The first wave of Ukip posters went up around the country this week, ahead of the official campaign launch yesterday in Sheffield. They ask voters to consider the impact of unchecked European migration, and have generated the usual frothing.
I’m not sure what the left-wing commentators thought our central message would be about, after all Ukip was set up to get the UK out of the EU. It was highly unlikely that we would spend millions of pounds telling people that EU membership wasn’t so bad, and it was just unlucky that there was a downward pressure on jobs during a time of mass uncontrolled immigration.
In general elections, the campaigning topics have always revolved around schools and hospitals, because they are pretty much the only areas MPs have the ability to directly govern. It’s a strategy designed to avoid talking about subjects where their views diverge greatly from those of the voters. And come the European elections I am sure they’d much rather not talk about those issues again, particularly Labour and the Tories, whose policies on our EU membership and a free and fair referendum are still clouded in spin and confusion.
And that’s why we’ve gone into this final month of the campaign with an uncompromising message – that the lives of ordinary people have been made worse by uncontrolled immigration and the control the EU has over our daily lives. It’s a classic tactic by those who have sought to shut down this debate over the last decade to accuse us of being “racist”. It’s why immigration was not properly discussed for years and it’s only with the rise of Ukip that Labour has finally admitted they got it wrong from 2004 onwards with the expansion of the EU to the whole of Eastern Europe.
Even when I took part in the live debates with Nick Clegg, who bangs on about how much he loves the EU and the benefits it apparently brings us, the Deputy Prime Minister refused to give a straight answer on who has the final say over who comes to live, settle and work in this country. A recent Social Attitudes survey showed that 77 per cent of the British population agrees with Ukip on reducing immigration, including 60 per cent of respondents from ethnic minorities.
The highest proportion of those who agreed that immigration should be controlled came from those doing unskilled or manual labour. Richer participants were much more likely to think waves of unskilled migrants are a boon to the country. And that’s hardly surprising given that the rich are the people who benefit from cheaper nannies and gardeners while those at the other end of the scale have seen the minimum wage become the maximum wage and youth unemployment wreak havoc in the lives of young people.
But it’s not just on immigration that we are campaigning. We are also talking about the cost of our membership of the EU, including our direct contribution of some £55m a day straight to Brussels, funding a life of subsidised lunches for bureaucrats and chauffeur-driven cars for politicians and commissioners.
And much of this money is spent on PR campaigns telling us how great the EU is. There’s barely a civic building constructed within the last 10 years that isn’t emblazoned with the ring of stars. The anti-Napoleon Beethoven must be spinning in his grave at the thought of his “Ode to Joy” being used as the Union’s anthem.
Because while British MPs have been busy trying to distract us with arguments over NHS funding, our national symbols are being replaced by EU versions – and the EU has never hidden its desire to be a superstate. These are subjects we refuse to let go unnoticed, and I remain happily unconcerned by the flurry of outraged squawks by the chattering classes.
But of course our campaign isn’t just about the negative aspects of our EU membership. Our 2004 campaign, “Say NO”, was hugely successful at the time, but the debate has moved on – and so has our campaign. Unlike Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, we believe in this country and the talents of the people living and working here.
The next wave of posters will be about how our lives can be enriched by throwing off the shackles of bureaucracy and how we can all be better off by freeing ourselves from this political union.
From energy and food prices to preserving our common law heritage, Ukip isn’t just about the negative. It’s about how Great Britain can be outside this outdated political model. Far from being racist, we’re the party that wants to open ourselves up to the world, not shut ourselves off in Fortress Europe.