We are joined by Howard Cox, who was recently announced as the Reform UK candidate to take on Sadiq Khan in next year’s election to be Mayor of London. Howard explains his reasons for standing and his plans for London.
We are joined by Simon Richards, the former CEO of The Freedom Association, as we discuss the local election results and the delay in removing EU laws. We then chat with Simon about his time with the Freedom Association, the Better Off Out campaign, lockdowns, and the big issues of today.
The CPA is a Christian Democratic party whose members come from all backgrounds and church traditions. They actively promote Christian social teachings and draw our principles from the bible. We spoke with Sid Cordle who is standing for them in the Bearton Ward of North Herts district Council.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your party?
I have been the leader of the CPA since 2012. We stand 100% for Christian values, so we get all our values from Jesus’ teaching. Our 5 Core values are,
a. Supporting marriage between a man and a woman and the family. b. The sanctity of life from conception until natural death. c. Care for the poor. d. Support Persecuted Christians worldwide, e. Fight crime.
We have a policy of introducing a turnover tax paid by all companies to get money off Google, Facebook, Amazon, Starbucks, Shell etc. who send all their profits abroad so don’t pay corporation tax. We would offset it against corporation tax so British companies pay less & there would be an incentive to locate in the UK. We would also cut quangos introducing a new Professional Standards Authority and get rid of quangos like Social Work England, 19 health quangos, Wilton Park (under foreign office) etc. The only useful thing these quangos do is to maintain professional standards. All the rest is a waste of time. Eg. it is important to be able to bar criminals or abusers from professions like social work and the NHS.
You’re standing in the Bearton Ward, can you introduce the ward to us and what you can bring to the area?
Bearton Ward is on the Bedford side of Hitchin a town of about 35,000 people but just 30 mins from London with trains every 15 mins. One of the big issues is building new homes in the area with no infrastructure to support them. The sewers are full, the roads are clogged up. You can’t get a GP appointment and schools are full, but they build more houses with no new facilities. We’ve claimed the big parties don’t understand basic planning rules (here Lib/Lab coalition, in Hertfordshire County Council Con).
More widely what would you like to see change at North Herts districtCouncil and across the area?
Planning is a major issue. Another is speed on the side roads. I would like to see traffic control measures (square road humps) rather than putting up 20MPH sings which drivers ignore. Hitchin town centre is quite good but still under pressure with some shops closing. We would use money from our turnover tax to get rid of Commercial rates altogether so people pay the same tax if they buy in a shop or buy on line.
How can people find out more or get in touch if they want to get involved?
Founded in 1992 The Alliance of British Drivers is a not-for-profit organisation that is owned and controlled by its members. They promote the views of drivers to national and local Government bodies and provide information to the public. They also try to counter the misinformation spread by many people on the use of private vehicles and promote freedom of choice about how you travel.
We spoke with one of their Directors Ian Taylor.
Can you tell us a bit about The Alliance of British Drivers, and the organisations aims?
Originally set up as a member association, The Association of British Drivers, by founding chairman Brian Gregory, was concerned about the growing use of speed cameras, reduced speed limits everywhere and lack of concern for encouraging good, skilled driving. It became a not-for-profit limited company (Pro Motor Ltd) for the protection of members. Control rests with a board of directors but being a membership based organisation there is still a national committee too (everyone does not want to be a director).
One of the successes we contributed to was the defeat of the road pricing plans in the first decade of the century, one of our members organised the No.10 petition against it, and the huge response caused the government to step back. Following that, the organiser founded his own campaign, the Driver’s Alliance, but the funding was limited, so in 2012 a merger was agreed, the ABD retained it’s initials and logo, but became The Alliance of British Drivers. It remains predominantly a member based campaign, while seeking additional funding methods. It is also non-partisan. With the exception of a couple of specialist functions like magazine editor, and membership secretary, it is run by unpaid volunteers, with some activities outsourced when affordable.
Of late, it has, not least because of the people who attack us and how they operate, expanded beyond purely driving issues into the wider debates around environment and climate – which in any case directly affect drivers. This has been accomplished by working in close co-operation with partners (including FairFuelUK and the Motorcycle Action Group) under “umbrella organisation” – Transport Reality, the primary aim of which is to get the 2030/35 internal combustion engine bans postponed or overturned. The ABD is dedicated to presenting factual, scientifically provable information based on data, by any means possible, to central and local government, the media, and the public at large.
In Croydon the proposed expansion of ULEZ is a major issue facing drives, what’s the Alliance’s views on ULEZ?
This is part of wider moves being made across Greater London, and their adoption by other cities. Our view is that exaggerated health and environmental “threats” are being used by those in power with a self-confessed long-standing car hatred, gradually bring about the exclusion of most private vehicles from cities. This represents both a severe economic threat to the viability of those cities and a serious move against freedom of personal movement and transport – regarded by many as a “right”, although nobody denies some transport management required to prevent gridlock. The ULEZ in London doubles up as a money grab by the Mayor.
What works well for drivers and what are the wider challenges you see in the UK?
