfect but could be called done.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? To shrink government interference and regulation in individual lives, leading to economic prosperity and greater individual freedom. I hope we will find a way to make CANZUK happen, or something like it, without giving up sovereignty.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? A written constitution and bill of rights which reduces the power of the state, protects individual rights, reduces the tendency of democracy to become mob rule, and makes government more local and accountable.
What do you think is next for the EU? Continued slide to greater technocracy, more regulation, further loss of voice and liberty for individual citizens, expansionist outlook seeking to control more territory.
Did Brexit get done? Yes at the end of the day we have taken back control of our laws, borders and money, though it is a worry that for some reason the UK/EU Trade Deal did not include 80% of our trade with the EU – financial services. One can only hope there is a good reason for this – but it is vital and a big concern. We inevitably had to make some concessions but even with the fish we will have virtual total control in five and a half years. As our economy booms, politically and practically I believe , the EU will not be able to hold us back by increasing tariffs. Even “ Rejoiners” will become “ Rejoicers” as they see the real value of UK sovereignty, freedom to do our own trade deals and controlling our population numbers to better plan future infrastructure – hospitals, school, transport etc and keep us safe from terrorist attacks.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? It is not a perfect deal but with the return of sovereignty and democracy we are now in a position to make our own trade deals and boom as an independent entrepreneurial trading nation, outside of the declining undemocratic EU. Already we have made over 60 worldwide trade deals and we have carried out more vaccine injections that the whole of the EU put together. The EU will continue to decline and despite safeguards on tariffs that they have built in, they won’t be able to prevent the UK from booming. This will set an example to other EU sceptic member countries and they will be looking for the exit door too. Especially with the Franco/German push even further towards an EU super state that further diminishes local democracy and accountability.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? Most urgent is Westminster and the role of the Speaker – so clearly not fit for purpose and so abused by Remainer Bercow during the Brexit process. Plus MPs must deliver on the Manifestos on which they were elected – not just choose their own personal approach, and ignoring the wishes of the majority of their constituents when they get to the House. Next important is reforming. reducing , possibly abolishing, the ridiculously huge , undemocratic House of Lords. Finally, new rules on the Honours system to stop cronyism and abuse. You don’t get an honour for just doing your job – e.g. an Ambassador.
What do you think is next for the EU? Very interesting and difficult to predict with Merkel and Macron not likely to be around by the end of the year. With the UK gone the Franco/German axis will try to dominate EU policy. If the UK does well and horrendous EU youth unemployment continues then some of the newer Eastern European members may look for an out or major reform.
Did Brexit get done? Yes, Brexit got done, and better than I had expected. Removing the ECJ from the equation was vital. What is now important is to move on and make the most of it. We have already wasted far too much time bickering.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? I would start with replacing the Common Agricultural Policy by supporting our farmers to use the land in a more environmentally friendly and productive way. This was the most controversial policy when we joined and one which for me, who voted to stay in in 1975, found the most egregious. Reform was promised because it was so disadvantageous to the UK but it came very slowly indeed because it had been designed as a mechanism to subsidise French farmers. That failure was one of the things that changed my mind about the EU.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? A big problem is local government. That’s something that seems to work better in some other countries. Local people understand better than here which politician is responsible for delivering what and vote accordingly. In the UK the vast majority do not and as a consequence vote on national issues. That is in my opinion a major contributor to the mess that Labour has got us into in Croydon. No matter how incompetent Croydon Labour were and how we as an opposition pointed it out, Tony Newman just blamed central government. Too many voters believed him.
What do you think is next for the EU? I hope they do well but the signs are not good. They are refusing to learn the lessons of Brexit. Their solution to failure is always more EU. Criticism of that line is also very muted. The BBC isn’t the only national broadcaster that follows the EU-can-do-no-wrong line.
