UKIP’S Neil Hamilton has thrown his hat into the ring for the Newport West by-election. The outspoken AM for Mid and West Wales has spoken to Llanelli Online ahead of the launch of his campaign. We began by asking Mr Hamilton:
Newport West has been a Labour stronghold for over thirty years. You haven’t got a hope in hell’s of getting that seat have you?
Who knows? It is a crucial time in Brexit. 29th March. The campaign goes over that date. All those people who want a people’s vote so called second referendum as far as Newport’s concerned they can have a people’s vote the Thursday following the 29th of March because that’s by-election day. I wanted to be the UKIP candidate in this by-election and to lead the campaign to deliver on Brexit. It’s up to the people to decide who they want to represent them. I am up for it if they want me.
You are outspoken on Brexit. The people of Newport voted to leave. Is this going to be the main ticket you will be fighting your campaign on?
Oh definitely. I mean there is no more important topic in British politics at the minute than Brexit, whatever your views on Brexit you’re bound to agree that proposition. The constitutional future of our country is at stake here plus all the economic implications either way too. This is a battle I have been fighting all my political life. I first joined the anti common market league when I was still at the Amman Valley Grammar School back in 1967. So it’s a culmination of a lifetime’s activity and I hope we will be leaving the EU on the 29th March. I have grave doubts that that will actually happen.
Martin Shipton said that you denied that you were going to stand and effectively called you a liar. What made you change your mind?
@NeilUKIP flatly denied that he would be standing in the Newport West by-election when I asked him face to face. Today he has announced his candidacy. Four days is a long time in politics. Or is there a simpler explanation ?)
What I said was I hadn’t applied for the candidature although many people were trying to persuade me to put my hat in the ring. I didn’t apply I was asked by the UKIP National Executive. I was very reluctant at first to do it. Obviously I am in the Assembly in Cardiff. I didn’t want to convey that my role here in the Assembly was half hearted. In the end I was persuaded that this is something I should do. The party wanted me to do it and there is a job to be done here and that is why I stepped up to the plate. When I saw Martin Shipton last week that was before the final decision was taken.
You have crossed swords at the Senedd with Plaid and Labour. Has it got you anywhere or have you realised you just don’t have enough influence, hence the leap to Parliament?
I haven’t convinced either the Labour party or Plaid Cymru that UKIP is right. I held them to account on numerous issues and I keep calling them to account on Brexit because they make the most outlandish claims. I simply put the opposite view the true view that this is overwhelmingly in Britain’s interest and overwhelmingly in Wales’s interest. Ultimately that we should govern ourselves. What self-respecting person doesn’t want to vote in and out the people who make our laws. We can’t do that in the European Union we will be able to do it once we get out.
Have the politicians betrayed the will of the people on Brexit?
Well I think these people are actually being contemptuous of the voters. When you look at the votes in Labour seats the biggest votes were in what traditionally had been Labour’s safest seats. Blaenau Gwent for example, 62% or more people voted to leave, Merthyr similarly. In all those valley seats there was an overwhelming vote to leave. Not a single Welsh Labour AM voted to leave and not a single Plaid Cymru AM voted to leave. It just goes to show how totally out of touch these establishment politicians in the Cardiff Bay bubble are about the real opinions of ordinary people. Labour long since lost touch with its grass roots on a whole range of issues. Immigration top of the list. There’s overwhelming support for stricter controls on immigration. Mark Drakeford’s Labour party in Wales says it wants an open door and for Wales to become a nation of sanctuary. Welcome, come one and all. That goes down like a lead balloon with ordinary people. Similarly lots of issues around political correctness, which now utterly consumes the Labour party and Plaid Cymru too for that matter. Green taxes which add 20% to our electricity and gas bills to fund forests of windmills promoted by rich developers very often English companies all over Wales. This is the price that ordinary people are paying for these Metropolitan obsessions. So that’s what I am going to do in this election campaign in Newport is put the other side of the case. Put the view of the ordinary person, the ordinary man and woman in the street.
If you are elected as MP will you make a quick switch into an independent party who appear to be fighting on the same ticket as you?
I certainly won’t be part of a party that includes people like Anna Soubry or Chuka Umunna. That is basically a Nigel Farage personality cult. No more than that. If you look at the proposed structure of this party Nigel decides who does everything and what the party stands for and nobody else gets a say in it and that is why he fundamentally flounced out of UKIP because he couldn’t get his way. He took his bat home. I shall be UKIP through and through. What I hope to do as a result of this by-election is revive UKIP.
What’s left of UKIP and where will the money come from for your campaign?
Gerard Batten has been leader now for over a year. He has steadied the ship. Membership is up again. We are financially stable. When he took over membership had plummeted from 48,000 at our highest down to 17,000 under the farcical leadership of Henry Bolton. In the last twelve months he has put it up to 30,000. There was a huge black hole in our accounts and he has plugged that. We are not flush with cash. We have enough money to fight the by-election. We haven’t got the money that the big parties have got to throw at it. I am going to use the Internet, social media and establish a present on the ground, which is visible. You can do all these things without the big bucks the other parties have got available to them. We are a grass roots movement first and foremost. I think everybody realises what a total Horlicks Theresa May has made of the Brexit process and what a disappointment it is. That visionary vote two and half years has been squandered. We have achieved nothing; in fact we have gone backwards.
If the second vote is again to leave, where does that leave the politicians who have reneged on the first vote?
Wales voted by a majority to leave. The largest individual vote that we have ever had in the United Kingdom on a single issue. The Government issued a booklet at our expense costing £9.5 mil, which went to every household before the referendum saying this is your decision; the Government will implement what you decide. That was an actual quote in the booklet. Now of course they are trying to get out of it. Labour and Plaid want to reverse the result. They are ready for a second referendum. We all know what their game is. They don’t like the decision the people took. If they were democrats they would accept that decision but because they are not democrats they do not accept it. UKIP is an established brand. I believe that it is instantly recognisable. People know what we stand for as far as Europe is concerned although I want to broaden that in the election campaign and talk about domestic issues as well. It’s all about putting money into the pockets of ordinary working people, those who are at the bottom of the heap in economic terms. That is what I came into politics to do was to actually empower ordinary people and fight the elites.
How well do you know Newport and the issues affecting people on a daily basis? What have you got to offer the electorate?
My parents were married in the Newport West constituency. My mother’s family lived just outside Risca and Crosskeys. They moved there with the development of the coal industry. I have a lot of historic connections. I went to school in Blackwood. I know the area reasonably wells. I am familiar with all the major issues in Welsh politics. I have a lot to offer the people of Newport. My parliamentary and political experience, my profile and what I stand for frankly because I believe in implementing the will of the people. I believe in fighting for those who need to have somebody to take the fight to the enemy on their behalf. The enemy could be the government, bureaucracy whatever in addition to the European Union. That is a rounded campaign that I am going to make in Newport on behalf of the people of Newport.