As mentioned above, nobody wants gridlock or really bad air (which it in fact rarely is, and when it happens is often the result of anti-traffic measures that create congestion). The situation is different in London and a few other big city situations to the rest of the country. First of all, they have better public transport alternatives. Everyone doesn’t drive, so being pro-driver shouldn’t mean being anti the alternatives – not even the cyclists, though they don’t always make it easy to like them. Transport choices are important – but must include the people’s choice by a long way for decades – the motor car. However, decisions about transport expenditure are seriously out of kilter with that choice, funds for roads are a fraction of what drivers pay to use our roads via VED, fuel tax, etc., with the money going to just about anything else – including anti-car measures. Out in the country, there is less scope for some of those alternatives, also less need on congestion grounds. The biggest challenge faced is the growing trend to impose ever more restrictions and costs that threaten the freedom to drive. There is a genuine debate to be had on the effect of more electric vehicles not paying fuel duty.
All those other organisations: it didn’t happen overnight, and I don’t hold official positions as I do in the ABD. Back in the day I did run a local branch of the NO2ID campaign, which has also “introduced ” me to Big Brother Watch, and don’t forget the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Many years ago I was a Young Conservative, but became very disillusioned with the operation of political parties, and have not been a member of one for decades now, preferring to express via non-partisan organisations – which has been described as political pick’n’mix. I was until recently The ABD’s Chairman, but while remaining active, am starting to “wind down” as I approach my 75th.
How can our readers get involved with the Alliance and follow driving issues more generally?
Involvement: well, that’s up to individuals. New members always welcome, however active or inactive they choose to be. So please go to the website and join us. We also have a presence on Facebook and two Twitter accounts (ABDcampaign and The ABD, as well as some local ones run by members), so we can be followed, liked and retweeted or friended.
The Tax Reform Council seeks a system of taxation that encourages greater economic growth and places a lower burden on individuals and businesses. Among their activities they run the ‘Cut My Tax’ campaign. We speak to Max Young about the Council.
Max thank-you for your time.
Can you tell us what the Council does and your role in it?
The Council advocates for lower taxes. It wants to inform the public why lower taxes are better for all of us and it aims to send our politicians a strong message to that effect. I’m the Council’s administrator, so I liaise with our board, advisors, and analysts, as well as keeping the website and social media running and up to date.
You have the ‘Cut My Tax’ campaign. What are you aiming to achieve and how can people get involved?
Yes, Cut My Tax is the campaign arm of the Council. So far its strongest presence is on Twitter where we post analysis of tax news, threads, article summaries et cetera. It seems that, despite all of the fantastic work that think tanks, journalists, consultancies and others are producing on tax, there isn’t a real thrust of outreach to the public. The Council wants to make it a lot easier to learn about tax policy and get a sound take on contemporary tax issues. Most content on tax is, let’s face it, pretty boring – so we want to engage people and, ultimately, let MPs know that tax hikes won’t fly with the public.
To that effect on our website we run letter campaigns that anyone can sign on to, have a comprehensive resource bank of reports on tax (it was difficult to find many of these before), a quotes section, and a blog. As the operation grows there will, we hope, be more direct activity for campaigns.
How did you first get involved in the campaign to reform taxes?
Our advisory board members and our senior advisors have been fighting the fight for decades. For what it’s worth, I found Milton Friedman’s eighties TV series “Free to Choose” in my teenage years and have been working in anti-tax advocacy since.
We’re great believers in the Laffer Curve, what are your thoughts on how lower tax rates can affect tax take?
There are many many examples of the Laffer Curve in action. We posted some of our favourites from around the world on our blog a little while ago. JFK is a great and relatively little-known example, he slashed income tax at all levels in 1963 (though the highest was 91% at the time) and revenues shot up. We see the same trend everywhere – Lord Lawson’s cuts in the eighties, Canada in the nineties, France in the mid-noughties. There seems to be a strange unshakeable belief among bureaucrats and the commentariat that people will happily absorb high taxes without changing their behaviour, which is obviously not true. The Curve is a useful means of explaining that.
Are there any taxes you’re more in favour of or against than others? What’s your preference for how the government raises income?
DC’s tax-cutter in chief Grover Norquist put it well: “What Mae West said about sex is true about taxes. All tax cuts are good tax cuts; even bad tax cuts are good tax cuts.” Aside from that, the supply side trumps all, of course, and we should organise tax policy accordingly. Say’s Law from 1803 still holds up: goods are ultimately paid for with other goods, so any tax arrangement must first and foremost prioritise production. This is why it is so sad to see Sunak and Hunt slowly heap earth on any prospect of growth for the coming years. There was an encouraging article in the FT by Stuart Kirk some weeks ago on why corporation tax in a sane world would be lowered to 0%. We’re some way off having a fruitful conversation on that but it’s where we should be. We don’t love any taxes, but if the government wants to raise income it should (1) Respect the Laffer Curve and (2) Raid the supply side at its peril.
If you could introduce a couple of immediate changes to the tax system, what would they be?
Cut the tax code down to size. As your readers likely know it is the longest such document in the world by quite some way – Proust’s “À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu” is 1.26 million words and the UK’s tax code is eight times longer than that. A shorter tax code can be achieved, unsurprisingly, by scrapping whole taxes. Any tax system has to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to encourage investment, confidence, ease of interaction, and avoidance of hair-pulling. Hong Kong’s and Georgia’s are worth emulating.
Other than that, it would be great to see some changes to HMRC’s treatment of the self-employed and especially freelance contractors. This was a once-growing and dynamic part of the economy that’s now being dragged kicking and screaming into arbitrary employment status by successive IR35 reforms and forced to use leech-like “umbrella companies” to manage their relationship with companies that use them.
Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
We are living in disheartening times to be sure – taxes at their highest since Attlee and likely to get higher, productivity and growth kicking the bucket et cetera, but this is no cause for despair. The facts are always on our side and we will succeed against stale ideas and soulless managers of decline.
David Kurten was a GLA member 5 years, for UKIP and the Brexit Alliance. He also ran for Mayor of London for the Heritage Party. David, the Heritage Party leader, appeared at our inaugural event, has been on our podcast, and is now a regular on GB News. We caught up with David to speak about the party and the state of London and Britain.
David thanks for speaking with us.
You launched the Heritage Party ready for the London Mayoral Elections, how do you feel the party has progressed since then?
We’ve made great progress since the London Mayoral and Assembly elections. It was disappointing not to be elected back on to the London Assembly, but since then the Heritage Party has kept going and many people have joined. We had our first Annual Conference in Pulborough, West Sussex last September with a full day of speakers and about 100 people attending. We are also in the process of setting up county branches to cover the whole country including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England, and they are thriving in many places.
We have local elections again this May, what are your plans, and how can people help?
We shall stand as many candidates as possible across England and Northern Ireland in the local elections this May. We will have many more candidates than last year, but there is still time to join and apply to be a candidate to challenge the old parties which are running our nation down.
You were a GLA member for 5 years. With the political talk in much of Croydon being the proposed ULEZ expansion, what are your thoughts on Mayor Khan’s second term?
Khan has just carried on his path of destruction. He is clearly fully signed up to Agenda 2030 and the policies of the WEF. He supports boroughs imposing LTNs which are disastrous for residents and businesses, and it is appalling that he has gone ahead with expanding the ULEZ to the boundary of Greater London against the wishes of Londoners in the consultation. That shows contempt for Londoners and he should be voted out next time.
We marched and we stopped vaccine mandates for most people in the UK. Sadly, some restrictions (e.g. in Hospitals) still seem to apply. Looking back how should we approach the lockdown nightmare were it to return?
Hopefully there will never be another lockdown as everyone can now see how awful it was, and even some who supported it would never accept it again. If there is another one, there will be a much greater level of civil disobedience, which is needed to stand against tyranny.
You’re now a regular on GB news, often debating people of very different viewpoints. Do you have and inside gossip or thoughts on GB news and on becoming a celebrity!?
It is strange to be thought of as a celebrity! However, it is very good to be given a platform to be able to get a few nuggets of truth across on a mainstream channel. However, it seems that Ofcom is clamping down on truth, and now that Mark Steyn has left the channel, we will have to see what happens at GB News in the future.
Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
However hard things get, we must keep on battling for freedom and take heart from the victories we have won. It was only a year ago that the government was going to fire 100,000 doctors and nurses who refused to take an experimental injection, but the power of people protesting changed this. The policy fell, and the Covid narrative started to fall around the world. It has been a great privilege to be a part of the freedom movement in our day that is standing against tyranny, and marvellous to stand with so many other good men and women who are doing the same.
Former UKIP General Secretary Paul Oakley, worked at senior local then national levels during the rise and fall of the party. Paul has been a long-term campaigner for the UK’s departure from the EU, ripping up a copy of the Maastricht Treaty at a Young Conservative conference. Paul wrote the book “No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care: A UKIP Memoir” and we caught up with him to speak about this, politics and the state of Brexit.
Paul thanks for your time:
Most of your time in politics centred around one issue, the UK’s independence from the EU. What were your feelings the day we voted to leave, and what are your feelings on where we are now?
I expected the powers-that-be to try to frustrate Brexit and that is precisely what happened. Theresa May and her henchmen spent two-and-a-half years trying to derail the process. Then of course there was that dreadful Gina Miller who was effectively seeking the right for herself to cast the deciding vote on the referendum through the courts. Boris Johnson wasn’t much better, formalising a half-cock Brexit because he couldn’t be bothered putting any real effort in. As things stand now, the federalists are keen to blame all Britain’s economic woes on the decision to leave the EU. As far as they are concerned, the looming depression is nothing to do with its true causes, namely the insanity of the lockdowns and the idiocy of “net zero”. The push for regional and global governance looks set to continue and it might yet be necessary for us to retrieve our claymores from the roof thatch once again.
Now we are at least partially out of the EU, what do you think we should do with our restored sovereign powers?
Vested interests will try to stop us doing very much at all. Prime Minister Truss and Chancellor Kwarteng had the excellent idea of lifting the EU-imposed cap on bankers’ bonuses. That would have resulted in financiers rushing away from the EU to work in the City of London with an associated boost in tax receipts for the Treasury (for those who think that sort of thing is important). Unfortunately, the Sunak coup put an end to that. On the positive side, it seems that the Tory government are considering withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. It was not possible for us to do this while an EU member state. This must be replaced with an updated British Bill of Rights for British citizens. It’s absurd that aliens currently enjoy the same fundamental rights as nationals. Perhaps that sensible idea will be allowed to fizzle out too however.
UKIP made a bag of cats look like a calm reasoned environment. What was it that made UKIP so ungovernable?
This was our strength. Question everything; accept nothing. Brexit would not have happened without that attitude, no matter how annoying it may sometimes have proved for the course of party governance.
You’ve written a book about your time in UKIP. What made you write the book, and what has the reception been like?