Did Brexit get done? Yes, sort of. I think time had come to be pragmatic and move on. Despite the Labour party grudgingly voting for the deal, they are clearly positioning themselves to “improve” the deal which in their terms means weaken it and a Labour government would end in BRINO. The government need to prove the benefits before the 2024 election as we may find much of the good work undone. Leavers should learn the lesson of 2016 in that rather than celebrating the referendum result and taking our foot of the gas we needed to close it out. This isn’t the end of the matter.
How do you think the UK will use its new found freedom? This is an area where the current government and I part ways. They are classic neo liberals and will look to turn us into a global buyer of cheap goods whereas the strategy I favour is to rebuild our industries and positively favour UK produced goods and services, we need to put the needs of our own people first.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? As a Social Democrat this is a big issue for us. The Brexit debacle proved that MPs, in this case remain leaning MPs, were not to be trusted and voted against the wishes of their voters, that cannot happen again. We would introduce proportional representation and abolish the House of Lords whilst we were at it. A personal beef of mine is that if MPs choose to swap parties mid-term then they should be asked to stand at a by-election. Whilst all of the switchers were punished in the 2019 election we had to put up with them for the previous 3 years.
What do you think is next for the EU? Tough to say, I don’t see anything happening quickly but the lack of British money and our steadying influence the differences between North, South and Eastern Europe will become more apparent. I really feel for those countries in the Euro as they are well and truly stuffed, our escape was made easier by not having to worry about currency. Watch youth unemployment in Southern Europe, that can no longer be exported to the UK.
More locally Ian Woodleyis the party organiser in Surrey. An ex-Croydon resident and Palace fan, we spoke with him about the party’s plans in the county.
Ian thank-you for your time.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Ian Woodley. I am the Surrey Coordinator for the Social Democratic Party. I was born In South London and spent my school years in Croydon, Elmwood and Selhurst Grammar /High and now live in Woking. I run a couple of businesses that raise investment for the restaurant sector and British manufactured goods, I have 4 children and one grandson.
Food, Music and Sport dominate my personal interests, lifelong Palace fan, once chairman of Dulwich Hamlet FC, Harlequins supporter, Americana music and a keen home cook.
The party is gaining publicity, but it’s still fair to say the SDP is not a well-known as it once was. What first attracted you to the party?
The party has had a roller coaster past. It is 40 years old in January and hit the heights with the “gang of four” in the early 80s. Then followed what turned out to be a disastrous alliance with the Liberals which ended in a full merger and gave them the word “Democrat” which is something over Brexit they have obviously forgotten. Those who didn’t want to throw their lot in with the Liberals such as Dr David Owen kept the flag flying and the party has existed at grass roots level ever since. Membership is now growing as we have enjoyed greater visibility. Like most people I have gone almost full circle on political views as I have grown older, before joining the SDP I was an “inactive” member of the Conservative party although was never a fan of austerity and got very frustrated with the infighting and ill discipline over Brexit. I now very much feel at home.
We described the SDP as pro-Brexit party, anti-lockdown and anti-woke SDP. Would you agree with these descriptions and what are your thoughts on where things are on these issues?
All of those things are certainly true although that sells us a bit short. We are very much Red Tory Blue Labour. We sit left of centre on economic matters such as a fairer distribution of wealth and renationalising the railways. As you suggest we are socially conservative although radical in some matters such as the abolition of the house of lords and creation of an English parliament. Specifically, at the time of writing I really hope Boris doesn’t bottle it, we have come too far for a fudged compromise. I am in line with the party’s views on lockdown in that what we really needed was a longer term consistent policy not the endless stop/starts which have destroyed some sectors and as for woke, I see this an unwelcome American import which has highlighted that our media and academia is laden with progressive liberals who are a real danger to free speech and British culture.
We are hopefully coming out of the worst of the Covid Lockdown crisis. What would you do to help us recover?
Firstly I would say that now there is news of a vaccine do not expect the government to change its approach. To me I think the discussion around state aid and Brexit are crucial. What the government need is free a hand to stimulate British Industry. I think the major difference between us and the other parties on this is that we would be far more interventional and not leave everything to the vagaries of the free market which would mean more jobs effectively exported to China. We have a buy British policy where possible for government procurement.
