Friday, January 22, 2010

The Lord Pearson Interview

Earlier on this month I spent an hour and a half interviewing the new leader of UKIP, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for the latest IN CONVERSATION interview in Total Politics. The magazine comes out today and you can read the full interview HERE. Lord Pearson is nothing if not honest. He...

  • Calls Nigel Farage a 'thoroughbred' and describes himself as a'carthorse
  • Describes what went on with Lord Strathclyde and the referendum offer
  • Hints that Stratchclyde was all in favour of accepting
  • Refuses to guarantee that Better Off Out members won't have UKIP candidates against them
  • Admits to needing (and having) media training
  • Reveals he has invited Geert Wilders to speak at a conference in March

ID: So what on earth made you decide to stand for leadership of UKIP?
LP: There was quite a lot of arm-twisting from a number of leading people within the party and from several of the major donors.

Because you haven't actually been in the party that long... No, I have only been in the party a couple of years because before that I sat as an Independent Conservative after being sacked from the Conservative Party in great disgrace.

How much of a wrench was it to leave? I was always a rebel. I said I would be loyal to Margaret Thatcher and I remained loyal to her, but that wasn't the same thing as being loyal to Mr Major. I'd been the most rebellious backbench peer in the Lords and when I was sacked for suggesting people should lend their vote to UKIP in the European elections, it was actually a great relief. I have always been a bit of a maverick, so I'm afraid it didn't trouble me at all. I kept my personal friends in the party, not that there's very many of them.

It's slightly ironic though, isn't it, because the Conservative Party is more eurosceptic now than it has ever been?
The Conservative Party, the leadership, isn't nearly eurosceptic enough. The project of European integration, as originally envisaged by Monnet, is complete and everyone knows that. Cameron is simply not telling the truth when he pretends a sovereignty act to prevent further losses of sovereignty to Brussels is meaningful. I think they know he's talking nonsense when he says he can reclaim various powers from Brussels.

But surely he would only be misleading people if there was no further sovereignty to secede to Brussels but there clearly is? What further sovereignty?

Economics and taxation for example.
Well they've got that if they want it.

Well, they don't have the power to raise taxes.
I believe they do. You only have to look at their use of Article 308 [allows EU Council to act on a proposal with extra powers], which they have been using since the French and Dutch rejection of the original constitution, to do anything they wanted, in fact.

But under that Article everything has to happen unanimously. A British prime minister can veto it.
He can, but the British government has not been vetoing it.

No, but a Conservative government could. Yes, for anything new - not what's already been done. Don't forget our old friend the ratchet - the Aquis Communitaire [EU law made so far]. Our position is they don't need anything new now and even if they were to, they are already talking about raising tax and I'm not aware that either Cameron or any of the established parties have screamed about that.

So if all that is true then basically the game's up - what's the point of UKIP?
Because the only way out is the door and the point of UKIP is, in the next general election campaign, to try and inform the public more precisely about why we are in this position. The people have got the point about why this has gone seriously wrong. Even the lawyers and the accountants in the City of London have now got the point. They never cared about the fishermen or any other industries that have been damaged, sometimes to the point of extinction, by our membership of the European Union. But they have now got the point because of the Hedge Fund Directive. People are beginning to see clearly what this project has always been about.

Isn't part of the problem though that you can wax lyrical about Section 308 of the Treaty of Rome or the Hedge Fund Directive all you like, but you've actually got to appeal to people's hearts and minds? Isn't the problem with UKIP that it looks less like the rest of the British people?
Well, that's not what the latest opinion polls would tell you. A large majority of people wish to go back to free trade and friendly collaboration with the European Union. If you ask a slightly different question - do you want to come out? - then that's more frightening. In the general election campaign we are simply going to deliver two messages that are incredibly simple. One is that your democracy has removed your right to elect and dismiss those who make your laws. We are also going to run another idea which hasn't really been tested in the political world and it runs right alongside getting out of the European Union. The idea is direct democracy, power to the people, the Swiss system of referendums and the Daniel Hannan/Douglas Carswell plan. The British people are fed up with all the regulation that is coming at them from Brussels and, to a certain extent, Westminster.

This is where I think you personally have a problem. I could accept a lot of what you say as could most people if it came from Nigel Farage, but people will have more difficulty taking it from an unelected member of the House of Lords.
I've been elected to the leadership and Nigel's one commitment to me is he will remain the chief party spokesman. He's going to be in charge of media relations and he is our front man with the media. Obviously Nigel's a genius, he's a great man and a great politician and I don't pretend to be. He was a Derby winner. UKIP have now got a sort of carthorse [laughs]. We know that and I accept that and I have said that all the way through the hustings.