I wrote it as I went along while keeping contemporaneous notes because I thought it was worth recording this modern peasants’ revolt from the ground level. Those who have read it seem to have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was published at the time of the unexpected 2019 EU elections which meant that it received zero media interest because of electoral law. Never mind. I now plan to write the Great Romantic Novel which will doubtless have a better reception.
Is there any standout memory from your time in UKIP that covers the essence of your time in the party?
Three similar things. At the time of the 2014 EU elections, the Electoral Commission allowed counterfeit UKIP parties to stand calling themselves “UKEPP” and “UK Independence Now”. That cost us two MEPs and was precisely the kind of deceit that the Electoral Commission had been set up to tackle. Then there was the 2015 general election when the SNP polled 1.4 million votes and won 56 seats yet UKIP, with 3.8 million votes, returned only a single MP. Finally, there was Nigel Farage’s campaign in Thanet South during that same election. There has still been no real explanation as to why ballot boxes went missing for several hours on the night of the count and it still seems odd that UKIP won control of the council yet Farage did not win the constituency. Nonetheless, the media has assured us that there was no evidence of electoral fraud so that’s alright then.
Taking all these together, it is plain that the establishment and the system itself were united in stopping UKIP from achieving the heights it deserved. That makes our victory in the 2016 referendum even more impressive. We should be proud of ourselves.
We’ve had lockdowns, have restrictions on free speech, tech giants operating seemingly with impunity, rising fuel costs, identity politics and have a PM not selected by either his party or the country. If Brexit was the panoptic battle of the last 30 years, what’s the battle for the next 30 years?
Recent events have shown that the battle remains the same: to resist all authorities which seek to control the United Kingdom without democratic oversight. That will involve resigning from the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol; leaving the World Health Organisation and, indeed, the UN itself. We also need to give real thought to the question of whether the UK should remain in NATO. Save for funding the military industrial complex, it’s hard to understand why NATO did not disband after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For so long as Erdogan’s Turkey remains a member, the concept of collective defence under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is a worry, not a reassurance. Further, it is not in the interests of the British people at all to be dragged into any future conflict with Russia and China in order to assist new or prospective NATO members.
Stephen McNamara is a Scottish political activist, who has run for office as an independent and for the Scottish Libertarians. He has been involved in a new party called Choice, employed as the Director of Member Services to assist in the initial set up, and to ensure their administrative systems serve their local leaders and members in the way intended.
We interviewed Stephen about his political views, experience, and the new party.
Stephen thanks for your time.
How did you first get involved in politics, and how would you describe your political leanings?
It’s hard to put a finger on a specific moment in time for when I initially got involved in politics. I think it’s been a combination of individual situations over the years that have dragged me into politics through necessity rather than choice.
Having had that literal knock on the door from government employees back in 2007 and the “we’re here to help you” speech from them, my family went from being relatively comfortable, even if far from perfect, to living an absolute nightmare, some things of which I still suffer PTSD from. With their generous offer of help I ultimately ended up without a family or home with nothing but the clothes on my back, suicidal from the stress, begging for death to take me.
On my way to jump from a bridge into a river, I was found by an independent charity. As I was walking past their little red bus one woman came out and asked if I was hungry. Scared and paranoid of what her intentions were, I reluctantly agreed to accept a sandwich and a hot chocolate drink in a brief interaction that ultimately saved my life. Weeks and months passed where their weekly hot chocolate and non-invasive independent support helped me gain a new outlook.
I became active in the Yes campaign for Scottish independence, in a misguided assumption that independence would make things better. Oh how wrong was I. I discovered that the SNP government I was wholeheartedly supporting to obtain independence was the very same government that had passed the laws that had put me where I was. They had passed laws that gave absolute power to unaccountable statists who could do anything they wanted. They were ultimately responsible for what happened. They were my enemy.
That’s when I started to look at what choices I could make to get my revenge and make sure that my children and many other families would not suffer in the same way I did.
Those politicians feed on votes so I knew I had to start taking votes away from those in power to stop them from continuing to destroy our lives. That’s why I got involved and started to take a stand in elections against them.
Having run for office and being very active on social media, what do you think works / hasn’t worked in getting your political messages across?
Getting a message across to voters is really difficult. Social media, I’ve found, is one of the worst ways to get known outside of your own connections, but getting onto ballot papers and meeting people, physically, out there in the real world, counts for everything.
There is a strong psychological connection human beings have with each other when face to face in the real world. It’s a game changer when you can get out there. Even if not in person, a physical letter or even a leaflet makes the difference between seeing some random post on social media versus seeing a physical item in your mailbox.
If potential voters or party members have that human or physical interaction with you then it is far more effective than anything you can do online.
How would you judge the current political situation in Scotland?
The current political situation in Scotland is full of delusions and wishful thinking, from ALL colours of rosettes.
We have a yellow mouldy watermelon coalition government who have apparently forgotten who voted for them and why, with a Red / Blue opposition in name only and who have apparently forgotten how to vote against their counterparts in Holyrood. The country, it seems, is in a type of perpetual stalemate in an ever downward socialist spiral. It looks like only rock bottom could stop this trend… Or is it?
