Politique.com interviewed Gerard Batten, a senior political leader and UKIP (UK Independence Party) MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for London. The interview highlights several political themes that UKIP supports with such as Brexit, migrants, student fees, Islam, UK deindustrialization, and international political issues.
Gerard Batten: It would free the City to look outward to the world, as British trade and commerce did so successfully for hundreds of years before we joined the EU in 1972. The finance industry is now controlled by the EU by means of six Directives passed at the end of 2010 (and supported by Conservative MEPs). The City might have to comply with EU legislation inside the EU but not outside, and most of our profitable international trade is with the outside world not the EU. The City would thrive free of the shackles of the EU.
Politique.com: What is your opinion concerning the EDL and the BNP. Do you consider they could represent a large pool of votes for the UKIP?
Gerard Batten: The EDL was never a political party and did not have votes to win. The BNP has been steadily declining since 2009 and is now effectively finished. UKIP has always taken votes from all sections of the population.
Politique.com: Calais migrants are a recurring topic in France. What would be, in your opinion, the best solution to deal with the thousands of migrants (between 4000 and 10 000 according to sources)
Gerard Batten: The best solution for the UK is to control its own borders and ensure that these people cannot enter British territory. The French have allowed this problem to arise and just want to offload the problem onto the UK. It is up to them how they control their own borders.
Politique.com: How could the UK stop deindustrialization (eg. closure of Kellingley pit) and regain a new competitive advantage?
Gerard Batten: By leaving the EU we would free ourselves from the EU Directives that prevent us taking unilateral action. Before the last steel plant shut down the Government was paralysed because it had to consult the European Commission before it could take any action. Needless to say this did not happen anyway.
There may be a case for subsidising some key industries, but that is a decision a sovereign British government and parliament should have the freedom to make. EU law prevents us from doing that which is another reason why we need to leave.
Politique.com: Could you explain why you earned the third largest vote share and only one seat in the House of Commons at the 2015 general election?
Gerard Batten: That is very easily explained by our first-past-the-post voting system. FPTP is only suited to a two-party political system, or three at a pinch. But we now have a multi-party system. I have for many years been in favour of some form of proportional representation for parliamentary and local elections.
What the results do demonstrate is that UKIP wins votes on a broad basis across the UK whereas Labour support tends to be concentrated in urban areas and Tory support concentrated in the shires.
Politique.com: The cost of fees for students in London are still high in 2015, more than £15,000 for a master student and more than £5000 for a bachelor student. What would be your solution to help students in terms of payment/job access/ pay-back facilities?
Gerard Batten: The UKIP Manifesto for the last General Election addressed this issue. UKIP policy is for students taking degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine would not have to repay their tuition fees. UKIP would also look to extend the number of such subjects.
I think that it is a scandal to saddle students with massive debts when they leave university; especially as they cannot now afford somewhere to live because of the demand on housing.
Politique.com: What is your political analysis of the recent results of the Front National in the regional elections of October 2015? How do you interpret the fact that the French Socialist Party decided to ask its voters to vote for the right wing candidates (“Les Républicains”) to avoid the victory of the Front National in the 2d round when it was confronted to a traditional right wing contender?
Gerard Batten: This was a totally cynical exercise by the republican and socialist parties and showed their utter contempt for the voters. The election was not about what those parties are supposed to believe in and stand for, but rather an unprincipled stitch-up to ensure that the Front National did not win. That about sums up what the Europe-wide political establishment now stands for – nothing it can sell to the voters at large, but rather just hanging on to their own positions and power.
Politique.com: In local elections in 2014, UKIP won 163 seats, an increase of 128, bud did not manage to take the control of any council. In the same way, the new strategy of the Front National since the beginning of 2010 is to strengthen its local presence and not only focus on national issues. Do you pursue the same strategy?
Gerard Batten: In the past UKIP’s focus has been national but we have had a lot of success in winning local council seats in recent years. We are focusing more on local elections and we expect to see more gains in future elections.
We have been spectacularly successful in European Parliamentary elections, coming first in 2014; and of course we became the third party in British politics in last Mays’ general election. And don’t forget that the only reason we are having a referendum on EU membership is because of the sustained and growing UKIP electoral threat.
Politique.com: Chronologically, you gained 11 MEPs out of a total of 24 in the 2014 European Parliament election. Then you had your first elected MP with Douglas Conswell winning the seat of Clacton and who kept it in the 2015 General Election during which UKIP also took control of Thanet District Council and saw its share of the vote rise to 13% nationally. What are your expectations for the next Shire district council elections?
