“I don’t want people who work for the Civil Service earning £130,000 per year coming on the television, telling me that I’m too fat, I shouldn’t eat chips, I shouldn’t slap my children when they’re naughty.”
Godfrey Bloom has had an eventful year: the women are ‘sluts’ scandal, aiming a rolled-up magazine at journalist Michael Cricks’ head, comments about foreign aid going to ‘bongo bongo land’ and he had the UKIP party whip withdrawn. And that’s not even all of it.
Quite the ‘pantomime villain’, of the media, Bloom is also a respected economist, with a previous career as a trust-fund manager. As his term in office draws to a close in May, I interviewed the MEP for Selby from his constituency office. Animated yet perfectly amiable, we discussed the rise in UKIP, the European Union and the glare of the media. Interestingly, although technically classed as an ‘independent’ MEP, Bloom still refers to UKIP as ‘we’ throughout the interview.
I won’t dredge up all of the stuff that has been in the media about you in the last year, which would be a predictable thing to do. However, do you think that you went a bit too far with some of your comments? Also, do you think that the media are particularly hard on individuals and smaller parties that are outside the ‘mainstream’ of British politics?
I’m not sure if it’s a question of the size of our party. If you are anti-establishment, what happens is that everybody closes ranks against you. It doesn’t matter if you’re Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative; The Times, Telegraph, or Daily Mirror; they are all establishment, and what they do is close ranks against you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Ian Hislop or Private Eye: he is an establishment figure, he is a fake iconoclast. He’s fake because he as deeply rooted in the system as anybody else. People like him appear to be radical, but they’re not at all. They’re deeply imbued with the establishment system, so what they do is either try and crowd you out, bad mouth you, ridicule you. I’ve won international prizes for fund management and a graduate of the Royal College of Defence studies and strategy but you’ll always find me referring to as ‘potty’, ‘batty’ or ‘mad’ or something.
Is that a just a tabloid cliché of you, do you think?
Yes, and if you actually look me up in ‘Who’s Who’ and see what I’ve done, you’ll see my life has been moderately successful, in some fairly competitive fields (sounds indignant and slightly upset). But they have to portray me as being mad or bad, because they are so frightened of me.
Do you think you can comment on why UKIP have risen in popularity so much over the last few years?
My view is, and I was a founder member of UKIP back in the nineties, the strongest reason of all that it has grown into the top party in the European elections is because of Proportional Representation. When people vote negatively, they vote for David Cameron because they didn’t like Gordon Brown, and they’ll do the same again, they’ll vote on the basis that they don’t like Cameron or Miliband. It’ll be a negative-type vote. That’s the nature of First Past the Post party politics. Whereas with proportional representation people vote positively.
If you vote UKIP at a Westminster election, there is an argument that it is a wasted vote because you know that it’ll be either red or blue that forms the government. This was a bit of a glitch this time around with the coalition because Cameron couldn’t win outright against Gordon Brown for some reason that nobody can fully understand. But the reason I think for UKIP’s success is that PR has given us a platform, the fact that we came second in 2009 on the European vote. But I think the real reason is that this administration is so bad, led by David Cameron. It’s so poor that people are beginning to scratch their heads and say surely we can do better than this, there must be some form of alternative. If you look at the whole point of this government when it came in they were going to deal with the national debt. Next year the national debt will be 50% higher than the debt that they inherited. They have alienated their support base by not being ‘conservative’ and a lot of their votes have either stayed at home or switched to UKIP.
The Lib Dems, who have always been a party of protest are now a party in government and exposed for the lack of direction and rather shallow thinking that the Liberal Democrats have always had. People say ‘my protest vote is going to be for the Liberal Democrats’ and nobody actually voted for them because they had any policies that they agreed with. Nobody could actually tell you what their policies were. We’ve got a problem with Ed Miliband in so far as he does look unelectable. He looks and sounds all wrong. Now, I’m not saying that’s good or bad, that’s just how the electorate perceive him.
When you say, ‘all wrong’, what do you mean? That he doesn’t come across as the most charismatic?
I think we had this problem back in the middle 1980s with Neil Kinnock. When the chips were down and the television was over and people got into the ballot booth they just felt that Kinnock wasn’t Prime Ministerial material. Miliband has that same problem; it’s difficult for the electorate to imagine him being Prime Minister.
He’s got more of the air of a middle-manager or of an administrator, but aren’t his policies the important thing?
I’m new to politics and I’m an economist, by profession and I remember an old campaigner, a Tory, telling me: “you mustn’t ever think that policies have got anything to do with politics” and they haven’t.
