I’m just back from a quick working trip to Malta, which was actually rather enjoyable because it’s an island I am immensely fond of. I’ve been there quite a few times over the last decade or so, most memorably when I was part of the “Malta Says No” campaign ahead of their EU membership referendum.
The Yes side was flooded with EU cash and hot-and-cold running Commissioners and big wigs. The No side was a lady called Sharon Bonici, a Danish Communist turned eurosceptic and me - very much still new on the scene. But my goodness when you look at the resources we had compared to our opponents we were only a few per cent off winning. Pound for pound, we got our money’s worth and huge amounts of it came from the members of fledgling Ukip. But as is so often the case with politicians who grab their seat at the EU banqueting table, the eurosceptic Maltese Labour Party - who had campaigned for a no vote - found themselves joining up with the Party of European Socialists and rather forgetting what their objections to joining the EU had been in the first place, as the invitations for drinks parties and dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants flooded in.
This time I have returned from an industry event following an invitation much earlier in the year to address delegates at their national conference to a disgraceful front page “story” in the Daily Mirror. That group of papers now seem to view me as a paparazzi target; their alliance with Hope Not Hate and other assorted left wing extremists promoting negativity against Ukip having failed to stop us succeed in the recent elections.
And what were these shocking actions which resulted in me being a front page tabloid story and my wife being doorstepped by a sleazy hack waving grainy photographs? Helping a partially disabled woman who has to walk using crutches back to the hotel all the delegates were staying in. Being blonde and talking to me without taking to Twitter to slag me off made her, in the eyes of that paper, an acceptable target for intrusion.
Naturally for a paper in alliance with the Labour Party - who have finally woken up to not owning the working class vote - this must mean something sordid. These days just standing next to me seems to make people permitted targets for photographs and an embellished scandal. I doubt I could take my children to school on a rare day off without being accused of something sinister.
So was it just me at this conference, sunning myself at a five star hotel and drinking mojitos into the night? No. I was the guest speaker to an audience which included Cabinet Minister Helen Grant MP, former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, and ‘High Street Tsar’ Mary Portas. I was invited by the Director of the Institute of Travel and Tourism who heard me speaking at a debate hosted by Bloomberg/KPMG in the City earlier this year.
So how come Ms Grant is not splashed on the front pages accused of luxury living instead of being back in Blighty in the rain?
I guess it’s because she isn’t the leader of Ukip but an Establishment politician who fits in nicely with the cosy club of lobbying groups and media organisations who crowd around Westminster. And I’m more likely to become a teetotal vegan than Trinity Mirror is to write something damaging about a member of the Labour party!
Now the EU is after our e-cigarettes...
So the papers tell us that smoking doesn’t actually harm men’s sperm. Nevertheless I think that anyone who smokes these days (myself included) realises that it doesn’t have the health benefits of a shot of wheatgrass juice and a morning jog.
In the next session of the European Parliament, where Ukip will be attending with the most MEPS from the UK, there will be a vote on the legislation of pharmaceutical products. The bright sparks from the last legislative wanted to label e-cigarettes as “medicinal”, meaning that actual tobacco would be available from any high street but not the much safer alternative.
Having tried e-cigarettes I was genuinely impressed by them and view them as the only real way for long term smokers to give up the habit. So why, then, would European MPs - who interfere in our health to the extent of checking our hair dyes won’t kill us (not a risk I am facing; no astonishingly dark hair at 50 for me) - want to make it harder for people to give up smoking?
I guess the question there lies with lobby companies and big businesses who have so much control over the European Parliament. I know - they’ve tried it with me enough times over the years but I vote on what I was elected to vote for - getting out of the EU.