At a public meeting in Eastleigh, UKIP MEP candidate Diane James has said that the Liberal Democrats are “talking nonsense” and has explained why she thinks that the Conservatives will not deliver an in/out referendum in 2017.
The meeting, which was organised by UKIP’s Eastleigh branch and was staged at The Pavillion on the Park, was an opportunity for MEP candidates Diane James and Barry Connor to speak about the forthcoming EU elections.
Diane James made a point of speaking warmly with everybody in the room [approx 40 people] before the meeting started, not just her friends from Eastleigh UKIP but all of the members of the public who were there too.
In her speech, Diane James highlighted some Lib Dem and Conservative leaflets which had dropped through the letterbox at her home in Waverley. Mrs James explained;
“This is probably the 38th speech that I’ve given and I make an absolute point of never giving the same speech more than once.”
“What I felt I would like to do this evening, is do a real critique of the other two political parties. Because they’ve been on the attack now since effectively March.”
“We’re very, very good at UKIP. We’re very courteous, we’re very diplomatic. We don’t go on the attack as much as the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives do. We haven’t got a team of 1500-1600 individuals ploughing through all of the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts out there. We’re playing politics as it should be played, which is a series of good speeches, getting close to voters like yourselves and really talking about the issues that EU membership actually means.”
“First let’s have a look at some of the stuff that has been coming out in my neck of the woods.”
“This came from the Liberal Democrats earlier in the week. I’ve got a suggestion for a new title for them. Rather than ‘Lets Talk’, how about ‘Lets Talk Nonsense’ because this quite frankly, despite the fact that a lot of the ‘facts’ that they try to include here were shown up in the Nigel Farage /Nick Clegg debate as being without foundation, as being rubbish, as being almost fairy stories…
…its being repeated in this leaflet.”
“But what really made me really smile was two things. On the penultimate page, Catherine Bearder [MEP] talked about how she is personally, personally this is, going to stop the 745 MEPs who transfer from Brussels to Strasbourg for one week every month. She is personally going to do this…”
“Somehow, somebody at Liberal Democrat HQ, didn’t remind her or didn’t tell her that precisely this subject was discussed in February. Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight member states and their MEPs voted in favour of this [i.e. to stop the travelling] and France used their veto…”
“So talk about this is not only out of date, but also absolute rubbish…”
Eastleigh News checked and found that Catherine Bearder has been campigning to stop the EU travelling circus for some time. There was a vote in the European Parliament on 20th November 2013, with MEPs voting by 483 to 141 (with 34 abstentions) in favour of the Parliament having a single seat. Although the European Parliament and the current MEPs clearly support the idea of a single seat, that requires a change to the treaty, which requires the agreement of all 28 member states of the European Council. We have not (yet) been able to find any formal record of a discussion at the European Council and a French veto in February 2014.
Diane James continued;
“On the very back page, they put ‘EU membership prevents aerospace companies from paying crippling import taxes. This would mean that companies like Surrey Satellite Technology, which employs over 500 people, could be forced to relocate’.”
“Big error. ”
“My husband was Deputy Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology until a few months ago…”
“So what did I do. I put this brochure in front of him, and said ‘Darling, would you mind having a chat please?’ ”
“Lets put it this way, there was quite a profound, robust, shouting at, for the Liberal Democrats, to say first of all have the courtesy to contact the company and secondly, and this a big fault that the Liberal Democrats make continuously, get the facts right! Because everything that they stated in that short paragraph had no foundation whatsoever…”
Having finished with the Lib Dems, Diane James then moved on to the Conservatives. Talking about another leaflet that had dropped through her letterbox in Waverley, she said;
“This is David Cameron’s secret weapon. An ‘in/out’ referendum on Europe. According to David, ‘Labour and the Lib Dems won’t, UKIP can’t and apparently ‘we will in 2017’.”
“Well if he’s going to do it in 2017, why didn’t he do it back in 2009 when he promised it then..? And what’s the attraction of 2017…?”
“Well let me give you some thoughts Ladies & Gentlemen.”
“The last six months of 2017, David Cameron if he is Prime Minister, if there is a majority Conservative Government and if of course he is still focused on delivering an in/out referendum, he will also be hosting all of the European Union representatives. Because that 6 month period is when the United Kingdom takes over the Presidency.’
“Now I ask you. If you’re the Prime Minister of the country, even if it’s another coalition, and you’re inviting all of these individuals who want to grandstand, pontificate and really tell the United Kingdom how fantastic the European Union is, do you really think he is going to deliver that pledge..?”
“I don’t think so. I really don’t.”
“It was interesting on the interviews that were conducted yesterday, when he was at JCB, he just doesn’t come across as serious.”
“And one of the interviewees at the end, in answer to James Landale’s question said ‘I don’t trust the guy’. That’s exactly how an awful lot of voters feel.”
