We were once told ‘the future is orange’ but Ukip’s new candidate for Eastleigh, Patricia Culligan, predicts it will be purple in 2015.
Last week the businesswoman and mum of three was selected by Eastleigh Ukip members to go one better than Diane James in the 2013 by-election when Ukip came a close second.
At the time James said she would be back to contest Eastleigh in the 2015 General Election so it was a surprise when she withdrew from the selection process.
James,who is now also a South East Regional MEP and the Ukip Home affairs spokesman, released a public statement saying
“There are some extremely strong candidates locally, who have a far better claim to represent the people of Eastleigh than I do.”
But in the event Eastleigh’s Ukip’rs chose Culligan, another Surrey resident, over Fair Oak county councilor and local man Martin Lyons.
Mrs. Culligan told me “I don’t want to people to think I’m some rich bitch from Surrey who has been parachuted in” and was anxious to stress that although she didn’t actually live in the area she was still close – five minutes from the Hampshire border -and she had good local business connections having previously worked here.
A Redhill postcode didn’t seem to dent her predecessor’s prospects at all and in any case Culligan said she also had experience of Crewe – which is also a former railway town.
“But Eastleigh is nicer… I’m so looking forward to moving here.”
Earlier in the year Nigel Farage had also been mooted as a potential candidate for Eastleigh after he hinted he was looking at a seat in Hampshire, as was Ray Finch who was previously the candidate here in 2010 and is now an MEP and County councilor.
Culligan strongly denied that the withdrawal of Ukip ‘big hitters’ meant that Ukip thought that this a ‘target seat’ they could no longer win following their failure to take any of the council’s wards from the Lib Dems in last May’s local elections.
Culligan said that Farage was always going to stand in Thanet and said she was serious about winning Eastleigh.
As she is sixth on the Ukip MEP list, if Farage wins a seat in in the General Election along with Janice Atkinson, Diane James or Ray Finch they would have to resign from the EU Parliament and Culligan would become a South East MEP by default (a situation she describes as ‘a win-win for Eastleigh’ ) but she said she is not prepared to simply sit and wait for that to happen – she is, she says, determined to represent Eastleigh at Westminster.
Culligan was born and educated in Manchester attending the central grammar school and obtaining a degree in literature and history at Manchester University.
She says she is in favour of selective education describing her own grammar school experience as “a wonderful ladder from a very ordinary humble background.”
University tuition fees should be scrapped, she said, to allow access but believed there was a place for non-vocational degrees.
Previous Ukip policy documents on education have suggested that free university education would mean fewer places and Culligan said there should be the “right number of places” but added that fee paying overseas students – an important source of revenue for universities – should still have access to higher education in the UK.
Culligan said she had worked in ‘millions of jobs’ but her experience as a doorstep seller and as a TV presenter on a home shopping channel will surely stand her in good stand on the campaign trail.
A Ukip member told me that the local party had been impressed with her presentation skills at the selection husting’s and during her interview with Eastleigh News she was able to maintain a steady stream of sound bites.
When Ukip held a rally at Fleming Park last May, Culligan had been the ‘warm up act’ for Diane James and Nigel Farage and her speech on the theme ‘Ukip welcomes immigrants’ – a surprising twist on the chants of the protestors outside the venue – had gone down well with the audience.
I asked Culligan if she could clarify her position on immigration and she said Ukip welcomes:
“All migrants, wherever they’re from, whatever their creed, whatever their colour – it’s irrelevant – as long as they are coming to Britain to integrate, to contribute via a points based system and not en masse, unregulated and not just from Europe alone.
I believe in worldwide immigration so we get the skilled people that we need and we can accept other people – we’ve got a demographic issue for the future- we are aware of that – but it is so uncontroversial to have a points based system that is used successfully in so many other countries.
That’s all that Ukip wants. We should have that anyway, but of course it’s impossible if we remain members of the European Union because they control our borders – we don’t control them. Therefore any number of migrants will come to this country and have complete parity of demand on all of our services.
You don’t have to be genius to see that’s just something a small island like Britain cannot sustain in terms of a decent quality of lifestyle for everybody here now. “
She currently co-runs her own business with her husband serving the oil and gas industry so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she opposes government subsidies to wind farms but nevertheless says she believes that private sector green energy initiatives have a role in an integrated energy strategy.
“Ukip are not against green issues but we are not prepared to throw a lot of money away on wind farms which should be erected by entrepreneurs willing to take the risk.”
Culligan says that although not previously politically active – she has been a member of Ukip for two years – she used to vote Labour and believes she can connect with Labour supporters in Eastleigh who share her disillusionment with the direction the party embarked on with ‘New Labour’.
In Eastleigh in previous elections, the Liberal Democrats have successfully relied on squeezing the Labour vote ‘to keep the Tories out’.
Culligan thinks there are still wavering labour supporters in the town that can be won over to the Ukip cause – interestingly there are signs the Lib Dems will be squeezing both the Labour and Conservative vote ‘to keep Ukip out’.
Culligan said she was a strong believer in ‘social justice’ and had experience as a qualified social worker and probation officer.
If elected she said she would be happy to work with the Borough’s current Lib Dem administration because an MP represent all the people of Eastleigh “not just those who voted for you.”
Although campaign manifestoes have not yet been published Mrs. Culligan said she expected the Ukip manifesto would have:
“A commitment to making sure that everybody has a decent lifestyle in the UK – wherever they are from, that matters an awful lot to me.”
Here is the full audio interview with Patricia Culligan: