Tuesday, 17 August 2010

NEC Election Interview: Kathleen Garner

The latest in our series of interviews with NEC election candidates is with Kathleen Garner.
Kathleen, you're one of an unusually large number of ladies standing for election to the NEC. Do you think UKIP needs a bit more of a woman's touch?

I think the high number of women standing is indicative of the fact that UKIP is a party in which women are already treated as equals who have a lot to offer the party. The chairman of my own branch, Croydon, is a lady, Joan Tyndall, and we are very lucky to have her as chairman, while our recent local election candidates were a good mix with regard to both age and sex. What UKIP needs is people with common sense and experience of the real world, and real commitment to the party and the cause over a long period of time, whether male or female.

My branch's former chairman is one of your fellow NEC candidates, Jill Seymour - testament to the ability of UKIP's female contingent to bully us men into all sorts of things! The top 3 posts in the party are filled by people (Lord Pearson, Lord Monckton and David Campbell Bannerman) who our friends on the left would denounce as "toffs", as is our main spokesman, Nigel Farage. The perception is that these people don't have experience of the real world because they're "posh" and have money and titles. Do you think the background of the party leadership is an asset or a liability? Should there be more "common" people in charge?

The party needs people with a public presence whom the public instantly recognise. That said, the people you mention all have similar weaknesses as well as strengths. The MPs' expenses scandal has made people suspicious of the political elite, to which some of our leaders belong.

My family backgound is mixed, including both Conservatives and several politically active Labour Party members. People who have never had to worry about work or money cannot possibly understand the lives of those who do. I personally do not agree with so-called "Free Trade" in that it allows money rather than quality of life to dictate government policy. Free exchange of goods can only work where both sides have the same culture and way of life. Manufacturing is struggling in this country because countries like China and India pay their workers wages that we could not survive on and because their governments are allowed to keep the value of their currencies artificially low. Even if other countries would let us, we cannot live on selling financial services alone. We have large numbers of unemployed who previously would have obtained worthwhile work in manufacturing. They need to be able to do this again. If we happily sell off our large companies to foreigners and think it is more important to be able to buy goods cheaply than to have a society in which everyone has a place where they can achieve their potential, then just leaving the EU will not solve anything. We have to be prepared to protect our manufacturing from what is effectively dumping from foreign companies which do not have our social costs.

In addition, we have a large balance of trade deficit and have long lost the ability to feed ourselves. We are parasites and one day the outside world will realise we have nothing more to offer and take their goods elsewhere. When that day comes we could starve. We have to be prepared to protect our food supplies and to stop handing over agricultural land to housing. It sometimes seems as though building houses and going shopping is all we do. We need to move away from the traditional Conservative view of trade.

There is definitely a large number of people within the party who see UKIP as no more than a stop-gap until the Conservatives come into their own. If the sole result of our leaving the E.U. would be to see the country ruled once more by the party and the views which took us into it in the first place, then I shall feel we have failed.

I grew up in a rural town and less than a decade after moving away I don't recognise parts of it because of the amount of new housing that's been built. The EU sockpuppet quangos, the Regional Assemblies, are behind much of the housebuilding in England with their Regional spatial Strategies. The Tories say they're going to abolish all the regional quangos in England and promote "localism" instead. Is this an agenda we should be promoting in UKIP? After all, UKIP representation in local government is one of our success stories.

I trust what the Tories say as far as I can throw them. They say they will get rid of the Regional Assemblies, but these have been promoted by the E.U. which created the regions in the first place. The Tories are not going to leave the E.U. and they will carry on doing what Brussels wants. We have already seen this in the few months since the election. I do not consider that UKIP should be following other parties. We should be leading them.

Of course we should promote local politics. The smaller the political grouping, the more democratic it is likely to be and the more it is likely to listen to what local people want. Indeed, I feel that local councils should be much smaller than they are. Our local council is currently planning to knock down the council headquarters, which through neglect needs - allegedly - £40m spending on it - in order to go into a pfi project to build a new council building - and of course the ubiquitous new flats - at a cost of up to £450m. Nobody else wants this. A smaller council would be less likely to waste money on vanity projects. What has been talked of for years has been the use of local referenda, and by that I mean genuine referenda, not the sort we here had 10 years ago which purported to ask us by how much we wanted our council tax to rise. The result was in the region of 3% that year and 27% the next when there was no referendum. We need a system of local government whereby locals would have a real say in what happens in their area and in particular large and intrusive developments would always have to be referred to the local electorate. As I stated earlier, the only business we appear still to have in this country is house building. We do not need more houses, we need fewer people.

One final question: if every member of the new NEC was given the chance to introduce one change unopposed, what would yours be?

I am pleased to see that the candidates whose views I have read so far appear to have the same strong feelings about making the NEC more approachable to the ordinary members as I have. This makes it more likely, if each new NEC member were given the chance to make a change unopposed, that this one at least would be acceptable to all. Currently, we have the very unsatisfactory system, when voting for the NEC, of knowing nothing at all, apart from their 150 words, about the majority of candidates. Therefore I have long advocated the idea that members should be elected on a regional basis, to make it more likely that the NEC is known to the voters and that the NEC in turn know the members who have voted for them. Indeed, it was a member of our branch, supported by the rest of the committee, who introduced a motion for just this change at a London business meeting several years ago. The motion failed by just one vote. When I say regional I do not necessarily mean based on the EU regions; each "constituency" would need to have a similar number of eligible voters, so new boundaries would have to be drawn and probably the current system of partial elections would need streamlining. At present many worthy people fail to be elected because not enough people know about them. I hope that such a change would also mean that the NEC were in a position to keep their local members better informed and vice versa. I consider it very important for every member to feel that their views count in the running of the party.

Thanks Kath, best of luck in the election.