Coffee House

Farage: AV is the thin of the wedge, that’s why we support it

4 May 2011

Nigel Farage is in a bullish mood. Buoyed by the coalition’s unpopularity,
Labour’s listlessness and the success of the True Finns Party, he has declared that Ukip is " "">no longer a minority party". I interviewed him ahead of tomorrow’s local election,
the first test of his second leadership stint and the new direction in which he is trying to take the party. You can read the full interview as a
"">web exclusive here; and there are some highlights from the transcript
DB: Why are you supporting AV?
NF: Well, first past the post is finished, it doesn’t work.
DB: Why?
NF: It doesn’t really have legitimacy. You know, it worked when we were a two party state. I completely lost faith in it in 2005 when Blair was returned with a 60 seat
majority on 36 per cent of the vote, or 22 per cent if you factor in low turnout. I’d always argued that we needed FPTP because it gave us strong government and we mustn’t become like
Italy. 2005 put a torpedo through that for me. It’s bust.
DB: Are you doing it to engage younger voters, to an extent?
NF: Certainly, the new generation coming through have different attitudes to the system. They think, what’s the point? I would prefer AV Plus, which would retain the
constituency link and then also the second ballot ensured there were no wasted votes. Why do we support AV? Basically if the no side wins, then I think that’s the end of reform. 
DB: So AV is the thin end of the wedge?
NF: I see AV as being a crack in the damn. Once you’ve changed something once, you can change it again. I also think that from the Ukip perspective, which is of secondary
importance, it kills the wasted vote argument in a second.

On banning the Burqa
DB: Your rhetoric on personal liberty seems to contradict your recorded position on the burqa…
NF: Well, let’s get the position on the burqa correct, should we?
DB: Yes.
NF: We are not suggesting, as Sarko has done, that we should stop people from wearing what they want to wear walking down Oxford Street. What we are saying is that laws and rules
should be applied equally to make us feel part of one society, which means that if I can’t wear a crash helmet in a bank, then someone shouldn’t be able to go in covering their face. If
I can’t wear a balaclava on the Circle Line, then neither should they. That’s what we’re asking for.
DB: Do you think the burqa is a symbol of misogyny?
NF: I think it’s remarkable that the very people who talk about equality the whole time are the same people who turn a complete blind eye to the fact that there are many who
do not have an equal chance in life. I mean what chance have you of getting a job if you turn up with your face covered? I hear these arguments that the burqa is liberating, and I simply
don’t believe it.
DB: So why not ban it?
NF: But, really, we’re not strong on this burqa issue. It’s not a frontline policy. What the burqa policy has always been to me is a door through which to have a
broader debate about the kind of society we want to live in. When you have the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that sharia law will become a feature of British life in time. No! Absolutely not!

On Marine Le Pen
DB: Are you heartened by Marine Le Pen’s progress?
NF: Well, that’s an interesting question, and I can’t give you a proper answer yet. I don’t know.
DB: Why not?
NF: Because I’ve sat there for 12 years, watching Le Front National in the European Parliament, and inevitably you meet them and talk to them. Normally, a Front National MEP,
within a few minutes of the conversation having begun, will tell you that Auschwitz didn’t happen. I’m not exaggerating.
So that is where the Front National comes from and the old man (Jean-Marie Le Pen) is your proper chauvinist in every sense of the word. And he and his party have never been appealing to us in
DB: But as a grassroots movement against what is seen as an ineffectual centrist government?
NF: The trouble is there’s so much baggage with their grass roots as well. So, Marine Le Pen comes along and she says a lot of things that are different, she even said in the
Telegraph over the New Year that wants to model her party on Ukip not the BNP. Her euroscepticism is genuine, more so than her father’s certainly: he used to do the hokey-cokey with us: one
minute a friend, the next cast into outer dark.
It’s encouraging to hear her say the things she says on immigration and repatriating power. But do I actually think she’s going to turn the Front National around into a being a
reasonable democratic party? The answer is she has a heck of job.
DB: She’s polling at 44 percent in some places, aren’t you talking about past perceptions?
NF: No, it’s deeper than that. The perception that Ukip was racist was inaccurate. The perception that the Front National is anti-Semitic is true.
DB: And will always remain so?
NF: I think so. And I think people will realise it.
DB: So her success is likely to be fleeting?
NF: I think she’s a very, very interesting figure, fascinating. She’s different. I just wonder, because French politics is different: parties come and go. They
frequently ditch parties and start again. And I just wonder if, after the next election, if something new might not be coming on the centre right of French politics, which she might be part of. I
get that sense because she’s ambitious and different and won’t be tied to a flawed party.