There are two parties currently in Scotland’s political periphery, one being the Family Party and the other Alba. Alba is the stronger party every which way you look. They have financial support, a strong and active membership, and very experienced candidates all coming out and singing from the same hymn sheet. Their downfall? They won’t step up and stand against the incumbents in constituency seats. There is an old saying about sometimes taking a step back in order to go forward, and that’s where Alba need to grow a pair and stand in the constituencies. By taking votes away from the incumbent government MSPs, they risk a Tory run government in Scotland. To your libertarian readers, we know that replacing one socialist party with another won’t make a difference, but in the collective psychology of Scottish voters, the political landscape monopoly will have been broken and people will start to take a genuine interest in what our politicians really are doing when the press are distracting us with the latest headline attention grabber… Alba first needs to take down the SNP before it can run for government.
The Family party on the other hand, appear well organised and financially stable too. Their online content is of decent quality and they reach out through physical campaigns on issues very much in the minds of middle class voters, tugging at the heart strings of every concerned parent too. Their policies easily translate between left and right leaning voters to disrupt election counts on both sides.
I would predict that they could easily become a mainstream party in the 2026 Holyrood elections simply by standing a candidate in every constituency and region. The Local elections last year clearly demonstrated that they have the candidate numbers to do so, but will they have the strategical willpower to make it happen? Time will tell.
You are involved in a new political party Choice. What are the core beliefs and main policies of the party?
Back in 2016, myself and my wife Stef, met a handful of libertarians in a pub in Aberdeen. We struck a good friendship with some and helped this micro party become the 6th largest party in Scotland at one point and recruited members and candidates through our campaigning and fundraising efforts. Sadly my time with them ended very abruptly leaving me politically homeless. Their decision to ban me from the party, despite the delusions of those running it, immediately saw the party go from their best ever election performance in 2021, to their worst in 2022! I did warn them, repeatedly, not to go down the path they chose, but choose that path they did. Not only did they post their worst ever election result in the party’s history, but they lost their three largest financial donors and a significant chunk of members and activists in the following weeks.
When asked about what I would do differently in running a party, my response was published in Free Speech, a newsletter published by Blacklist Press. In it I wrote a fairly detailed outline of how a party could operate in a positively libertarian way and have the entire power structure decentralised.
This article was picked up on by a small group of libertarian activists who bent over backwards trying to convince me to help them start up such a party. Eventually I agreed, reluctantly at first, but as the group mobilised and started tossing cash into the ring to fund it, we got to work building the vision I had quietly shared one Monday afternoon.
Choice Party UK was born.
Today the registration details are now in the hands of the EC where we await their registration decision.
Gordon Stirling, Keyrin Von-Döring, and Christopher Wilkinson are at the helm of this beautiful ship about to set sail headfirst into the storm that is politics! I’ll be working diligently behind the scenes serving this crew as they recruit and train members, activists, future candidates and the local leaders. In just a matter of weeks this new party will be fighting for individual rights and devolved powers.
How will Choice differ from other political parties of a similar vein?
Choice differs from other parties in that where they elect a single leader to be the face and brains of a party, Choice has a completely devolved leadership structure. Gordon Stirling, the registered party leader, occupies a legally required position but which is ornamental in every other way. Gordon is also the Leader of the East Ayrshire area of the party, where his position holds some decision-making powers within his local area only. The local leaders can overrule decisions taken by other leaders in other areas so that the members of those areas have full control of what they want for their area and who they want to represent their views within that area.
Another key difference is that members who join cannot be banned from the party. Every other party has a disciplinary process that ultimately includes banning a person from being a member. The way it is with Choice is that our members have rights, and it is not easily possible for any large clique to form and force out members they just don’t like. There are consequences to bad decisions that members take, such not being permitted to stand as a candidate for the party for a defined period of time, a maximum of 5 years, and such a decision can only be taken by a randomly selected subcommittee of 12 elected committee members where the member has the right to make representation. The committee itself is elected in the same way the local leaders are elected, so only members of each local council can elect one committee member. With 420 local councils in the UK, picking a random clique of 12 that dislikes the individual member is almost impossible, thus making sure the member gets a fair hearing. But enough of the technical stuff, the biggest difference Choice candidates have over other party candidates is that, if elected, they have an automatic free vote as standard! No three-line whips! If an elected member of Choice agrees or disagrees with a motion in Parliament or councils, they have the right to vote in whichever way they feel is best for their local area, not what a party leader demands! Local candidates in local areas working for local constituencies is at the heart of all decisions taken.
How can people get involved with the party?
An administration team, completely separated from the leadership and the committee, ensures that members are served regardless of what else is going on. Choice party members take priority over everything else and individuals can join by visiting choiceparty.org.
Lorena Serantes is a political scientist from Spain, whose blog covers a range of interviews with people engaged in politics in the UK. She has interviewed Mike Swadling of this parish, and candidates for political parties across the spectrum of UK politics. We spoke with Lorena about what’s driven this project, what she’s discovered and her views on politics in the UK and Spain.
Lorena thanks for your time.
Can you firstly introduce yourself to our readers and ask what made you undertake interviewing pollical candidates from across the UK?
I am a young political scientist who was born in the wrong place. I grew up with the wish of becoming a lawyer or a judge, but two years before starting my degree studies I decided Law was not for me. My second option was to study something that had to do with politics because I got involved in a local electoral campaign. A political party reached out to me in order to ask me if I would like to be part of the candidacy list locally and I agreed. I was 18 years old and was learning about the Spanish political system and how parties worked, so it was exciting for me to take part in that campaign as my ideological background was beginning to “flourish”. That party has changed a lot, I think even more than myself, but I have to admit if they were to call me now I wouldn’t say yes. During my university years we had many subjects where they made us read American and British politics’ related papers, I knew more about the USA, however, reading about the UK became far more interesting as the years passed. When I had to write my final dissertation it was clear to me that I needed to analyse something that had to do with the UK and the party system. Parties and political theory are my favourite areas of study within the main Political Science discipline. Therefore, I analysed the UKIP’s political discourse and the theoretical debates around considering it a far right party or not, using the software MAXQDA, which I had never used before.