But we all know that dual leaderships never work. Nigel will be our spokesperson and obviously if I am called upon because I'm the leader then I will speak. I don't detect people are holding my background against me and if they are then there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to apologise. I'm not going to resign from White's Club. I'm not going to stop shooting and stalking and I'm going to carry on because I never wanted to be a politician. I have always said I'm not a politician and I'm not and I can't pretend otherwise. And so I make gaffes, I talk about the 'disband' word when what I meant was get together and fight. I've accused the Muslims of breeding ten times faster than us when what I really meant was their population is going up and so on. I've made mistakes and I will probably make more. I try and do better but that's where we are.

Do you not think though that you might be seen as the Ming Campbell of UKIP?
Possibly. I am 67 years old. I have never been much involved in party politics. I've done a bit of canvassing but that's all, so therefore when I look at the structure of a political party I have to learn as I go along. The trouble with UKIP is that its success has outgrown its infrastructure and that needs putting right. Now that's not Nigel's scene. He's not an organisation chart man. He's a political genius and a brilliant man. Organisation charts are not his strong point and he's very happy to leave that to me.

The party itself historically has been a shambles hasn't it, organisationally?
I wouldn't dare use that expression but it has certainly not been very well organised. Our communications have been bad. People have been learning things in the press that they ought to have known about in advance. A proper organisation chart and proper communication is not difficult and we are going to do that. We will have a more efficient fighting machine.

But isn't part of the problem that to do any of what you just said, which is obviously necessary, you have to have money and UKIP has not got the money to do it. In fact, it's got to pay back £360,000.
We have that covered already and I will try and raise more money for the rest of it. One of the reasons I stood for leadership was that I thought, as leader, I would be better able to raise money. As leader, I would be able to raise the sort of money we need or would be more likely to be able to than if one of the other candidates had become leader. When I stood for leadership I didn't have a single enemy. But as leader of course one is bound to make a few. Such as those who find it an anathema that David Willoughby de Broke and I made the offer to the Conservatives which was: Give us a binding referendum on an agreed wording on our membership in the European Union and we will make sure you are in a position to deliver.

I thought the offer was on the Lisbon Treaty?
No, never! Lisbon Treaty was always a red herring really.

You couldn't have seriously expected the Conservatives to accept that. Wasn't that just a bit of trouble-making? No, not at all. Our position in the European Union is now so desperate, the only way out is the door. It is unthinkable that Cameron will get anything worthwhile in any form of renegotiation.

Fair enough. But all I'm trying to understand is your thought process before you put that offer to Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords. You hadn't cleared this with your party colleagues as such. That is not so. This was, we thought, a settled policy from Nigel. He had the support of the National Policy Committee for it. He'd mentioned it at conference, he'd mentioned it live on the Politics Show and certainly to a large lunch I had attended. He was actually cross-examined at the lunch by Freddie Forsyth, who said: "Nigel, did I get this right - what are you saying?" And Nigel said: "A binding referendum with wording we agree, free vote for the Conservative Party and we will..." Nigel did not say disband. I said disband at the end of the conversation with the lovely Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester. I should never have used that word. Tom [Strathclyde's] answer to us was: "Are you sure you want this referendum because we will have the new prime minister. Presumably we will be in a honeymoon period. You will have the whole Labour and the whole Liberal Democrat machine against you. Ok, you will have the Conservative activists with you..." My reply was: "I couldn't imagine anything better." Fighting an issue against the whole political class would be wonderful.

And then you heard nothing from them?
No, not a squeak. I went back to Tom as he was seeing David Cameron two days later in a one-to-one, and I asked Tom what had happened the next week. He had said: "Oh, it's all too bloody awful" and disappeared. I mean Tom's a lovely man, but he is part of the Conservative leadership apparatus in that sense.

Did you get the impression that Lord Strathclyde was in favour of it?
Well, he thought we might lose [laughs]. He actually said we might lose, and we said we would have trusted the people. So then I asked someone else who sits on the frontbench, who had better remain nameless: "What's happened to this? We have given this offer and absolutely bloody silence?" They said the Norwich North by-election is coming up and the hope is you will fall back to two or three per cent and we can forget it. Well, we got 13 per cent in Norwich North and in fact 43 per cent in some Cambridge council seats that day. But we have heard no more. And since then, we have got our answer because Cameron has ruled out any referendum for five years thereby slapping in the face the whole of that part of the Conservative Party that actually wanted a referendum, even just on Lisbon.