  • steveb

    I just wondered how Nigel thinks that UK are no longer a minority party? I say this because at the general election I vote UKIP but at our local elections although my choice was UKIP, I found to my dismay that couldn’t vote UKIP! and found that although you have constituents in my town, apparently you dont have one in my ward, see that the problem with UKIP right there, this is why UKIP are in fact still a minority party and will stay that way until you build this party properly from the bottom up and start by essentially putting constituents in each ward, so you are not losing voters and voters confidence through the frustration of wanting to vote UKIP but being unable to due to lack of constituents, because the way I see it is that UKIP is currently like a partially built house, the structure is there, but there are a fair few bricks missing. I think Nigel Farage as a politician is a breath of fresh air, he always comes over confident, honest and sincere and I agree with a lot of what he says, except AV, which I am surprised he supports, AV?? why fix something that isn’t broken, sorry but the electoral system has always been and should always be as simple as “the one with the most votes wins”! and if it gets any more complicated than that, then its bound to be unfair, there will be winners and losers and I and mostly everyone else in this country definately would not like their vote to go to another party and its been proven at the referendum. So please put UKIP on the political map for good and ensure you have constituent in every ward as I suggested and maybe then UKIP can actually make the step up to being a major politcal force.

  • gutrot

    There is a feeling in UKIP that its run “by the MEPs for the MEPS”. There are plenty of talented working class members (70%) in the membership, but they have little say on policy development. For a decade the local elections – the real key to power – haven’t not been on the radar for UKIPs leadership. There are at least 4 million disenfranchised Labour voters out there but there has been no attempt to develop and champion the core Housing, Jobs, economic policies to win them, which is why most of the membership joined. Instead UKIP is the party of fringe issues like the Burka and Banker’s Bonuses etc… Looking at – it is like a obsessives diary on the EU..totally unlike any broader party that it claims to be. UKIP needs a wider range of voices and talent to come forth. These exist even within the MEPs – but why have they no say?
    Lastly, the Greens have 2% of the vote, many thousands less members but a broad range of policies and effective candidates who have been developed in local elections, taking votes from both Labour and Conservatives so have now an MP after a few years.
    We are still lacking these magic ingrediants even though our potential is vastly greater.
    For me the website sums it up – when that changes from the EU single issue, event to local issues from the Cuts etc.. the party will finally be broadening out and on a path to power.

  • Barbara

    Sorry Nigel, AV is not the best thing at all, in fact the thought of my vote being passed to another party I wouldn’t support fills me with horror. One person one vote is fairer. What we should be having is a referendum deciding what system WE want not one thrust upon us by Cameron. PR should have been on the list, why has it not been added? Its not been added because Cameron could not stand the thought of smaller parties having a say within parliament. Is this democracy, I don’t think so. We do not have democracy here anymore. They talk about Libya getting it, deciding their own destiny, but not us. I’ve voted NO to AV, but for UKIP in the local elections.

  • Sir Everard Digby


    ‘…Pine for the feudal system and the age of rotten boroughs’

    Pine no longer.Those things already exist.Been to any northern Labour consituencies recently? Ennoble the sitting MP, parachute a geek in, put them in Parliament.A well trodden Labour route. Rotten boroughs live. Tradition is truly wonderful.

    Could you or I become candidate for Parliament,or the local council without the feudal intervention of the political classes?

    Absolutely not.

    And that shows what is wrong with the system -it’s a giant club with membership being granted by the few to their clones.

    Which voting system to use is an irrelevant question. As the beneficiaries of any voting system change are corrupt, the irony of coming up with a fairer system to elect them seems to be a theme consistent with that of the Emperor’s New Clothes tale.

  • Nicholas

    “What do you mean by racist baggage though. I am certainly not a racist at all, but I do think there are too many immigrants here in England, and that Islam is an issue. Are these racist views from your perspective?”

