It’s a long way to the British Riviera, but hundreds of UKIP stalwarts were there at the Riviera Centre on February 28th for our Spring Conference. It was a pleasure to meet UKIP Councillor Julien Parrott in his (non-party) rôle as Chairman of the Torbay Council, welcoming delegates to the city. Also a pleasure to meet Miss Devon, Leanne Ward, who is about to run a Marathon for local charities, and was accepting donations from Conference delegates. The Conference was an excellent and inspirational event, and without the little embarrassments that marked our main conference last year. It’s clear that the whole Party is focussed on the May elections, both European and local, and expectations in the Party and in the media are high. The mood is buoyant. Now we have to deliver, and I’m sure we will.
My 10:45 speech on Energy issues was well received (Find it here). I did the political stuff, and I was grateful to Dr. Lawrence Haar, a man with twenty years’ energy industry experience in evaluation and risk management, who followed up with a more technical presentation.
I was also delighted by an extra, unscheduled speech from Dr. Peter Courtney, who for many years has been European Managing Director for Financial Services for Accenture, the well-known accounting and consultancy firm. The main thrust of his remarks was that countries not in the EU, like China, Japan and the USA, seem to have no difficulty selling into the EU market, and nor will an independent Britain. British companies, he says, will be no worse off, and probably better off, outside the EU. During his time with Accenture in Europe, he found competitors from outside the EU trading successfully in the EU.
This is of course no more than we in UKIP have been saying for years, but it’s important and reassuring to have prominent business leaders confirming the message.
Love Britain: Vote UKIP. I was immediately struck by the Conference slogan, really to-the-point, and even more succinct than my famous “Love Europe; Hate the EU”. But it didn’t take the media too long to dig out the fact that a rather similar slogan had once been used by the BNP. OK guys. But hang on a minute. No political party has proprietary rights to the words “Britain”, “Love” and “Vote”, and there are only so many ways of putting them together.
But there’s a more important and substantive point here. The BNP is a thoroughly odious and racist party. But in the past they were rather clever at putting together innocent-sounding literature stressing their pro-British credentials and down-playing the racist angle, and as a consequence a great many decent, patriotic British people voted for them. Now UKIP has given those voters a respectable alternative which is emphatically supportive of our country, but without the offensive racist baggage of the BNP. As a result, the BNP is now little more than a rump pressure group, where irreconcilable fascist agitators gnaw the bones of their ancient resentments. That’s an achievement that I think we in UKIP can be proud of.