Would you again now stand against every Conservative candidate including the Better Off Out people?
I hope not.

That's the logical thing to do now.
No it wouldn't be. Let's go back to square one. We must start to build in the House of Commons a genuine come out group of MPs so we will not be standing against Philip Davies, Richard Shepherd and Douglas Carswell, although I'm slightly talking out of turn as I haven't had time to clear this with the relevant constituency chairman and parties.

But this is an existing policy, isn't it?
It is existing policy but it is resisted by some people who want to fight absolutely everything. But if we fail to get a referendum then all you can do is to start building people in the Commons. If there's a seat where we don't think we can get in and there is someone who could get in with our support, who will fight for it, when they get in and not be wishywashy Better off Out of it.

What's wishy-washy about that?
How energetic are these people in the Commons? What questions do they put down? Will they actually fight in the House of Commons for Britain to leave?

You're putting another hurdle in front of them, aren't you?
Yes I am. But each constituency is different, each individual is different, each UKIP political party is different and each individual case has to be looked at on its merits. But it is madness if we put up a candidate against Philip Davies and he doesn't get back into the Commons.

What have you learnt from your first few weeks of being leader? You've had a bit of a baptism of fire. The Daily Telegraph has had a go at you. Was there a point when you thought what on earth have I done?
Oh yes, but I think I am over that now. The 'disband' word and 'breeding' weren't very clever, so I have learnt that one word out of place can cover the whole of the picture on a newspaper. So I have to learn to do better and do less badly in future. I am having media training. What that will do I don't know because a lot of people say that I shouldn't be like 'them'.

You will inevitably be compared with Nigel Farage, won't you?
Yes, and it's a great tragedy he's gone. I didn't want him to go. He was overworked with his job in the European Parliament. I tried to stop him going and I wish he had stayed on as leader, but he hasn't and he is now our spokesman. People will make of me what they make of me and I can't change that in any way and I'm not really going to apologise for it.

But do you think you are going to have to curb your predisposition to be completely honest about stuff?
I hope not.

How will you attract votes from the broader left, not just the white working class left?
I think our policies do appeal to the broader left. Nothing will appeal to the intellectual left and the crazy idiotic political class which have been running this country for far too long. But direct democracy definitely appeals. It isn't just Labour voters we have to make sense to. Don't forget the 40 per cent who have given up voting.

As leader will you be inviting Geert Wilders back to this country?
Yeah, I hope he's coming back in early March.

What purpose does that serve?
We want a conference in London attended by the black Christian community; some of the black African bishops who are really living through what violent Islam means, for instance the wonderful Bishop of Jos in Northern Nigeria whose wife was recently publicly raped and dragged through the streets. These are people who can come and really warn what is in store from violent Islam. I want Geert and the black African bishops there and I also want the mild Islamic community there. I hope we will be producing a charter of Muslim understanding which will be an analysis of those verses in the Qur'an which uphold the disgraceful treatment of women and appeal to the Jihadists. I think our leading expression will be 'gender apartheid' and I think this country needs to address it. It needs to address it in cohesion with the vast majority of mild Muslims who at the moment are sitting there not doing very much.

Do you think there is a sort of apartheid operating in this country at the moment in some parts of our cities, where you have essentially got areas that are entirely inhabited by immigrant communities who have not assimilated into our society at all - what do you do about that?
Surely the minority which isn't trying to assimilate is the Muslim community and Sharia law is gender apartheid. It is accepted by all the Muslims and sometimes it takes precedence over British law. We should be teaming up with Peter Tatchell and the gay lobby and the humanist lobby and so on. It's wrong for all of us.

If we meet in a year's time, what will you hope to achieve by then?
We have to go for a complete re-alignment in British politics and I think the first step towards that has to be a hung Parliament. If we can help to achieve that I will feel we have done quite well. Now I know what they say against that, they say Dave needs a very large majority so he can cut public expenditure in a way to save the country. To which I say, I see no sign of Dave even pretending that he's going to do that. He's backing the 50 per cent tax rate, he's backing the tax on bankers and so on and therefore helping to cripple some of the life blood in this country, part of the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] that comes in through the City of London is oxygenated blood and it's madness to kill that. I don't see that he's talking of cutting anything like the amount that must be cut. So I think a hung Parliament will be fine. It will be a first step.

But how would that benefit UKIP?
We would then be free to join up with decent real people, Liberal Democrats in the south west.