    No, I meant the racism attributed to groups like the BNP and EDL. The danger is that as soon as English nationalism is espoused it is immediately conflated with racism, skinheads, football holliganism, etc., by the Reds (and others). If a party were to form it would need to pre-empt this. Unfortunately a desire to preserve and celebrate English culture, traditions and national identity is too often persecuted as being archaic, ridiculous, anti-immigrant and un-inclusive, blah, blah. There is a real problem with this, started by the Reds but perpetuated by the media and wets. I detest what they have done to England and devolution rubs salt in the wounds. I am pro-English not anti-anyone else (except Reds).

    • Jerome Leroy

      Football hooliganism? are you sure? do you know how effectively our police forces have almost eradicated the firms?

      Anyway, have a good day, I’m sure leaving your house isn’t a struggle, us plebs who enjoy shouting at our TV’s when our teams are playing are so illiterate and influenced by goebbels.

  • David Parker

    St Bruno,
    It is true that UKIP originated as a single issue party, primarily in the hope of influencing the one or other of the main parties to adopt an IN/OUT referendum over EU membership as a part of its manifesto.

    However, it became clear long ago that the politicians of all three main parties (though not the majority of their supporters) were predominantly pro EU and would never be influenced by a mere pressure group.

    Hence UKIP realised that the only effective way to influence them was to become a fully fledged political party,with a full range of policies of its own, which would appeal to the very large number of ordinary voters who felt that they had been abandoned by their own parties. Certainly, withdrawal from our present membership of the EU is at the top of our agenda, but if you look at our manifesto on the UKIP website you will see that we have a wide range of sensible policies upon other matters, such as energy, immigration,taxation and the economy, which should appeal to those who favour a moderate, centre-right government.

    Of course, nobody pretends that UKIP would be likely to be able to form a government in the near future. But, by exposing the weaknesses and dishonesty of the present corrupt political system and offering a sensible alternative it is likely that UKIP will steadily increase its share of the vote to the point where it can seriously threaten the chances of either Conservatives or Labour from gaining an overall majority. In this way it can influence their policies, even if only in their own interests, by forcing them to take notice of the concerns of the people and to stop treating them with contempt.

    Certainly, like any newish party UKIP has had it teething troubles and growing pains and is, in some ways still immature, but it is now a young, vigourous party developing very rapidly and with real prospects for the future. At the same time the three main parties are all showing signs of decrepitude and decay.

  • Commentator

    I am always amazed by the way in which TrevorsDen, Tiberius and all of Cameron’s other little helpers seem to think that the Tory Party owns the votes of people who have centre-right views. Despite their “progressive” strutting and posturing, these jokers all seem to pine for the feudal system and the age of rotten boroughs. Their Beloved Leader certainly does.

  • Commentator

    Peter from Maidstone: TrevorsDen spouting utter drivel? Surely not. Whatever next: bear found performing rectal function in arboreal setting?

  • St Bruno

    UKIP is a party of one agenda: namely to get Britain out of the EU. Full marks for that! I totally agree, the sooner the better but can you really see the Tories, Labour or Lib/Dems actually doing it even with Nigel yapping at their heels?

    If UKIP is to push its agenda it must honestly address other issues in the political spectrum otherwise the great mass of voters will see UKIP as a no- hoper to help run the country or work within a coalition that just seems impossible. Maybe UKIP see themselves as a lobby group and have no major political ambitions, though I can’t see that either.

    Could be a change is in the pipeline:
    Abhijit Pandya is the UKIP MP candidate for Leicester South he is indeed a brave man for trying in modern Britain.
    AT LAST! Politician in UK addresses issue of Islam. Press attempts to destroy him.
    In the article, Abhijit Pandya called Islam “morally flawed and degenerate” and said he backed a controversial Dutch politician, who called Islam a retarded ideology.

    Interesting if nothing else. Time will tell but he hasn’t got a hope in hell to be ever elected, the local hacks have made sure of that. In Leicester for goodness sake! So die all unbelievers.

  • In2minds

    I’m interested in the comments above about Nigel in bed with Miss Le Pen as it’s usually Annabelle Fuller.