The SDP are a communitarian party, what do you think we should be doing to build a more coherent national community?
That isn’t a five-minute job as our communities have been undermined for decades. Culturally I think the governments Australian style immigration policy is on the right track in that we need to slow the flow to allow things to settle. Never were the British people asked for their views on mass uncontrolled immigration. Most are in favour of immigration but not at the speed it has happened in past decades a situation made worse by there never being a plan for integration. The free market liberals whether they be Labour or Conservative have viewed immigration as a means to plug gaps in the need for short term unskilled labour but without factoring in issues such as housing and the NHS which have become stretched. We have also hugely ignored the needs of our own working class who have understandably felt that they have been pushed to the back of the queue. What some people call racism is actually resentment which has built as a result of thoughtless government policy. We have a policy for new immigrants “All will be required to agree to a pledge to uphold and adhere to contemporary British values as a condition of migration” which will light up the wokeratti but is what we feel most British people would expect. As a nation we have grown afraid to actually say what we want on this issue.
Economically there are huge extremes of wealth and the North South divide is real. We keep hearing the term levelling up but that will not happen on its own and will need steering from government.
You’re an ex-Croydonian what are your memories of growing up here, and thoughts on the now bankrupt borough?
I spent years 2-22 in Croydon, as mentioned earlier I was at Elmwood in West Croydon, which had the countries first schools steel band! Going to see Palace at the age of 6, the last year of the 11 plus and going to Selhurst Grammar seeing the head boy wearing a cape. No more first year intake so we were the youngest boys in the school for 4 years in a row. Discovering Lady Edridge girls school even though Selhurst girls school was right next door. Working my Saturday job at Sainsburys in the Whitgift centre and the many pubs we used to frequent around Croydon. I must admit not being close enough to understand what has happened with Croydon council but I was saddened by the news as I am sure most old croydonians were.
How are the SDP making headway in Surrey, how have you been campaigning and what are your plans once we’re back to a more normal situation?
I only took on my role this summer so have not actually enjoyed a period of freedom to convene a meeting of existing members live so to speak and comms revolve around zoom calls . This is massively frustrating as it has been very difficult to make any headway. We are focused on getting some candidates out for the forthcoming Council elections in May and will be all guns blazing once we can get back to some form of normal. I think in common with most members of the party we believe we have a compelling message but as we get so little coverage progress is painfully slow.
We have made ourselves busy in objecting to Surrey County Council’s bid to get rid of the 11 district and borough councils to create one mega unitary authority. Too big and not accountable.
What are the local issues you think the party can make headway on in Surrey?
Surrey is very Conservative, all 11 constituencies are viewed as safe seats so we are under no illusion that we have an uphill battle. That said I feel there are a great number of disillusioned Tory voters who would certainly feel comfortable our policies and I think a number of people vote Lib Dem thinking they are centrist when on many issues they clearly aren’t. Housing and Transport are the big two. Its impossible for young couples to get onto the housing ladder and our solution is to dust off the concept of council housing which worked well for decades but then became ideologically unacceptable. We would also nationalise the railways its expensive and not very good and every Surrey commuter we feel would happily encourage a complete rethink.
If you could introduce two big changes Surrey and two nationally what would they be?
Only two? In Surrey as mentioned above, we must resolve the housing issues and make public transport more affordable and efficient, it should be our jewel in the crown.
Nationally, lets go big, proportional representation and abolish the house of lords. The people of this country will not get the government it needs and deserves under the current archaic system.
Are there any thoughts you would like to leave our readers with?
Wow, haven’t I said enough. Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, which I am not. We need to be very alive to the creeping globalism of huge tech firms, big pharma , vested interest and a political elite who seem to forget they are accountable to the people who put hem there. Brexit was a fantastic reminder of this, forgetting the EU for a minute, it was the British people saying Oy! This is not what we want! That however was the start of a bigger fight to defend democracy not the finish as we found out.
Learning the lessons of EU membership we must not sleepwalk into a situation where we find that our views and our vote no longer count.