Ed Balls was in town today. I completely understand the anger of former Labour voters who feel betrayed by the Blair and Brown governments he served – to say nothing of the Miliband shadow cabinet. Many are finding the same warm welcome in UKIP I did, where they will never be taken for granted. But I must pull Mr Balls up on one point. He said in Rochester & Strood that I want to let corporations loose on the NHS. I don’t. UKIP’s health policy is clear – defend and fund the NHS.
My father was a doctor. My mother was a nurse. My brother is a doctor. I’ve been working closely with the staff at Medway Hospital to get it out of special measures, which is one reason why Strood GP Dr Juneja was good enough to endorse my NHS record. I’m doing the work on the ground. That, not misrepresenting opponents, is how patients get higher standards.
Jill Seymour MEP is one of UKIP’s stars on the party’s front bench and it was a real pleasure today to welcome her back to Rochester & Strood for the second time already. The other parties are rounding-up the camera crews for their big names, who get out of a car, offer the old clichés, and disappear back to London again at the very first opportunity. Jill and I tried to do something more useful.
We went to the Tory ghost road at Riverside, built at £13 million expense in a predictably doomed green attempt to stop people driving to work as they wish, and now silent all day save for the odd (empty) bus. What a shambles. The Tory council won’t open it. Conservative-led central government won’t open it. UKIP, when we get the chance, will drop the nonsense and open the road. Jill said it well today – ‘for that much money, I’d have expected a motorway – and a long one’.
The volunteers generously showing up at the UKIP campaign shop at 30 Rochester High Street are a mix of all backgrounds, all ages. I’m grateful to each. Our youngest is Jonathan Woods from Rainham. You’d never imagine listening to him talk about why he’s helping out with UKIP that he’s only 14. You can watch him explain himself here, he’s already a terrific advocate for his community and his country and I really appreciate the support of all the Woods family:
Not only has she written a book discussing why UKIP really matters – and it’s well worth a look, you’ll find it here, but Suzanne Evans has won a deserved reputation with the People’s Army for leading from the front with real passion, generosity, and tirelessness.
She was in Rochester & Strood today to support my campaign, and I really appreciate it. Joining UKIP means finishing up on the same side as people like Suzanne, and I can’t understate how much I’m glad that’s now the case.
Some of the dedication UKIP receives is no less inspiring. Caroline Stephens is our prospective parliament candidate for Stroud and I can’t overstate how impressed I am by her commitment to the cause. She’s able to join the local cohorts volunteering because she makes a 300-mile trip each weekend. All I can say is that I salute her and I thank her.
She’s not the only one by any means. This is the UKIP team from Leicestershire, who got off the bus outside our campaign shop today – a Monday too! – without our even knowing they were making such an effort. They brought their own supply of pork pies too!
Dan Hannan, a Conservative MEP of wit and erudition I’m proud to call a friend, put out a good tweet today. It was about the European Arrest Warrant. Actually, that was one of the reasons I’m now in UKIP. This EU arrest warrant makes any British liable to be hauled up in court in any of the other twenty-seven countries trapped in the European project. To put it mildly, they don’t all match the standards of British justice – and British citizens have been caught up in some truly shocking cases. Dan said: ‘There scare-stories about criminals evading justice without the EAW are hysterical. There were extraditions agreements in place before 2004’, the year the EU enlarged so fateful. Dan, you’re right on the money.
I’ve long been a believer in democracy not just in the way every decent person is, but in a way I think I can fairly call radical – believing not only in getting power back from Brussels to Britain, but from London to local communities, and in engaging people again in a process that should always have been theirs from the start.
This is John Turner. He’s never voted before. He never felt any of the old parties listened to people properly. He’s seventy-three years of age and he’s voting for the first time – for UKIP, and for me, it’s quite a humbling thing to be able to say.