    @Maggie – May 4th, 2011 6:20pm – You are right, the few others members are awful hence they get little publicity, but then Nigel likes its that way.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Nicholas, I am not sure if it is allowed for a party to use the word conservative. I did visit the relevant official website to see how a political party or organisation could be registered and it wasn’t clear how far words were ‘trademarked’.

    I’d vote for an English Conservative Party.

    What do you mean by racist baggage though. I am certainly not a racist at all, but I do think there are too many immigrants here in England, and that Islam is an issue. Are these racist views from your perspective?

  • Nicholas

    “Can a new party be formed? A Real Conservative Party? And I don’t mean tweed jackets and bazaars, but patriotic, small state and freedom loving. Or would it be possible to adopt a reverse entryist policy, take over local Associations and insist on open primaries with real Conservative candidates?”

    Personally I’d like to see an English Conservative party, without racist baggage, campaigning for an English parliament. I’m fed up with socialist impositions on England due to Scots and Welsh politics. Following New Labour’s devolution it is just insulting.

  • Rob

    “TrevorsDen, sorry, you are spouting utter drivel.”

    LoL, when doesn’t he?

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Old Blue Eyes, are there other Associations where it is possible to engage with a sitting MP who is not properly Conservative without it descending into acrimony? Or does entryism require keeping quiet until reselection time? And what is the reselection process?

  • Peter From Maidstone

    TrevorsDen, sorry, you are spouting utter drivel.

    I am not a Tory. I have little interest in supporting a Party as an organisation. I suppose I am a political conservative, and so I want and rather expect that some in politics will wish to represent conservative views. Clearly the Conservative Party does not.

    That you avoid addressing issues and just want to attack people says rather a lot about you. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, but I am very frustrated and very angry and present politicians and politics. You have nothing useful to say about Islam, the EU, mass immigration, the big state etc etc. But if anyone dares raise these then you use ad hominem abuse.

    I don’t think there are many people here who could care less about the organisation called The Conservative Party. And there seems to me to be nothing wrong at all in wanting to be able to vote for a representative who had some policies in common with the views of the electorate. That you think that odd says something about your view of democracy.

  • Old Blue Eyes

    Peter from Maidstone – Yes the solution for we Conservatives is to is to join our local associations and work to ensure that our candidates are true blue Conservatives. There is evidence to suggest that the last intake of new Conservative MPs went some way along the right path. I’m sorry that your MP ignored the signpost.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Tiberius, I know vast numbers of people who are conservative but do not want to support the present Conservative Party. This is the issue. None of the parties represent the people because they are all the same party.

    The vast majority of people I know are anti-EU, anti-mass-immigration, concerned about Islam, gay-sceptic, and anti state intrusion into every aspect of our lives. Yet none of the parties represent this very widespread range of views.

    So I am treating with the electorate as it is, it is the present group of politicians who despise the electorate and ignore their views.

  • TrevorsDen

    Pearls before swine Tiberius. The only thing which would satisfy PfromM is a PfromM party.

    And we must not forget the Vulture party.

    No doubt they could all form a coalition under the Chip on the Shoulder ticket.

    PfM of course invents an historical Conservative Party that never existed. He is in good company there.

  • Boudicca

    I agree with Farage on most things, but not over AV.

    AV will not help UKIP. What it would do is strengthen the LibDims and make it harder for UKIP to overtake them and become the 3rd force in British politics – offering a real alternative to the pro-EU Lib/Lab/CONcensus that has kept us trapped in the EU against what every poll shows is the desire of a majority of the electorate to leave.

    UKIP should stick with FPTP and go all out to win the EU Parliament elections in 2014 (which looks a distinct possiblity). It will be very difficult for pro-EU stooge Cameron to ignore a vote which results in Farage as Leader of the largest British Party in Brussels.

    If we can overtake the LibDims in the popular vote (which isn’t outside the bounds of possibility) it will be Game On over the EU. And every time EU-stooge Dave capitulates to the EU over another power-grab or demands for more money, our voter base increases.

    Charles Hercock you are right: UKIP are dangerous. But we are far, far better than the BNP. Not only do we appear reasonable, we ARE reasonable. UKIP is a libertarian party that thinks the British people have the right to decide who governs them; our Parliament in Westminster or a bunch of foreign, unelected Commissars in Brussels.

    In contrast, Cameron announces that the UK will stay in the EU because HE believes it is in British interests – despite the fact the EU is bleeding us dry.