I drove some blue-rinse tory ladies to a charity do a few years ago. I said: “what do you think about Cameron, why are you voting for Cameron?” These ladies were not stupid, relatively well-heeled, elderly perhaps, and they said, ‘well he’s got such a nice face’. And I thought, you are electing a prime minister on that basis. This is what people do, he’s got such a nice face, or a nice family, or we like his wife, or they like the hat she wears or doesn’t wear. People don’t think like you and I.
You’ve been an active participant in the EU system as an MEP, you attend a lot. Some critics would say, isn’t you contributing to the EU parliament a bit like an atheist walking into a church and heckling the congregation? What is the point of the whole exercise?
Exactly. You’re quite right in that analogy, in that this is a form of religious conviction; although the European parliament is secular, and deliberately and determinedly secular, you find that it is treated like a religion, the ethos of the EU. They try and sell it to the UK, this is economically sound, which is totally ridiculous. The European project is treated as a religious concept in the EU, you’re quite right. (Bloom seems to have taken my analogy as a compliment)
I’m an atheist heckling which is why they became incandescent with rage, because they react in the same way that if you were a Roman Catholic and you were sitting in mass, and somebody came in and heckled the priest. This is the reason they get so very angry because it is a deep-rooted religious feeling with them.
Why do I go and why do i do it? Well, many years ago, we decided, would we take our seats in the parliament or should we stand for election and not take our seats like the IRA did? Sinn Fein did that. But we then decided that it would be better to have a platform to use it as a platform to expound our point of view and indeed point out the frailties and the foibles of the European project. Has that been successful? From a personal perspective I have had more views for my speeches than any other politician of any country in the history of the parliament, so i regard that as vindicating my position on taking a seat. I get emails from all over the world, over two million views from France alone, I’ve been invited to speak at conferences in america so I have used the platform to good effect. So, in my particularly personal case I would say that is vindicated.
Having said all that, do you not think that preserving the rights of the individual worker mean that the EU is still an endeavour worth pursuing?
My creed is that government is the problem, not the solution and we have too much government and I think the reason is that we have, for example 30% youth unemployment in my constituency in Yorkshire.
Let me give you an example, just with young people. And employment legislation of course is driven by Brussels. If i wanted to employ a young person, the state tells me the minimum wage i can pay him, the state tells me that i have to pay an employment tax which they call National Insurance, they also tell me how much leave I must give him, they tell me what hours he may work, there’s maternity leave, paternity leave, and what actually happens, certainly with small businesses, which are something in the region of 70% of our GDP, what people actually do is they say, ‘I just don’t bother to employ young people, I outsource wherever i can, and this of course leaves you with very significant youth unemployment particularly in the UK, France and southern Italy. So in answer to your question I think that government is the problem not the solution and i think that if we have less government it would free employers up to employ under the liberty of contract in a free society. I believe that if i wanted to employ you in my business, as a young man, that should be a liberty of contract between you and me i don’t believe a politician should have anything to do with the relationship between you and me and if i offer you a free contract under a free society.
And every day they chip away more at our civil liberties, government remove our individual liberties more and more by the week and they spend more of our money, we’re over 50% of our GDP on government spending in the UK, 60% in France,. (now in full flow) i don’t want people who earn £130,000 per year coming on the TV and who work for the civil service, telling me that I’m too fat, I shouldn’t eat chips, i shouldn’t slap my children when they’re naughty. I don’t want all these people on these huge salaries poking their nose into every aspect of my family’s lives.
Is there any reason you’re not standing for re election as an independent (in the forthcoming May European elections, 2014)? Do you plan to make a re-emergence under the UKIP banner in the future?
No , i don’t. I’ve thought about it. I’m under pressure in Yorkshire, having been here for ten years I’ve put some political roots down. I’m under a lot of pressure to stand as an independent and under proportional representation i would almost certainly win the seat. This is the result of many years of work. However, as tempting as it is, I believe all parliamentarians should be independent; i don’t like the party political system at all. I don’t believe in sticking blue, red or yellow rosettes on people, that’s why we have such appalling politicians. They are very poor quality because they can hide behind a blue or red badge.
Your views on the main parties are quite similar to George Galloway’s, whom I spoke with last week.
I have a lot in common. It’s funny, George always gives me a good slagging whenever he gets the opportunity but actually if you check in the cold light of day, we agree on many, many points.
We agreed five minutes for the interview, we’ve stretched to twenty-five and I appreciate all your time. I don’t think politically we’re aligned on a lot of things however, i enjoyed the conversation with you and I found it very interesting.
It’s a great pleasure and best of luck with the article.”
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