The idea of interviewing UK politicians didn’t come from my own will at first, it was an idea my Master’s final project tutor came up with when I was finishing the writing part. He told me: “Why don’t you try to talk with an MP from the SNP?” (I was analysing Scottish nationalism after Brexit) and my answer was: “I’m gonna try”. I had low expectations because here in Spain politicians don’t respond emails, and I thought it would be the same for UK MPs. It turned out I sent like six emails in one week and I received five responses. It was exciting because I spoke with Alyn Smith, the MP for Stirling, and then with a few more MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP and Sinn Féin. I received many replies from MPs who were very busy and politely told me they couldn’t participate but the experience was fantastic. You don’t get that from Spanish politicians, I know it first hand. After that, British politics has been my main interest and I try to follow everything that happens there: I followed the Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield by-elections, partygate and beergate, the factionalism within the Conservatives and Labour, etc. I have my opinions, my views like everyone else but when it comes to analysing the political events that happen in your country I keep those thoughts away. I have interviewed communist candidates and very right-wing politicians, conservatives, liberals, socialists, nationalists… I like to get myself into those ideals and think like a conservative or a socialist, or whatever, depending on the people I’m talking with, because something that I always keep in mind is respect. I’m not a Brexiteer but if I’m interviewing someone who is and whose main campaign is to break all ties with the EU, then I respect that and ask him as if I were a Brexit supporter. That’s the job of political scientists. I’m not a journalist so I’m not trying to get people angry. If I could help with a campaign I would do it regardless of the party.
I keep on dreaming about moving to the UK at some point, because that’s what I want to do in the future if I can afford it, but I was brought up in a working class family and I’m disabled, so we struggle to get by. I think better times will come. I hope your country is waiting for me because I’ll go there as soon as I can. While I’m still here I’ll be supporting Wales, Scotland and England in the World Cup 😉
What’s been the hardest part of interviewing candidates and what’s surprised you about the process?
There are candidates who like to speak about their campaigns and what they want to do, those are the local champions who get into politics with excitement and you can tell that by simply looking at them while they’re telling you this or that, and then you find people who don’t have a political program, they are just there to repeat what the leader of their party says. I already know what Starmer is saying, I don’t need a local candidate reading me the UK-wide Labour Party manifesto. This is just an example, you find that in Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens… Those interviews are boring and it’s hard to listen to the whole “song” again and again, but candidates who have a vision of their own and talk about local issues or policies they would support in their area, those are the ones I enjoy listening to. If I don’t know a place they’re talking about I search it, that way I end up learning more about the geography of the UK. I know where most of the counties are situated, but I’m a mess with cities’ locations.
What interviews have you enjoyed the most and what interview stands out the most?
I enjoyed them all, don’t think I can choose because they’re all special, I guess my favourite interviews are the ones with candidates that got elected. I know this will sound ridiculous but when the results were being declared and names of people I had talked to were coming out as “ELECTED” I felt a bit proud, like I had been part of the campaign. I celebrated some of the results and congratulated many of the candidates. Local politics in Spain is something very boring, you don’t even know who’s running in your municipality and the campaigns are horrible. The candidates almost always call the national party leaders to visit their area, but nothing else happens. I have lost all interest in Spanish politics, but the UK is a bit different, at least it still has some emotion and the feeling I got during the interviews was that local communities are really important for the British people. I loved the campaign and I’m sure I would have done many more interviews if I had been there.
What party’s or parts of UK politics have you found most interesting or surprising?
The Conservatives are an interesting party, they have liberal-conservatives, social-conservatives, nationalists, remainers, brexiteers… It’s a party that knows how to deliver good messages, and I think it has great politicians who are a bit overshadowed by Boris Johnson and his doings. I like Theresa May, Tobias Ellwood, Sir Ken Clarke was also a good one, and from the young ones I would say Kemi Badenoch is also really good. Dominic Raab is my favourite Conservative politician, and I know by saying this I put myself at risk of being laughed at. His discourse is not always the best but he speaks clearly and his calm voice gives me a sense of seriousness that I can’t find in other ministers like Gove or Rees-Mogg. The local Conservative candidates tried to go absolutely local in this campaign, and it was a very good move as partygate and the pre-rebellion situation in the party weren’t helping. They knew it was going to be a hard night for them in many places, but Labour’s strategy to “send a message to Boris” didn’t work quite well. Labour was an interesting party before Starmer, and no one within the party can stand him: some say he’s too stiff, some want the party to move to the left (as it should be)… They are in a complicated moment, because they know the Tories are doing very bad but instead of people shifting from blue to red, it’s Conservative voters who are not showing up to vote. Wakefield has shown us that Labour is winning thanks to abstention, is that enough to secure a government in the next general election? That’s the question.
