The Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election will be held on 2nd December, following the sad death of James Brokenshire.
Brought up not far from Bexley in our native Croydon, John Poynton is the UKIP candidate for the by-election.
We spoke with John about the campaign. John thank-you for your time.
UKIP has gone through a few years of change, can you tell about where the party is now, and introduce yourself to our readers?
The past couple of years have been difficult because of certain infighting between egos, but we have now settled behind the elected leadership of Neil Hamilton after a contested leadership election in which I stood. Neil is of course far better known than I am! We get on well together as also I do with Ben Walker, our vigorous Chairman.
Libertarians tend to be right of centre for the simple reason they tend to be better off and better educated and thus better able to look after themselves. The poor and disadvantaged on the other hand put far greater emphasis on mutual support, community and solidarity. This is understandable, but I would not want UKIP to be seen a right wing. The majority lie in the centre and, as both the dinosaur parties know, you only win elections if you command the centre ground. That is why I call myself a social libertarian, with a view to maintaining a fair balance between he interests of both rich and poor, reducing taxes as much for the poor as for the rich, and maintaining a reliable welfare state and efficient first class essential services for all. The focus must be on efficiency and alternative funding, whilst maintaining traditional libertarian opposition to totalitarianism, the tyranny of the majority and compulsory altruism (eg. overseas aid).
I see UKIP as the only significant libertarian party on the British political spectrum, though I dare say a number of smaller parties would object to that!
You’ve stood for election a number of times, do you have any interesting memories from the campaigns, and what key message would you like to get across in this by-election?
I stood as the candidate in Ealing Southall in 2015 and 2017 and got 4.1% in 2015, far higher than anticipated though regrettably not enough to save my deposit. In fact, canvassing on my own, I only covered three of the seven wards, so I am sure I would have saved it had I covered them all.
Southall is a fascinating constituency. Although a safe Labour seat, it has a wide variety of communities, including the largest Sikh community outside India. Islamophobia was a big issue with the Sikhs and others all equally concerned about it except the white champagne socialists, but the Labour apparatchiks chose to interpret it as racism and resorted to an extraordinary campaign of lies, prejudice and slander about us behind my back. This became apparent from the uniform way in which a number of people would quietly hand me back my leaflet unread (I just thanked them for it and pointed out they hadn’t read it yet!). Occasionally someone would shout ‘No racism here’ after I offered them a leaflet (Glad to hear it, madam), and one man, of Nigerian origin I think, started talking about gas chambers as I approached him! He was not aggressive about it but would not accept any alternative narrative. I think his wife, standing beside him, was quite embarrassed about it.
The local Ealing rag also airbrushed me out of a photo of the count. There was Virendra Sharma, the sitting MP, who I must say was himself a gentleman throughout, giving his speech with a group of candidates on his right shoulder and a completely empty stage to his left. It looked so blatant!
By contrast as many if not more voters would read my leaflet ostensibly in front of me, as though to say no one was going to tell them what they could or could not read. There is certainly spirit in Southall and it was a pleasure to canvass there, with plenty of opportunity for street and doorstep conversations. I never once encountered personal aggression. UKIP’s constitution commits us to upholding the principle of equality under the law and opposes all forms of discrimination, but people seemed to accept it quite readily on the street when I told them.
Looking at Old Bexley and Sidcup, what do you see as the big issues and opportunities for the area?
My purpose in standing in Old Bexley and Sidcup is not so much to win (unlikely!) but to get our re-launch underway and inform people about our new policies and priorities. Everyone says that local issues are the key, and I am sure that is right. At hustings in the past I have had to remind people that their MP does not run their local council! It is always difficult to raise people’s sights above the local perspective, but that is what Brexit was all about and is what UKIP continues to be about. Of course as an MP I will take issues raised by my constituents seriously and represent their interests to the best of my ability, but I am not is a position just yet to anticipate what they might be. The important thing will be to be available and approachable.
If elected what would you want to focus on in office?
Top priorities are to reduce and eliminate our trade deficit with the EU, establish a Proper Brexit, and to get immigration under control.