This interview was conducted in December 2009 and appeared in Total Politics magazine.
So what on earth made you decide to stand for leadership of UKIP?
There was quite a lot of arm twisting from a number of leading people within the party and from several of the major donors.
Because you haven’t actually been in the party that long...
No, I have only been in the party a couple of years because before that I sat as an Independent Conservative after being sacked from the Conservative Party in great disgrace.
How much of a wrench was it to leave?
I was always a rebel. I said I would be loyal to Margaret Thatcher and I remained loyal to her, but that wasn’t the same thing as being loyal to Mr Major. I’d been the most rebellious backbench peer in the Lords and when I was sacked for suggesting people should lend their vote to UKIP in the European elections it was actually a great relief. I have always been a bit of a maverick, so I’m afraid it didn’t trouble me at all. I kept my personal friends in the party, not that there’s very many of them.
It’s slightly ironic though, isn’t it, because the Conservative Party is more euro-sceptic now than it has ever been.
The Conservative party the leadership isn’t nearly euro-sceptic enough. The project of European integration, as originally envisaged by Monnet, is complete and I think everyone knows that Cameron is simply not telling the truth when he pretends a sovereignty act to prevent further losses of sovereignty to Brussels is meaningful. I think they know he’s talking nonsense when he says he can reclaim various powers from Brussels.
But surely he would only be misleading people if there was no further sovereignty to secede to Brussels but there clearly is?
What further sovereignty?
Economics and taxation for example.
Well they’ve got that if they want it.
Well, they don’t have the power to raise taxes.
I believe they do. You only have to look at their use of Article 308, which they have been using since the French and Dutch rejection of the original constitution, to do anything they wanted, in fact.
But if under that Article everything has to happen unanimously a British prime minister can veto it.
He can, but the British government has not been vetoing it
No, but a Conservative government could.
Yes, for anything new- not what’s already been done. Don’t forget our old friend the ratchet – the Aquis Communitaire. Our position is they don’t need anything new now and even if they were to, they are already talking about raising tax and I’m not aware that either Cameron or any of the established parties have screamed about that.
So if all that is true then basically the game’s up – what’s the point of UKIP?
Because the only way out is the door and the point of UKIP is to in the next general election campaign try and inform the public more precisely about why we are in this position. The people have got the point about why this has gone seriously wrong. Even the lawyers and the accountants in the City of London have now got the point. They never cared about the fishermen or any other industries that have been damaged, sometimes to the point of extinction by our membership of the European Union, but they have now got the point because of the hedge fund directive. People are beginning to see clearly what this project has always been about.
Isn’t part of the problem though that you can wax lyrical about Section 308 of the Treaty of Rome or the Hedge Fund Directive all you like, but you’ve actually got to go to people’s hearts and minds. Isn’t the problem with UKIP that it looks less like the rest of the British people?
Well that’s not what the latest opinion polls would tell you. A large majority of people wish to go back to free trade and friendly collaboration with the European Union. If you ask a slightly different question - do you want to come out? - then that’s more frightening. In the general election campaign we are simply going to deliver two messages that are incredibly simple; one is that your democracy has removed your right to elect and dismiss those who make your laws. We are also going to run another idea which hasn’t really been tested in the political world and it runs right alongside getting out of the European Union. The idea is direct democracy, power to the people, the Swiss system of referendums and the Daniel Hannan/Douglas Carswell plan. The British people are fed up with all the regulation that is coming at them from Brussels and to a certain extent Westminster.
This is where I think you personally have a problem in that I could accept a lot of what you say as could most people if it came from Nigel Farage, but people will have more difficulty taking it from an unelected member of the House of Lords.
I’ve been elected to the leadership and Nigel’s one commitment to me is he will remain the chief party spokesman he’s going to be in charge of media relations and he is our front man with the media. Obviously he’s a genius, he’s a great man and a great politician and I don’t pretend to be. He was a Derby winner. UKIP have now got a sort of carthorse. [laughs] We know that and I accept that and I have said that all the way through the hustings.
But we all know that dual leaderships never work.
Nigel will be our spokeperson and obviously if I am called upon because I’m the leader then I will speak.
I don’t detect people are holding my background against me and if they are then there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to apologise, I’m not going to resign from White’s Club, I’m not going to stop shooting and stalking and I’m going to carry on because I never wanted to be a politician. I have always said I’m not a politician and I’m not and I can’t pretend otherwise. And so I make gaffes, I talk about the ‘disband’ word when what I meant was get together and fight. I’ve accused the Muslims of breeding ten times faster than us when what I really meant was their population is going up and so on. I’ve made mistakes and I will probably make more. I try and do better but that’s where we are.
Do you not think though that you might be seen as the Ming Campbell of UKIP?
Possibly. I am 67 years old. I have never been much involved in party politics. I’ve done a bit of canvassing but that’s all, so therefore when I look at the structure of a political party I have to learn as I go along. The trouble with UKIP is that its success has outgrown its infrastructure and that needs putting right. Now that’s not Nigel’s scene, he’s not an organisation chart man, he’s a political genius and a brilliant man. Organisation charts are not his strong point and he’s very happy to leave that to me.