“I’ll just also remind you. When David Cameron was asked by a leading International Newspaper, El Pais, back in 2012 ‘Will you give the United Kingdom the opportunity to leave the European Union?’ and ‘Do you believe it should leave the European Union?’, do you know what he said Ladies & Gentlemen. ‘I will not’ and ‘I do not believe.’ ”
“Now if on one hand he’s telling you that he will give voters in 2017 a referendum, but he’s then saying that….”
“It’s a bit like a General saying ‘look troops I want you to go and fight that battle over there’. And then once they’ve set off, racing round to the enemy and saying ‘ Here’s the battle plan, now just sort it out and make sure you deflect the battle when it comes to you…’
Eastleigh News has checked this too. There is this English translation of an El Pais interview with David Cameron in April 2013, in which the Prime Minister is reported as saying that he would not honour an ‘out’ vote and the best solution is for Britain to stay in a reformed EU, but the translation is questionable. We have not been able to find exactly the question & answer that Diane James referred to in her speech.
Diane James didn’t mention the Labour party in her critique, concentrating only on the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, but she continued by returning to a point that she raised in the launch event on Monday evening, saying;
“What we’re hoping is that after tonight, you’ll be going out as ambassadors for us, and talking about the messages that we’ve put across this evening. “
“There are three very distinct positions out there. UKIP has the position of we want out. Labour and the Liberal Democrats want in. The Conservative party are absolutely schizophrenic about this. Half of them want to back David Cameron and stay in the European Union and then there’s the half that want to come out.”
“David Cameron thinks he can convince people like you that by staying in he can deliver a renegotiated membership and real change.”
“How many times does he have to be told by European Commissioners, by Angela Merkel, that there is no possibility of renegotiation. None whatsoever.”
“So we have a problem. Because he is trying to present, in terms of our membership of the European Union, that we can influence what is happening.”
“Back in 1975 when we joined yes we could have done. There’s no doubt in my mind. We then had nearly 30% of the Parliamentarians, MEPs. We had double the amount of people working in the European Commission. We had two Commissioners. We had all sorts of clout, but we don’t have that clout any more.”
“You’ve got to decide who in terms of the representatives you send, are likely to deliver the best outcome for this country”
“And the best outcome, there’s only one party that is putting that message up. That is UKIP. And the message is we have to leave.”
Also speaking this evening was MEP candidate Barry Connor, who had travelled all the way form Buckingham to speak in Eastleigh. You can listen to his full speech here;
After the speeches, there was a question and answer session with the audience. Both MEP candidates took part and both had the problem of questions getting into the fine detail of UKIP policy. With one line of questioning threatening to force the candidates to make up policy on the hoof, Diane James regained control by explaining their difficulty, promising to engage with the questioner by email and checking with the rest of the audience if they were happy with that proposal. Which everybody was…
After the meeting I spoke to Diane James briefly, about the rise of euroscepticism across Europe. I asked if it was widespread across the whole of Europe. She replied;
Quite clearly there are certain countries where it is more evident. France, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece all have their UKIP equivalents. What’s interesting is that Spain, Italy and Portugal haven’t yet got a UKIP equivalent with quite the same profile.
I asked if the new European Parliament could have a eurosceptic majority after the elections later this month, to which Diane James replied;
Yes. Some of the forecasts I’ve been following in the last few days are all talking of a minimum of 40% of the new cohort of MEPs representing eurosceptic parties. Typically, it’s the last three weeks of the campaign when most of the parties such as UKIP see some sort of surge. So if that surge were to take place as has happened in previous years, I think there’s a very good chance we could see 45, 47 maybe even breach that 50% level. And that’s going to have a fundamental impact on the European Parliament.
Would we recognise the European Parliament if that happened…?
When it comes down to it, what it will change is the level of support/agreement to directives, regulations and such that are voted on in the European Parliament, that’s going to be very interesting for the European Commission to recognise and react to, because they’ve never had that before. If all of a sudden they see some laws, regulations, directives being sent back to them with a ‘think again’ type message. That’s what I think is going to be the difference this time around.
Are UKIP looking forward to having a few more friends in Brussels…?
I believe so. Nigel has been playing it absolutely the right way. We do not need to indicate who we will form an alliance with until after the election.
There’s no reason, although the overtures are being made by various European parties. We don’t need to do anything about that.
I think it’s a very sensible approach to say lets review in the week after the European elections outcome, what the profile of the Parliament looks like, what alliances are going to best deliver what the United Kingdom needs. There are alliances to be done.
With the President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rumpoy, both reaching the end of their terms of office later this year, I asked Diane James if she had any thoughts on their replacement.
I don’t doubt that when Van Rompuy came for dinner with David Cameron recently, that was probably discussed…