Election '97: Swashbuckling Goldsmith lands in port

Adulation and tricky questions marked the Referendum Party campaign launch

Sir James Goldsmith, billionaire financier and ruler of the Referendum Party, rallied his common touch as he teamed up with Cornish fishermen to kick off his election campaign yesterday.

He chose as his launchpad Newlyn harbour, a fertile battleground for his "Rule Britannia Not Brussels" message.

Although he trod a cautious path through the media pack swarming at his feet, by the time he reached the Chain Locker pub in Falmouth harbour, he was well into his stride with his man-of-the-people manner. Here was no ordinary politician. He didn't just shake hands, he hugged, kissed, and almost bowled over an 85-year-old woman in a turquoise bonnet.

Most of his supporters seemed to be in their eighties. Dr Stanley Gilson, 82, a lifelong Conservative, had come along out of a sense of duty. "I think it's the most serious situation we've experienced since the last war," he said. "I was running a blood transfusion service with the 8th Army and I saw many of our fine people killed. I feel a duty for us to stand our ground because we are going into a dictatorship in Europe. A political dictatorship. Hitler would have given his right arm for this."

Dr Gilson was not the only one to liken Sir James to Winston Churchill. "I think he's a great man," he said. "He's the man for the hour. Just as Mr Churchill rallied us in 1939, so Sir James is rallying us against political dictatorship."

After half a pint of Caffreys and a plate of lemon sole, Sir James emerged from the darkened pub with renewed vigour. "This country will be turned into no more than a province," he said. "To use Tony Blair's words, Westminster will be no more than a parish council."

Sir James urged people to vote regardless of whether the candidate would win because it would give "an indication to the Government that never again will we allow ourselves to be lied to, and have such a debate totally thwarted so that we don't know what is happening".

The audience loved it. "Tell you what," muttered one. "It's about time a man like him became prime minister."

"Pure Churchill," another agreed. They clamoured to congratulate him. "God help you," said one. "Thank you for being prepared to put your money behind something you believe in." Someone suggested 20 minutes of Sir James on television would be "worth a fortune".

But it is not power - or money for that matter - Sir James was after. "I'm far too old to want power," he told one sceptical journalist. Rather, he wanted "to let the people decide".

"A vote for the Referendum Party is not a vote for us. It's not a vote for any of the prospective parliamentary candidates. It's a vote for yourself, and others like you, to be able to get the right to decide ... otherwise, you deserve to be a slave to the bureaucrats in Brussels and long may you remain that way."

To some degree, Sir James felt he had already succeeded. "We now see a new John Major and a new Tony Blair," he said. "For how long?" shouted a member of the public, at which point Sir James reached for a piece of impromptu humour.

"They change daily. It's lovely," he said.

Sir James did not however, take kindly to criticism. "Can I ask you?" ventured an elderly man, catching him before he was whisked away in a black Ford Granada. "I'm not being rude, but when you were an MEP, you never supported Cornish fishermen."

He immediately felt the full weight of Sir James come down on him. "That's not true. The Liberal Democrat MEP told me that this morning ... he's a liar. Tell him from me. If he doesn't believe me, let him sue."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power