The party itself historically has been a shambles hasn’t it, organisationally?
I wouldn’t dare to use that expression but it has certainly not been very well organised. Our communications have been bad. People have been learning things in the press that they ought to have known about in advance. A proper organisation chart and proper communication is not difficult and we are going to do that. We will have a more efficient fighting machine.
But isn’t part of the problem that to do any of what you just said, which is obviously necessary you have to have money and UKIP has not got the money to do it, in fact its got to pay back £360,000.
We have that covered already and I will try and raise more money for the rest of it. One of the reasons I stood for leadership was that I thought as leader I would be better able to raise money. As leader I would be able to raise the sort of money we need or would be more likely to be able to than if one of the other candidates had become leader. When I stood for leadership I didn’t have a single enemy, but as leader of course one is bound to make a few. Those who find it an anathema that David Willoughby de Broke and I made the offer we did to the Conservatives which was give us a binding referendum on an agreed wording on our membership of membership in the European Union and we will make sure you are in a position to deliver.
I thought the offer was on the Lisbon Treaty?
No, never! Lisbon Treaty was always a red herring really.
You couldn’t have seriously expected the Conservatives to except that. Wasn’t that just a bit of trouble making?
No, not at all. Our position in the European Union is now so desperate the only way out is the door, it is unthinkable that Cameron will get anything worthwhile in any form of renegotiation.
Far enough but all I’m trying to understand is your thought process before you put that offer to Tom Strathclyde presumably and you hadn’t cleared this with your party colleagues as such.
That is not so. This was, we thought, a settled policy from Nigel. He had the support of the National Policy Committee for it, he’d mentioned it at conference, he’d mentioned it live on the Politics Show and certainly to a large lunch I had attended. He was actually cross-examined at the lunch by Freddie Forsyth, who said ‘Nigel did I get this right – what are you saying?’ and Nigel said ‘a binding referendum with wording we agree, free vote for the Conservative Party and we will...’, Nigel did not say disband, I said disband at the end of the conversation with the lovely Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester. I should never have used that word. Tom’s [Strathclyde] answer to us was ‘are you sure you want this referendum because we will have the new Prime Minister, presumably we will be in a honeymoon period, you will have the whole Labour and the whole Liberal Democrat machine against you, Ok you will have the Conservative activists with you...’ My reply was ‘I couldn’t imagine anything better’. Fighting an issue against the whole political class would be wonderful.
And then you heard nothing from them?
No not a squeak. I went back to Tom as Tom was seeing David two days later on a one to one, and I asked Tom what had happened the next week and he had said ‘oh it’s all too bloody awful’ and disappeared. I mean Tom’s a lovely man, but he is part of the Conservative leadership apparatus in that sense.
Did you get the impression that Lord Strathclyde was in favour of it?
Well, he thought we might lose [laughs]. He actually said we might lose, and we said well we would have trusted the people. So then I asked someone else who sits on the front bench, who had better remain nameless, I said ‘what’s happened to this, we have given this offer and absolutely bloody silence?’ and they said well the Norwich North by-election is coming up and the hope is you will fall back to 2 or 3 per cent and we can forget it. Well we got 13 per cent in Norwich North and in fact 43 per cent in some Cambridge council seats that day. But we have heard no more and since then we have got our answer because Cameron has ruled out any referendum out for five years and thereby slapping in the face the whole of that part of the Conservative Party that actually wanted a referendum even just on Lisbon
Would you again now stand against every Conservative candidate including the Better Off Out people?
I hope not.
Well that’s the logical thing to do now.
No it wouldn’t, let’s go back to square one. We must start to build in the House of Commons a genuine come out group of MPs so we will not be standing against Philip Davies, Richard Shepherd and Douglas Carswell, although I’m slightly talking out of turn as I haven’t had time to clear this with the relevant constituency chairman and parties.
But this is an existing policy isn’t it?
It is existing policy but it is resisted by some people who want to fight absolutely everything. but if we fail to get a referendum but then all you can start doing is to start building people in the Commons to really. If there’s a seat where we don’t think we can get in and there is someone who could get in with our support who will fight for it when they get in and not be wishy washy Better off Out of it.
Well what’s wishy washy about that?
Well how energetic are these people in the Commons, what questions do they put down? Will they actually fight in the House of Commons for Britain to leave?
You’re putting another hurdle in front of them, aren’t you?
Yes I am. But each constituency is different, each individual is different, each UKIP political party is different and each individual case has to be looked at on its merits but it is madness if we put up a candidate against Philip Davies and he doesn’t get back into the Commons.
What have you learnt from your first few weeks of being leader? Because you have had a bit of a baptism of fire; the Telegraph have had a go at you, was there a point when you thought what on earth have I done?