I also loved how the LibDems and the Greens grew in Scotland, which is a different scenario because of the Yes-No dynamic within parties. I remember one candidate I talked to who was running for a pro-independence party while saying further steps into devolution would suit Scotland better than independence. The Scottish Greens are becoming the alternative to the SNP and step by step they will need to clarify whether they want to stay in a comfortable position going hand in hand with the nationalists or begin to draw their own path. I like their local candidates, they’re close to the people and green policies are going to be the future. I don’t like the social liberal current the Greens have in England and Wales, we’ll see how they handle it.
I was surprised to see true socialist candidates within Labour, I think it is no longer the party of the working class and that puts these people between a rock and a hard place, you know, they have to ask voters to elect a Labour councillor and at the same time they need to promise things that go against their leadership’s desires. I met a few Corbynite candidates and others who were more centrist but didn’t like Starmer. His weakness is his own party, he doesn’t have the support of many local branches across Britain. The Conservatives are more intelligent and successful at hiding their internal disagreements.
How do UK and Spanish politics compare, what are the big differences you see?
Everything is different. You have the FPTP system (the STV in Scotland), we have the D’Hondt system. You have single candidates for a ward, we have lists. You can run as an independent, we can’t. Parties in Spain, be it from the right or the left, are still contaminated by some elements from Franco’s dictatorship doctrines. He created this concept of National-Catholicism which was a mixture between ultranationalism and Christian fundamentalism, and you can see that within the main parties. To give you an example, when a regionalist or minor party wants to pass a bill to condemn Francoism and recognise its victims’ right to truth and justice, the two major parties vote against it. During 2014-2016 Spain went through a fragmentation of the political spectrum, which isn’t likely to happen in the UK. Right-wing and left-wing parties were founded, as alternatives to the two-party system. It turns out, Podemos and VOX are the same. VOX is openly Francoist, Podemos is no longer a “revolutionary” party, but a platform for new social democratic elites to jump on board. The debates have lost its sense after the Catalan nationalist parties have shut up to let the Spanish government carry on as if nothing had happened. No one is talking about Catalonia anymore. What I like about British politics is that parties are not cults where you have to agree with the leadership, or you get expelled. That happens here. The first time I watched a parliamentary session it was very weird to look at Conservative MPs yelling at other Conservative MPs. It surprised me to see members of the cabinet apologising for doing something wrong. Even if it’s just a way to pretend they care, I’ve never seen that happening here. The thing that annoys me the most about Spanish politics is the fact you must belong to a political party to stand for election, even in your municipality! Independent politicians don’t have a say.
Spain is a centralised country. The system of Autonomies is a mess, it was done to prevent the Basques and Catalans from seeking independence and to create that image of a united Spain, which doesn’t exist. Galician people have to comply with the wishes of second-homes’ owners from Madrid, an elite that comes here to spend holidays and that still think they can do whatever they want. It happens in Wales and Cornwall, so that’s a thing we share. England has their own national team. Wales has another one and so on. Spain silences every part of the country that doesn’t want centralisation. If you ask for a little bit of autonomy, you’re a radical far left terrorist. Conservative MPs would be called that in Spain by some parties, others would call them fascists. I often say devolution works better despite having less powers transferred that those of the Autonomies in Spain: you are happy being British and even Scottish and Welsh nationalists don’t want to leave the Union because of identitarianism, but because of a different conception of democracy; we are not patriotic because being so means complying with a Post-Francoist idea of Spain that only benefits the same families. Spain lives in the past, and I’m not talking about conservatism. Politics in the UK also has many issues that constantly change from time to time. Brexit wasn’t even a word in the 1990s, Scottish nationalism is quite young, things change. The reason I’m tired of Spanish politics is because there’s no debate anymore. Some years ago there was a parliamentary discussion about how an MP had called another one a “terrorist”, the level has come to those types of debates. The left-wing in Spain is useless, in fact my theory is that it doesn’t exist a single left-wing party. There are really good individuals within the main parties, like Margallo (PP) or Pérez Tapias (PSOE) but they stay in the background. There are a few parties that deserve international attention: like Canarian Coalition, the CUP or the coalition between the PP and the Navarrese People’s Union, which is called Navarra Suma.
You don’t have those in the UK. As for types of parties we’ve never seen here, I would say something like the English Democrats, the Scottish Greens or the exctinct Independent Labour Party. Those are “national phenomenons”.
Do you have any predictions for the next few years in UK politics?
Well, I’m not an expert but I think really interesting events are coming: a general election in which many MPs will lose their seats, a Scottish independence referendum in 2023 (at least that’s Sturgeon’s plan), and the fights within the main parties. Johnson is completely lost, he should resign if he wants his party not to suffer a “bloodiness” of Tory seats. This is not an opinion, it’s a fact. Starmer will face many problems due to what I said before, locally he doesn’t have a strong support. He’s the worst Labour politician I’ve seen. We’ll see what happens.
What’s next for your interviews and blog?
I’ll probably wait until the general election to publish more interviews. My intention is to do the same I did during the local election campaign. I’ll try to get as many as I can. Labour will be able to gain many seats they lost in 2019, so I’m going to try to concentrate my interviews in the two major parties. I would like to be a moderator in an online hustings, that way I could compare all the perspectives. That would be nice, but if it can’t be done, I’ll keep on publishing interviews the same way.
Reform UK the successor to The Brexit Party is standing candidates in May’s local elections. We spoke with Chris Scott who is standing for them in the Horley Central and South Ward of Reigate & Banstead Council.
