Douglas Carswell’s campaign in Clacton reached fever pitch tonight. As if it wasn’t enough that Britain’s pollsters are already declaring that the Clacton by-election on October 9th, David Cameron’s birthday, will be a UKIP landslide, tonight over 1000 people turned up to rally in support of Carswell, and hear UKIP leader Nigel Farage speak.
The venue was so oversubscribed that cars were double parked outside the sprawling Clacton Coastal Academy, and the venue had to open a spill over room to accommodate over 1000 local residents who took time out of their Wednesday nights to listen to the tubthumping speeches slamming Britain’s political classes.
The event began with Geoffrey Titford, life President of UKIP, who declared that David Cameron’s first mistake was coalition with the Liberal Democrats. His second? The alterations to the House of Lords. The Third? This government’s gay marriage bill, which Titford claimed was a matter for the church, not for government. His comment received rapturous applause from the audience, a note that will stick in the throat of those that claim that gay marriage hasn’t lost the Conservative Party any votes. In other words: the entire Conservative Party.
Cameron, according to Titford, allowed the farcical Scottish referendum, has slashed Britain’s defence budget, allowed the NHS to “go broke” and has “made a total mess of border control”. Tonight’s event was already well into red meat territory when UKIP’s candidate and former MP for Clacton Douglas Carswell took to the stage.
“The Conservative Party is full of good people,” he began. “But the problem is the leadership”.
Most political parties are the same, he said. “They are run by MPs who became MPs by working in MPs offices!” he declared. The crowd was already more than warmed up, and audience members felt inspired to literally shout out their concerns and comments during Mr Carswell’s speech.
He told the crowd that “only UKIP can wake up that cosy little club called Westminster,” and reiterated that he felt the people of Clacton were his boss, not Mr Cameron, and not the party whips.
Commenting on his decision to stand down after his defection instead of simply carrying on after crossing the floor, he said: “I could have put my head down and tried not to think so much. Goodness knows there are enough MPs who enjoy that cosy lifestyle”. Cue the laughs, followed by one man hollering, “Well done to ya!”
The Carswell turned his fire to Times columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris, who wrote a hateful screed about Clacton upon a recent visit. Parris insisted that parts of the country like this should be left behind. Carswell noted of him: “He’s not just a [Tory] party cheerleader… he chairs their selection meetings”. The audience hissed.
“Let me tell you something Matthew: Clacton is as much a part of Britain today as the street you live in! If Clacton has problems it is because of the chumocracy in Westminster of which you are a part!”
A pretty, young, blonde-haired girl in hipster glasses nodded approvingly in front of me.
“Britain is a great country, not just because of what we did in the pasdt, but because of what we could be”.
And then of course came Nigel Farage. But not before an elderly lady stopped him outside to say: “I told my husband you would be late ‘coz you’d be down the pub!” A line Farage went on to put into his speech, moments later.
As he walked in, he turned to me and said, “I’ve no idea what I’m going to say” – but there was no sign of it from the speech he gave.
Of course he hit the usual high notes: the European Union, the Westminster chumocracy, and plugging Douglas Carswell’s recall for Members of Parliament plan.
But there was a little more playfulness about him than we’ve seen in recent weeks. His dour speech in Glasgow just a few days ago paled in comparison to his usual self, and whether it was Ed Miliband’s poor performance this week that cheered him up, or simply a good snooze and a few ales beforehand, he managed to create a buzz about himself that was new even for him.
The audience cheered, wolf-whistled, yelped and gave standing ovations throughout. And Farage littered his speech with rib ticklers too.
A moment of sobriety ensued when he mentioned the Latvian murderer who entered Britain and committed a heinous crime, enabled by Britain’s membership of the European Union.
This struck a nerve.
He laid into the Westminster establishment. “They marry each others’ sisters!” he shouted, to great applause.
“We founded this party because it is about time we punctured the lies,” he said, before moving onto the lies themselves. He reflected on accusations of racism, and of hatred towards Europe. “We don’t hate Europe,” he maintained. “We like going on holidays in Europe, and drinking their wine… sovereign nations, trading with one another… I married a German woman… no one needs to tell me about the dangers of living in a German dominated household!” The joke went down well, maybe too well. “It’s a good job she isn’t here,” he squirmed.
And then he turned to plans. Immigration policy plans based on Australia’s system. He noted that Australia doesn’t accept workers without actually needing those workers. He noted that they don’t allow terminally ill immigrants in to use their healthcare and contribute nothing back. And he noted, much to the audience’s amusement, that Australia doesn’t allow people with criminal records in. “It’s funny when you think about it,” he said.
He bashed the local wind farms as “disgusting, ugly, pointless and useless,” and noted how they “don’t work” and he ended with a statement about the emperor having no clothes, but before he even got to the end of his sentence the crowd had joined in an were chanting the play title along with him.
He concluded, “Come and join the Clacton battalion of our People’s Army… are you with us?”
A raucous, “YESSSSSS!!!!” burst from the crowd, most of whom had admitted they were not UKIP members in a show of hands moments earlier.
As we all left, Farage and Carswell were both mobbed by well wishers buying party memberships, taking home yard and window signs, and one man I noticed hobble by, nodding in approval, carrying a UKIP sign in one hand and his breathing apparatus in the other.
The broad audience of young people, middle-aged folks, the elderly and even the disabled turned out for UKIP tonight. I wondered to myself when that happened last for the Conservatives, Labour, or the Liberal Democrats.