With the European Parliament election campaign underway, our branch was only too happy to agree to a request from Stuart Agnew to help in his campaign. The first priority was leafleting - could we find a suitable town and provide leafleters? In return Stuart would buy the team lunch! Naturally we couldn't turn down this offer and selected Ely over Cambridge, which is really beyond redemption and has long been lost to the liberal fundamentalist movement.
Settling on Sunday 12th May, we chose the Waterside for the location for our recently-acquired UKIP gazebo. This is the waterfront area of Ely where there are restaurants, pubs, cafes and museums so lots of people moving about. A team of three including Stuart remained at the gazebo whilst two 2-man teams went to Ely North ward which we'd identified as a good area to carry out door-to-door leafleting.
As a branch we were very proud to have designed and printed Stuart's campaign leaflet
for him, printing 28,000 in total. This went down well at the stall and with people we met when leafleting in their gardens in the great sunny weather that day.
Stuart met many Ely people who reacted very positively to the question, "Would you like to meet your MEP?". Most fulminated at the state of Brexit and our useless Parliament. Lunch at The Maltings restaurant courtesy of Stuart capped a thoroughly successful morning.
Our second act of support for Stuart was to attend an hustings for the European Parliament election on Thursday 16th May, organised by Cambridge Stays, at Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge right opposite King's College. Holding a hustings in a church was a bit surreal but we organised a support team of four to ensure Stuart got some support in this cathedral of Remoaners.
The event was MC'd by Cambridge 105 Radio’s Julian Clover. Joining Stuart on the panel were The Brexit Party's (Edmund Fordham), Change UK's (Neil Carmichael and ex-Tory MP), Conservatives' (Tom McLaren), Greens' (Catherine Rowett, Independent candidate (Attila Csordas), Labour's (Alvin Shum), and Lib Dems' (Lucy Nethsingha).
The format was quite straightforward. After each candidate was given one minute to state their case for re-election, pre-prepared questions were asked by chosen audience figures and Julian then gave each panel member a minute to answer. Except that it didn't always seem that every panelist was given a chance to reply, especially Stuart. Far too much 'bandwidth' was given to the Green and LibDem candidates, although both were refreshingly fluent unlike the Brexit Party, Labour and Independent candidates. The latter was a Hungarian life science businessman working in Cambridge who seemed to want us all to live long and prosper or something.
Of course the audience was massively pro-Remain so we four Kippers punched above our weight in our appreciation when Stuart spoke but the whole event was rather 'low rent' and far too long at 2hrs. The audience was allowed to asked unscripted questions too and we had a rather posh-speaking 17yr old girl who asked about Greta Thunberg and climate change and what was the panel going to do about it. This was the cue for each candidate to virtue signal their empathy to the climate change brigade/extinction rebels, aside from Stuart who was quite happy to parade his climate change scepticism to the audience. I was aching for someone to ask the 17yr old whether she'd be forgoing the next holiday with Mummy and Daddy to the Maldives, or perhaps the annual family ski holiday to Flaine. The hypocrisy of these climate change obsessives is shameless.
And there were also questions on immigration (virtually all the panel seemed to think it was fantastic - don't they get that we're 'full up'?), refugees, the NHS, austerity etc etc. None on the EU and our membership. For instance, the word 'sovereignty' wasn't mentioned once. We guffawed when the Remoaners of the panel said that they'd work to reform the EU once we've voted in a second referendum to remain. This audience of tree-huggers and refugee welcomers obviously didn't get the Brexit memo on 23rd June 2016.
After an hour and a quarter, the audience began to vote with its feet and thinned out. Ian, my colleague on the left, was fast asleep. It was getting desperate and the end couldn't come sooner. We trooped out and were happy to meet Philip Foster, UKIP member and scientist and international speaker on climate change. We agreed a pint in The Eagle was the only antidote to what we'd just been put through. Our thanks to Stuart for his fortitude in the face of such a hostile crowd and deadly-dull proceedings.The panel of candidates at the Cambridge Stays European Parliament election hustings in Great St Mary's Church (image via Cambridge 105FM).