Great. The start of the summer holidays (and the sun has come out). No doubt the press will greet the change in the weather as more evidence of global warming.
I was on the road on Saturday at 6:00 a.m., heading south to the UKIP South East Conference at the Lakeside Darts Venue in Frimley, where four hundred or so party members had assembled to listen to speeches from a stellar cast. And me.
Of course the keynote speaker was Nigel Farage, who has occasionally been compared to Billy Graham and is about equally inspirational. He is, of course, also an MEP from the South East, so he was on home turf. We heard from councillors and staffers (including my own staffer Alexandra Swann). We had speeches from a couple of work-a-day MEPs — Deputy Party Leader Paul Nuttall, just returned from Washington, but in sparkling form despite terminal jet-lag. And I offered some thoughts on the outlook for energy — and the outlook for UKIP.
But two speakers deserve special mention. Patrick O’Flynn, Chief Political Commentator of the Daily Express, gave a speech which combined humour and entertainment value with sound and serious thoughts on current political developments. Then there was Mike Reid, the former Radio One DJ (who has rather unkindly been described as “looking like Nick Buckles”, the disgraced CEO of G4S). He too offered an up-beat and perceptive contribution, and introduced Nigel as key-note speaker.
Altogether, a very successful event, and very much in the pattern of the rather large party and public meetings which Nigel has been addressing.
Sadly I had to leave after lunch, to get down to Cheltenham for The Freedom Association’s annual celebration at Stanway House, a wonderful English Country House which boasts landscaped gardens and the highest gravity-fed fountain in Europe. The speaker’s list included The Reverend Peter Mullen, a churchman of extremely sound and traditional views, who is Chaplain to TFA. His views on Church matters are about as popular with the hierarchy as my views on Europe are with Baroness Warsi. Formerly Rector of St. Michael’s Cornhill, he was invited to retire by the Church on the grounds that he had reached the age of seventy — only to be replaced (on a temporary basis) by another priest several years older.
Peter made an excellent case that far from our current problems being a crisis of capitalism, they are in fact a crisis of the statism that is in the process of replacing capitalism.
I followed with the speech I had made in the morning, slightly adapted for a less partisan (but equally euro-sceptic) audience, and I was followed in turn by Tim Congdon, the formidable economist who is now Chairman of TFA — the post I previously held for several years. As always, the TFA Stanway evening was a delight.
Years ago I would have left after dinner and driven home. But having covered 250 miles already that day, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. I stayed over in Cheltenham and enjoyed a leisurely drive home on Sunday morning. Not a bad day’s work for the summer holidays.
Phew! Well done Roger! UKIP has got some of the hardest working MEPs around. It was a pleasure to meet you at the UKIP Conference. After following your written articles for several years, I am so pleased you’re a member of UKIP now and the beautiful Alexandra Swann too.
Sorry Alexandra but myself and those sitting around me thought the length of your dress was not very professional for public speaking at the UKIP Conference.
It was the first day of a heat wave!
I happen to agree with you (based merely on that last photograph) but, given that this is a form of dress one can see all over the free world, is there any ordinance in UK prohibiting it? Or are you suggesting that female speakers should cover themselves completely to allow members of the audience to concentrate only on what they are saying? Perhaps we could go a little further and suggest that female party members should be discreetly dressed at all times? In which case, can UKIP detirmine what percentage of her anatomy a female may display without causing disquiet?
I take your point, Mr Burrel but I do not see a platform as public as Mr Helmer’s blog as the place to air such views.
If you were there, obviously feeling quite strongly about hem lengths (were you aware of anything else discussed that might be of relevance to a potential new Party member?), and given that Ms. Swann is Mr Helmer’s staffer, why didn’t you have the balls to take him quietly to one side and express your opinion privately over a G&T, rather than air it to the world?
Once again, I must commend Mr Helmer on posting all comments, complimentary or critical.
I do like Mr Helmer’s suit though. I can’t bring myself to call him Roger, by the way. It is uncomfortably close to ‘Call me Dave’.
Many thanks for the sartorial comment. I was afraid I’d look like the Man from Del Monte!
Now you are showing your age, Mr Helmer!
Besides, where was your Panama? Perhaps it was in your left hand shading Ms Swann’s modesty? Just the sort of thing a decent chap would do.
I worked for a company for a while which its employees nicknamed the SAS because of all the winged daggers hurled down coridoors into the backs of receding colleagues.