Supporting pro-Brexit candidates in our area. The Croydon Constitutionalists caught up with Yasmin Fitzpatrick Brexit Party PPC for East Surrey.
Yasmin has worked for the NHS, as a language teacher and a television executive at Channel 4. In East Surrey she is up against the existing MP Sam Gyimah.
Sam has had some national attention, and local difficulties for failing to respect the manifesto he ran on and the vote of the British people. Indeed the Leavers of Croydon spent some time in Caterham putting pressure on him http://croydonconstitutionalists.uk/a-great-day-in-caterham-putting-pressure-on-sam-gyimah-mp/.
Having already made somewhat of a splash locally being written up in the local paper https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/brexit-party-makes-bid-oust-16827232, Yasmin spoke with the Croydon Constitutionalists.
Yasmin thanks for the interview.
You’ve worked for Channel 4 and in Education, this doesn’t seem a likely background for a candidate for the Brexit Party.
There are so many myths about voting Brexit and the Brexit Party itself – I hope I can explode a few of them!
There are people in television, in the NHS, in schools who voted Leave – but they tend to be in a minority in the public sector and in the media, even though they tend to underestimate their own numbers and they honestly fear for their jobs if they say openly how they voted and what they think. I know from personal experience that Remainers can be extremely intolerant in the workplace, especially where they feel they are in the majority. They can make things uncomfortable for people who do not agree with them and do not uphold freedom of speech in practice, often demonising opponents by branding them as racist, stupid or misguided.
One of my concerns is that political discussion in general has coarsened: people attack the person, rather than their ideas when they disagree. Recently, someone high up in television whispered to me that they had voted Leave and begged me not to tell anyone – so of course I won’t – but I’m sad that we can’t feel free to express differing political opinions, because that’s how we test out and refine our own thoughts and opinions.
Many of us think of somewhere like Channel 4 has a metropolitan group think, is that fair or unfair?
I think it’s fair to say there’s a bit of ‘metropolitan bubble’ in some of the bigger cities. Certainly in London, we have grown used to hearing little or nothing from anywhere else in the UK. Many of the people I know when asked, confess that they have never spoken to anyone who says they voted Brexit and so tend to make assumptions about them based on what they are told by other people in the same bubble. When they talk to me, they concede that I’m not racist or stupid – so I must be sadly deluded!
Journalists, with a few honourable exceptions, and news outlets generally, do have a lot to answer for when it comes to peddling myths and prejudice about people who voted to leave the EU and spend little or no time talking to or generally engaging with them. I am always impressed when a Leaver pops up on Question Time or in a news item: they invariably speak out in ways that surprise, inform and often impress listeners. If BBC, ITV and Channel 4 news over the recent period had fairly and impartially represented the 52% of the electorate who voted Leave in their news coverage, I doubt we’d have had the misinformed hysteria we witnessed on the streets over the weekend.
And it would be good to hear more from all those elected MEPs from the Brexit Party!
What first got you involved in politics?
I grew up mostly in Belfast, even though I was born in London and lived for a few years in Germany when I was a child. I lived on a Loyalist housing estate in Belfast and my Irish grandfather was in the Orange Order, although my mother was passionately anti-sectarian. My father was a Muslim businessman, whose family had had to flee India during Partition and had arrived in Pakistan with the clothes they stood up in. So I had a lot to be curious about. I got involved in left-wing organisations and activities that allowed me to understand and move beyond my own immediate experience.
The Brexit Party was an easy choice for me: increasingly, I have seen what used to be the left in Britain become increasingly intolerant and irrelevant when it comes to standing up for freedom of speech – and now for democracy itself. Increasingly, they talk to themselves.
The left effectively abandoned Labour Party voters who wanted to leave the EU and then condemned them for it. That’s what finally confirmed to me that the old left/centre/right divisions are now irrelevant – but so are the old left/centre/right political machines, who make policy over our heads, with scant regard for their own supporters.
I’m in the Brexit Party because firstly, I want the wishes of the majority of the electorate to be enacted and leave the EU; secondly, I want to help build the kind of political party that will represent the people in their constituencies, at a local, national and international level, without deferring to a party political machine. Will that happen? I hope people join us and make sure it does!
You’re standing against Sam Gyimah, someone we’ve organised our own events to protest against. Any thoughts on your opponent?
Well, I respect Sam Gyimah for sticking to his principles – but if he is not even prepared to support his own Party’s commitment to leaving the EU, as set out very clearly in their 2017 manifesto, I think he needs to consider his position. People often feel they can’t trust their politicians to speak for them when they reach Westminster: I have no commitment to advancing the interests of a party machine at the expense of the people. I have no private agenda for self-advancement at all costs. I simply want to honour the decision people made in the EU Referendum and help bring that political and economic dividend home to all of the the voters in East Surrey. I also want to make sure that I help reconnect political decision-making with the people, so they can get on with their lives, knowing that their opinions are respected and their concerns properly addressed.
What are your thoughts on East Surrey Politics?
I’m not sure that it’s a great idea for politicians to feel that their seat is so safe, that their majority is so large, that they can take the electorate for granted. I obviously think it’s time for a change: important local matters will also form part of my campaigning – more about that later. I also want voters to tell me what they think matters: let’s see what we can do locally, alongside the national election campaign.
What surprised you most about getting actively involved in politics?
I was incredibly impressed when I met many of the other prospective parliamentary candidates who got through the rigorous Brexit Party selection procedures. Such a wide range of lived experience, from every region and from every walk of life. People who spoke with passion and intelligence about the need for a politically independent UK. People who genuinely cared about the future for their locality and region, as well as the UK as a whole. And people who are open to and tolerant of others.
Being involved in the Brexit Party also currently means working a lot of things out as we go along. Party policy is still in development and we all need to be involved in that – remember, the Party as currently constituted has only been in existence since April – but you can’t rush policy making. For us, it’s not about making promises we won’t keep once the elections are over – that’s what has contributed to the erosion of trust in politicians and politics more generally.
If you introduce or repeal 3 laws (other than for Brexit) what would they be?
I’d prefer not to make policy on the hoof at this stage. I’ll be looking to defend personal freedoms, hold politicians to account, try to ensure that the many different voices of people in the UK are respected and that people are treated fairly.
Any other thoughts you want to leave us with?
Boris Johnson has played some good moves against his political opponents. But BEWARE! If you voted to leave the EU, don’t be side-tracked in the coming weeks by any reheated May deal offerings, with or without the backstop. I’ve looked at the Withdrawal Agreement – there are at least four reasons why we should reject it and walk away without a deal:
1. we would not be able to develop new trade deals whilst in this ‘transitional period’ and that period could go on indefinitely;
2. despite remaining in the EU, we‘d have no right to vote, no voice in debate and no veto over existing or any new legislation;
3. we would continue to be hit by EU rules and those billions of pounds of EU membership fees;
4. To add final insult to injury, it isn’t clear whether we’d ever be able to leave the EU without the consent of the 27 other member states. No, non, nein!
I say, Vote for the Brexit Party to ensure we walk away from bad deals, keep up the pressure on Government to build a political and economic future under our own control and hold all our politicians to account both now and after we leave. A tall order!
Yasmin thanks again for the interview.