Oh yes, but I think I am over that now. The ‘disband’ word and ‘breeding’ weren’t very clever, so I have learnt that one word out of place can cover the whole of the picture on a newspaper so I have to learn to do better and do less badly in future. I am having media training. What that will do I don’t know because a lot of people say that I shouldn’t be like ‘them’.
You will inevitably be compared with Nigel Farage, won’t you?
Yes and it’s a great tragedy he’s gone. I didn’t want him to go. He was over worked with his job in the European Parliament. I tried to stop him going and I wish he had stayed on as leader, but he hasn’t and he is now our spokesman. People will make of me what they make of me and I can’t change that in any way and I’m not really going to apologise for it.
But do you think you are going to have to curb your predisposition to be completely honest about stuff?
I hope not.
How will you attract votes from the broader left, not just the white working class left?
I think our policies do appeal to the boarder left. Nothing will appeal to the intellectual left and the crazy idiotic political class which have been running this country for far too long but the direct democracy definitely appeals and it isn’t just Labour voters we have to make sense to but don’t forget the 40 per cent who have given up voting.
As leader will you be inviting Geert Wilders back to this country?
Yeah, I hope he’s coming back in early March.
Why- what purpose does that serve?
We want a conference in London attended by the black Christian community; some of the black African bishops who are really living through what violent Islam means, for instance the wonderful Bishop of Jos in Northern Nigeria whose wife was recently publicly raped and dragged through the streets, these are people who can come and really warn what is in store from violent Islam. I want Geert there and I want the black African bishops there and I want the mild Islamic community there and I hope we will be producing a charter of Muslim understanding which will be an analysis of those verses in the Qur’an which uphold the disgraceful treatment of women and appeal to the Jihadists. I think our leading expression will be ‘gender apartheid’ and I think this country needs to address it. It needs to address it in cohesion with the vast majority of mild Muslims who at the moment are sitting there not doing very much.
Do you think there is a sort of apartheid operating in this country at the moment in some parts of our cities where you have essentially got areas that are entirely inhabited by immigrant communities who have not assimilated into our society at all- what do you do about that?
Surely the minority which isn’t trying to assimilate is the Muslim community and Sharia law is gender apartheid. It is accepted by all the Muslims and sometimes it takes precedence over British law. We should be teaming up with Peter Tatchell and the gay lobby and the humanist lobby and so on. It’s wrong for all of us.
What are you genuinely hoping for at the next election because there’s all the speculation about what might happen to John Bercow with Nigel fighting him.
I think Nigel has a very good chance against him.
Is that what you will be throwing all your effort into?
No, at the moment I think we have about 500 candidates. We are going to fight across the board.
If we meet in a year’s time what will you hope to achieve by then?
We have to go for a complete re-alignment in British politics and I think the first step towards that has to be a hung parliament. I am afraid and if we can help to achieve that I will feel we have done quite well. Now I know what they say against that, they say Dave needs a very large majority so he can cut public expenditure in a way to save the country, thats the counter argument – to which I say I see no sign of Dave even pretending that Dave’s going to do that, he’s backing the 50 per cent tax rate, he’s backing the tax on bankers and so on and therefore helping to cripple some of the life blood in this country, part of the GDP that comes in through the City of London is oxygenated blood and its madness to kill that and I don’t see that he’s talking of cutting anything like in the amount that must be cut. So I think a hung parliament will be fine, it will be a first step.
But how would that benefit UKIP?
Well we would then be free to join up with decent real people, Liberal Democrats in the South West.
And then you will have a more Europhile government than you had before.
If there’s a hung parliament, whoever it is will have to govern with the support of the Liberal Democrats who are the most Europhile party in British politics. If they are in a coalition it’s possible Nick Clegg could be foreign secretary.
So what? The people will get angrier...
...oh so you will be troublemaking?
No its not. It’s answering what the people need. It’s providing the only way out of all this. which is UKIP at the moment, Conservative activists will agree with you on that and quite a lot of Liberal Democrats in the south west will agree with you, quite a lot of Labour in the north and what else can we do, what else have they left us with. They have turned down an offer where we put our country before our party. They have done the opposite. The people know that, the people aren’t stupid, the people are a bloody slight cleverer than the political class now, which is why they should have binding referendums.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Ten Years On: Britain Without the European Union by Lee Rotherham
What do you read for relaxation?
I don’t read a lot of books for relaxation because I read very slowly and I am mildly dyslexic
What’s your favourite view?
Looking south on Rannoch Moor.
Favourite holiday destination?
Rannoch Moor or Davos.
What do you wish you had known at the age of 16?
I wish I had taken my studies much more seriously and not played quite so much football and squash. And possibly I should have gone to university which I didn’t.
What makes you cry?
I think the triumph of good over evil and true love conquering the opposite
If you were holding a dinner party and you could invite four people living or dead who would you invite?
Churchill, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Caroline Cox and I think Andrew Green, three of whom I am privileged to have known
What’s your favourite food?
Fried potatoes and ice cream- separately.