Thursday, 20 September 2012

UKIP - The divorce!

Having been politically active since my schooldays, I have always been hugely concerned by the undemocratic nature of the European Union, and the way in which successive governments have managed to keep us ill-informed and in the dark about what our membership really means. It was this that led me to become involved with UKIP in 1994.


I never do things by half, and so I threw myself into campaigning work. I must have walked a thousand miles of pavement, and delivered more leaflets than I could count. I wrote letters, helped run the party's head office, raised (and donated) large sums of money, and worked alongside Mike Nattrass when he was elected to the European Parliament in 2004. In 2009 I joined him in Brussels as an MEP, full of pride and ready to fight.


But then things turned sour.


I have always been a passionate defender of human rights and individual liberties. Imagine my horror when I realised that for reasons of financial benefit UKIP had formed a political group in the parliament that contained some of the vilest far-right elements in European politics. I was expected to sit alongside convicted racists, homophobes, and holocaust deniers. One of our new allies, an Italian, had a criminal record that included convictions for a racially motivated assault on a child and for setting fire to the belongings of a homeless immigrant who was sleeping under a bridge. He had also been filmed encouraging fascists to infiltrate mainstream political organisations. My protests were ignored. Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, was co-president of this group and as such he had helped to form it. I was horrified when the editor of a Brussels magazine told me he would not report my work in the parliament because I was a member of a far-right group. I realised that my association with such elements was damaging my political credibility. None of this seemed to concern the party leadership.


Eventually I had enough, and I resigned from this group, hoping that I could work better as a non-attached member of the Parliament. Then it really started.


Nigel Farage appeared on the BBC stating that I had not resigned, but that I had been expelled and that I had the party whip removed from me as I had failed to reveal that I was a bankrupt. This was an absolute lie, and I was horrified to hear it. The party sent people into my office to seize computer equipment and the police had to be called.


I felt that the party had betrayed my principles, and was trying to put the blame on me. Of course, my crime was to speak out, and I was being punished for it.


It is surprisingly hard to leave a relationship, even when it has been abusive, but eventually I did make the break and am no longer a member of the party that I had come to regard almost as a family. Friends turned their backs on me, and lied about me. I started to question whether all the work I had done was in vain, and grieved over broken dreams and aspirations.


Soon, Mike Nattrass and another UKIP MEP, Trevor Colman, also resigned from the group, and joined me. I felt vindicated. Then a fourth MEP resigned from UKIP and joined the Conservatives. It was all starting to fall apart in Brussels.

As I began to find my feet outside UKIP I realised how much I could do. I launched a petition for a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU, and have delivered 220,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street in the space of less than a year. I have become increasingly involved in community issues, and in human rights matters. My petition forced a debate in the House of Commons and provoked the biggest back-bench revolt the government has seen.


When I look behind me, at the people I walked away from, I see one of them praising the ideology of the Norwegian gunman Breivik, and I shake my head in disgust. I feel sad at what UKIP has become, and I feel sorry for all the good people who are being let down. But the most important thing is that I am able to get on with doing what I was elected to do.