    I hope Cameron is watching UKIP’s membership levels increase to their highest level ever, whilst Conservative Party membership is at an all time low.

    Farage is the REAL conservative; Cameron is a blue-labour, pro-EU stooge masquarading as a Conservative PM.

  • Tiberius

    P from M: the problem with your approach is that it will not bring the party to power.

    We have to treat with the electorate before us, not the one we would prefer to have.

  • Publius

    @General Zod
    “FPTP does not disenfranchise most voters. That is an absurd statement.”

    Agreed. And I wish people would stop abusing the term. No one is disenfranchised.

  • Fergus Pickering

    I shall vote UKIP and NO tomorrow. Why not? Nigel Farage doesn’t look dangerous to me; he looks rather sweet. In bed with Marine, eh?

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I also think that UKIP are not the answer, although I would vote for them on the basis of the anti-EU policies they propose and which seem to me to be very important. UKIP are not, and may never be, a proper national party. But the Conservative party is NOT Conservative. It has been taken over by a committed group of entryists.

    Can a new party be formed? A Real Conservative Party? And I don’t mean tweed jackets and bazaars, but patriotic, small state and freedom loving. Or would it be possible to adopt a reverse entryist policy, take over local Associations and insist on open primaries with real Conservative candidates?

    My local MP, Helen Grant, is not a Conservative, and she supports David Cameron, also not a Conservative, in everything he says. I am sure that even now she is integrating his acceptance of experiments on embryos into her world view.

  • charles hercock

    Farage as usual makes no sense
    The UKIP are dangerous
    Perhaps a shade worse than the BNP in that they appear reasonable
    Do not believe for a minute that he would not get into bed with Miss Le Pen

  • Nicholas

    UKIP undermines the right. He might as well set himself up as a yet another amongst the plethora of left wing parties and have done.

    UKIP is to the Conservative Party what LibDems are to Labour. Consolidation on broad principles is the way ahead and the only way to break the leftist grip on Britain.

  • Maggie

    UKIP should be re-named the Nigel Farage Party. Either he is the one and only member or the other members are too awful to be exposed in public.

  • TrevorsDen

    The other issue is that of constituency size and that is being addressed. I am not sure what the situation was but certainly in the past Scotland was over represented in seats and that has changed, but the situation in Scotland is that Labour get a lot of seats their %age vote does not deserve which makes it worse.
    They got 41% of vote and 41 seats out of 59.

  • General Zod

    FPTP does not disenfranchise most voters. That is an absurd statement. It is quite simple: all are entitled to vote and the candidate with the most votes wins.

    Your claim and the AV camp’s claim is that allowing a candidate to win because he has the highest total of “I want that one”, “I can tolerate that one” and “Oh, if I really must because I definitely don’t want the other one” votes somehow enfranchises the majority. It does nothing of the sort and it is still possible to win under AV without having recevied support (however grudging) from >50% of the electorate.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Commentator, all systems disenfranchise the electorate at the moment because all parties are the same party.

    In my council election tomorrow I can vote only for the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or Green representatives of the Mass Immigration Anti-British We Don’t Care What You Think EU First Party. So how am I able to exercise my franchise. Whoever I vote for will have the same policies. How does it matter if I sort them in order of loathing?

    We need new politicians not a new electoral system. One start would be to have ‘None of the Above’ on all ballot papers and if ‘None of the Above’ was the highest vote then the election would be void and another one with new candidates would be required.

  • Commentator

    Er not it isn’t. FPTP remains a deeply flawed system which disenfranchises most voters. Of course that’s the way Cameron likes it. Can’t have the great unwashed having a say rather than taking orders from their social elders and betters.

  • Tiberius

    So he wants to get rid of FPTP on the basis of one general election result, which came at the end of a 12 year period during which the Tory party had inflicted near death by a thousand cuts upon itself.

    Well, Nige, me old mate, Cameron is Tory leader now, and the self-immolation of those dog years is passed. So the basis of your analysis is obsolete, I’m afraid.

  • Steve Tierney

    Great interview. Interesting!

  • Jack Simpson

    It’s obvious he’s only supporting AV for narrow party advantage. There’s no way that Nigel Farage is an instinctive electoral reformer.

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