Chris thank-you for your time.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your party?
Like my friend and Reigate colleague, Joe Fox (standing in South Park and Woodhatch Ward), I’m a retired, septuagenarian grandfather. Born and having lived in beautiful Surrey all my adult life, I nevertheless spent most of my childhood in Africa. My wife and I have two surviving children and four surviving grandchildren. We live on the North Downs with our pets: currently an old cat and a young Ridgeback bitch. Apart from walking the dog on country footpaths, my leisure interests include minor car maintenance and home DIY, tending our garden (though I’m no gardener!), photography and classical music.
I travelled widely in my career as an airline pilot. Having spent many years flying European Airbuses, facilitated by courses at Toulouse, I remain a strong proponent of Anglo-European cooperation. However, it’s easily forgotten that the UK was making wings for Airbus before we joined the EEC, and the Anglo-French Concorde was conceived in the 1960s.
In 1975, I voted for the UK to remain in the then EEC, but Brussels’s handling of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 led me to increasing scepticism of our EU membership. A lifelong Tory voter, by 2015 I was also disillusioned with that party’s abandonment of conservatism. I became a UKIP activist in time for the 2015 General Election, from which the party emerged with only one parliamentary seat in return for more national votes than the LibDems and SNP combined. Nevertheless, UKIP’s long campaign forced David Cameron to make and honour his manifesto promise of a referendum.
After the referendum, UKIP became increasingly rudderless and I resigned early in 2019, joining The Brexit Party. Within months, we had won the European elections and forced a change of Prime Minister, despite having no representation at Westminster. Our standing down of all candidates against Tory incumbents allowed Boris Johnson to win an 80-seat majority at the general election that December on the promise of Brexit.
Boris’s deeply-flawed Withdrawal Agreement, which has left us subject to decisions by European judges and living in a dis-United Kingdom, was signed by both sides in January 2020. The resulting recall of our MEPs from Europe led to many of them leaving the party and active politics to pursue other interests. Although Brexit was and remains far from complete, the party’s name was no longer appropriate and, in 2021, we were relaunched as Reform UK to emphasise the task of challenging the cosy two-party system at Westminster and the electoral system that perpetuates it.
Reform UK’s national policies are radically different from those of the present government, which today is neither conservative nor libertarian. The Tory leadership has increasingly embraced socially-Marxist ideals and globalism, which undermine our heritage and the concept of the nation-state.
We were and are strongly opposed to authoritarian lockdowns and vaccination mandates in the event of a pandemic, and advocate an NHS that protects the people, not the reverse.
We regard the present energy policies, particularly net-zero and reliance on unreliable wind and solar, as economically suicidal and globally ineffectual. They are already creating financial hardship for decent, hard-working people.
On immigration, we oppose priority being given, in effect, to economic migrants who arrive illegally over genuine applicants.
We would cancel HS2, primarily an inter-city vanity project and costly in terms of money and adverse effects on householders and the countryside. Rail links elsewhere need instead to be improved.
You’re standing in the Horley Central and South Ward, can you introduce the ward to us and what you can bring to the area?
It may seem odd that I’m standing in a Horley ward at the south-eastern extremity of the Borough, while living at the other end. I can’t claim to know Horley well, although I was based at nearby Gatwick for 21 years. The reason is that I’m the Reform UK spokesperson for East Surrey and, due to the vagaries of parliamentary and local-government boundaries, residents of the Horley Central & South ward of the Reigate & Banstead borough find themselves in the East Surrey parliamentary constituency instead of Reigate. My friend and colleague, Joseph Fox, represents Reform UK in Reigate, and is standing in the Southfields and Woodhatch ward.
Reform UK’s local policies include protecting green spaces from housing developments, and ensuring the latter include provision for the extra load on local infrastructure, transport, schooling and medical facilities. We would promote the revitalisation of high-streets with free parking and cuts to business rates, as well as encouraging more housing in town centres.
Horley town centre is certainly in need of regeneration, though well served by its railway station. There is some light industry, based mainly near the railway line. The residential areas include apartment blocks near town, becoming less crowded and leafier further out.
My individual aspirations, since banging on doors in the ward, include the provision of at least one more recreation ground – preferably east of the Balcombe Road – for residents of all ages to stretch their legs or relax. I would keep a close eye on unsuitable developments affecting residents and threatening green spaces. Other issues will no doubt come to my attention during the remaining fortnight before the election.
More widely what would you like to see change at Reigate & Banstead Council and across the borough?
Throughout the borough, the scale of fly-tipping is increasing and, in my opinion, this is being encouraged by hefty charges at the Earlswood recycling centre and elsewhere, even for the kind of waste that is produced by routine home maintenance. The Surrey County Council takes that revenue. The Borough, on the other hand, has to collect rubbish from streets and verges. Meanwhile, farmers and others have the expense and potential hazard of removing it from their land.
Further, I’m astonished that, given the current, post-pandemic advice from central government, the Town Hall in Reigate has only partially reopened to the public, closing at 2 pm. Worse than that, it’s evident that the majority of its business is being conducted by staff still working from their homes. This represents a failure of leadership in the Town Hall. As a council tax-payer, I’ve written to them for an explanation and look forward to the response.
With the Tories currently in charge – and, in Horley Central & South, three councillors out of three – it’s time to elect someone with a fresh and critical perspective to challenge their complacency.
How can people find out more or get in touch if they want to get involved?