Gerard Batten: As a UKIP’s London MEP I am not involved in the shire elections, but as I said before we expect to do well and win more seats.
Politique.com: What is your point of view on the results of the SNP in the last general elections? Do you think it is a strong trend? Or a Lib-Dem-like score?
Gerard Batten: Here I will give a purely personal view and depart from UKIP policy. I found it astounding that having voted to stay in the UK with their referendum the Scots then elected 56 SNP MPs out of a total of 59 in the general election. It seems the Scots want to have their cake and eat it. The proof of the pudding will be seen in the Scottish Parliamentary elections this May. If the Scots vote in an SNP majority then I cannot see how that can be interpreted as anything other than a vote to leave the UK.
The danger that faces the rest of the UK is that in the coming EU referendum the Scots may vote to remain in the EU while the English vote to leave. We could possible see a situation where the UK is expected to remain in the EU on a slim majority accounted for by Scottish votes. That would be totally unacceptable to the English.
If that happens then in my view Scotland should leave the UK; that way Scotland can remain in the EU while England can leave.
Politique.com: Would you consider the Canadian system as relevant when dealing with immigration?
Gerard Batten: I am not familiar with the Canadian system, but for years since I was the UKIP immigration policy spokesman I have advocated an Australian points based system that allows us to have a controlled, limited and selective immigration system.
Politique.com: In the UKIP newspaper “the OUT POST”, Steven Woolf MEP, UKIP Migration spokesman expressed deep concern about the effect the inexorable rise of immigration is having on public services in Britain: “Our public services cope with more than a million illegal migrants who have disappeared into the black economy […] we have to provide schools and healthcare for hundreds of thousands of children migrants”. How the UK could change laws to ensure a stable situation?
Gerard Batten: England is the first or second most densely populated country in Europe, and one of the most densely populated countries in the world. We simply cannot absorb a third of a million net population gain every year due to uncontrolled immigration. This puts an unbearable and unsustainable strain on our national infrastructure.
While we are members of the EU we cannot control our borders or immigration system. By leaving we can regain control and implement a controlled immigration and system.
Politique.com: What is your opinion on Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) who are running for the London Mayoral Election 2016?
Gerard Batten: Well I won’t be voting for either of them. I don’t want Labour’s policies of international socialism, and I won’t be voting for a billionaire’s son who has never had to work in the real world. We need a London Mayor who understands the lives of ordinary people and UKIP has of course an excellent Mayoral candidate in Peter Whittle and I will be backing him.
Politique.com: The UK’s planned in-out referendum is planned for Thursday 23 June 2016. Do you think the recent migration trends and the terrorist attacks in Paris (13 November) in which a Syrian migrant participated could be a warning for Britons (40% were ready to leave the EU in 2015) enabling them to be more aware of what being a member of the EU actually involves?
Gerard Batten: I think that the consequences of uncontrolled immigration will indeed bring home to voters what membership of the EU actually means to them personally.
Politique.com: What sort of relationships do you have with Ms. Joelle Bergeron (member of the ELDD) and what is your opinion concerning the Front National?
Gerard Batten: I don’t know the lady. I agree with some of the things that the Front National stand for. They defend their own country and are standing up against mass uncontrolled immigration into France, and they oppose fundamentalist Islam. Who can disagree with that?
Politique.com: 10 days ago, Mr. Carswell told the BBC that UKIP needed “a fresh face” as a leader and called for UKIP to become a party that is not seen as “unpleasant” and “socially illiberal”. What do you think about that? What changes do you think are needed now?
Gerard Batten: I don’t know what he is talking about. UKIPPERs are actually very liberal in the real meaning of the word. We represent the tried and tested values of our country, tolerance, freedom under the law (our law), and a sense of national identity; we want to restore our national independence and the supremacy of English law. I don’t what is ‘unpleasant’ about that. Douglas is fairly new to UKIP so maybe he doesn’t quite get it yet.
UKIP is now entering the most important phase of its 22 year existence – to fight and win the referendum on EU membership. Nigel is the best spokesman on that subject in Britain today and he must lead UKIP during that campaign. If UKIP ever wants a ‘fresh face’ I don’t think Douglas is it; he is too much of a free-market Tory for my taste, and I think for most UKKIPERs. UKIP needs to replace Labour as the party of the patriotic, hard-working classes.
Politique.com: Three words to explain why it is relevant to leave the EU as soon as possible?
Gerard Batten: To choose freedom!