And then you will have a more Europhile government than you had before.
Not necessarily.

If there's a hung Parliament, whoever it is will have to govern with the support of the Liberal Democrats who are the most Europhile party in British politics. If they are in a coalition, it's possible Nick Clegg could be foreign secretary.
So what? The people will get angrier...

...oh so you will be trouble-making?
No, it's not. It's answering what the people need. It's providing the only way out of all this which is UKIP at the moment. Conservative activists will agree with you on that and quite a lot of Liberal Democrats in the south west will agree with you, quite a lot of Labour in the north. What else can we do? What else have they left us with? They have turned down an offer where we put our country before our party. They have done the opposite. The people know that, the people aren't stupid. The people are a bloody lot cleverer than the political class now, which is why they should have binding referendums.

You can read the full interview HERE.


Oldrightie said...

Probably the best PM we shall never have. There again................

Robin Horsley said...

Iain the top 'Here' link is linked to your West Ham blog - oops

Unsworth said...

All well and good, but how much of this is his own opinion and how much that of his party?

OldSlaughter said...

Could do with more people of that level of honesty.

Mr Mr said...

Nice to see a real Tory on your Blog for a change Ian.

How refreshing to get away from the blandness of Cameron and Osborne.

Little Black Sambo said...

How refreshing to hear a politician with such a straightforward use of English! But in that he sadly reminded me of Lord Home. And the media may destroy him in the same way.

Anonymous said...

'so what' and thus he dismisses the whole pointlessness of his party.

Vote UKIP and get Labour/ libdems and ever closer union with the EU.

Just because he is a Lord does not mean he has a brain.

Penfold said...

Whoops, isn't Gert Wilders under investigation for xenophobic anti-Muslim commentary by the Dutch Gov?

Unknown said...

so he's off to see the Bishop, the wonderful Bishop of Jos.

neil craig said...

Seems like a thoroughly decent man.

"..hung Parliament. If we can help to achieve that I will feel we have done quite well. Now I know what they say against that, they say Dave needs a very large majority so he can cut public expenditure in a way to save the country. To which I say, I see no sign of Dave even pretending that he's going to do that"

"they" are right that a large majority is needed but it seems to me he is right that there is no sign Cameron intends to do it anyway.

Or does anybody else see such a sign?

Unknown said...

" If they are in a coalition, it's possible Nick Clegg could be foreign secretary."

Lol, I think this is wholly fanciful. I reckon my milkman has more chance of being foreign secretary.

It's amazing how one single rogue poll a while back has totally altered the media narrative.

ukipwebmaster said...

In reply to George; yes:

ukipwebmaster said...

Emily no-mates looks fetching in her burqua!

Rob said...

Excellent interview, Iain & that final paragraph from Lord Pearson is wonderful. So full of passion & insight.

Cameron is badly skewered here - the comment about his failure (& that of his party) to explain how he'll deal with a £178 billion deficit is bang on - & completely demolishes that ridiculous argument that you shouldn't vote UKIP because it'll deny good ol' Dave the power he needs to implement his cost-saving plans. Er, excuse me but WHAT plans?


UKIP's policies - including withdrawal from the EU as a political union (& the tens of billions that would save with which we could begin to pay off our debts), the introduction of a flat tax which would simplify at a stroke a hideously complicated taxation system & save earners in every wage bracket thousands of pounds a year, shaving 1% off GDP & using it to beef up an already criminally under resourced military, & the introduction of direct democracy (as we saw in Switzerland with the popular vote to ban minarets from mosques) are the sort of commonsense policies that the majority of the public are crying out for. These are the kinds of policies that restore trust & faith between public & politicians.

Strange that it would take the alliance of an ex-Tory peer & a party spokesman with the appearance of a used car salesman to light the way. Oh, & if UKIP just added the reintroduction of compulsory national service to their policies I'd be even happier with them than I am already.

Anonymous said...

"...the Conservative Party is more eurosceptic now than it has ever been."
For all I know that may be true of the membership, Iain, but it sure as hell isn't true of the leadership. Mr Montgomerie also came out with this chestnut a few weeks ago. Cameron has ruled out any kind of referendum before the next-election-but-one, and his words on repatriation of powers are those of a weasel. It pains me to say it, but 'those who matter' in the Conservative Party are EU-sceptic only in as much as they think telling us they are sceptics will secure them the election.

Alec Yates said...

Common sense from a real conservative. We have to vote UKIP to bring the Conservative party to its senses again.