Yesterday (18th November), UKIP Leadership candidate John Rees-Evans landed in Maryport – a little later than planned because of hazardous conditions on the M6, with the BBC in tow.
The last two official UKIP leadership hustings only got as far as Manchester in the north-west so John’s personal tour of the UK was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. And in tandem with John we also got the BBC shooting a section for the Daily Politics on Sunday morning. We don’t often get such auspicious visitors in this corner of the frozen North so we made the most of it!
There was a wide-ranging discussion about topics close to all our hearts, from local issues through national and international ones. These included the closure of hospital services and bus services, unemployment, social housing, immigration, how the school system is failing our young people, winning elections, Brexit, Article 50, developing the membership base, social media campaigning, UKIP finances and John’s vision for the future.
John has undeniable passion for UKIP, strong moral integrity and an overriding belief in the power and ability of members to shape UKIP’s success. More importantly, he has some excellent ideas about how to achieve his vision. There is no doubt that he will approach UKIP with the same kind of focus and military precision as he has with his own companies.
John’s UKIP will not ape the Westminster political class or schmooze at parties. His UKIP will be powered by the people, for the people. His UKIP will stand against the political elites, not become them. And if he continues to exhibit the same calm, unflappable and determined nature we saw in the meeting, he could be a great leader.
But aside from the discussion about how to strategically gain UKIP ‘market share’ at elections, John has warmth and humour and a genuine interest in people. That was very obvious, as he talked to everyone while looking at his watch and saying ‘we really must get a move on’ before his wife had to finally drag him out of the door.
Whether or not John Rees-Evans becomes UKIP’s leader, he and his family will be welcome here any time they choose to re-visit.