There are now just two weeks until the general election, and political parties have began to unveil their manifestos for how they believe the country should be governed. This week, Ukip’s challenger Piers Wauchope met reporter Aidan Barlow outside the party’s campaign office in Mortimer Street in Herne Bay
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Piers Wauchope is 58 and a barrister. He stood for parliament for the Conservatives in 1997 and 2005, but has since left the Tories to join Ukip. He was their choice for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, but finished fourth. In 2012 he beat the sifting leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, and served as a councillor there before resigning to take on North Thanet. He describes himself as the only Albion Rovers football supporter in North Thanet.
How did you get into politics?
I’ve served 11 years as a councillor in Camden and in Tunbridge Wells, but I’ve been standing in elections on and off since 1986. In 2005 I took on Glenda Jackson in Hampstead, and reduced her majority to the point that the seat went from being a safe Labour seat to a marginal.
Why did you leave the Tories?
I had been standing for the Conservatives up until David Cameron became leader – from there we parted company. He took the party in a new direction which left me wondering what the point is. He was making the Tories the same so there was no difference between the main parties. It left some of the big issues – like the EU and immigration – out of the picture.
Do you have enough local knowledge about the constituency?
I moved to Birchington more than a year ago and my campaign has lots of assistance from strong local candidates and councillors that we now have. So we have a good team here to help me.
So what do you think about moving NHS outpatient services from Herne Bay to Whitstable?
We’ve got to protect our hospital services. It’s crazy that people have to travel further for these services In this day and age. Everyone wants local NHS services to do well, and Ukip are committed to a further £3 billion of spending on the NHS.
And what are your thoughts about the potential arrival of Sainsbury’s in Herne Bay?
It’s always nice to have competition, and these supermarkets always end up being popular, otherwise they wouldn’t survive. But I think we can be worried about the impact it has on the town centre when people might not come down to the High Street and Mortimer Street. That has happened to Margate, Westgate and Birchington with the shops arriving at Westwood Cross. The effect on town centres can be considerable.
What are your policies on immigration?
We must get immigration under control. That’s why we have called for an Australian points-based system. It is the main plank of our policy. Also, while we remain in the EU there are hundreds of millions of people who have the legal right to come and settle here. We must have the choice over who comes in and out. There are certain people who are, how do I put it – some immigration is always good but the sheer numbers that we experienced over the last two decades have brought an unbearable strain on our housing, schools and healthcare. David Cameron hasn’t got immigration under control. The levels are higher than they were under Gordon Brown. The Conservatives made a big point last time of Labour’s failure and said they would sort it out. It’s a disgrace that they haven’t seen this as one of their most important duties to the people who elected them.
You’ve called for an outright ban on unskilled immigration for five years, how would this be done and how much would it cost?
One of the problems is the enormous social cost of immigration. We need to make sure English people are able to get Into work because they often face grossly unfair competition with cheap foreign labour subsidised by the EU. We would reverse the cuts made to the immigration authorities, to make sure things like illegal immigration are a more difficult thing to contemplate. Once outside the EU those citizens would have to apply for work permits like everyone else.
Why would you increase defence spending?
We are the only party to make the pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence based on Nato targets. It is so important to a nation’s stability in a world where we need to keep our guard up. International crises can spring up very rapidly, and don’t give sufficient warning for us to start from scratch. Defence has often been seen by the main parties as an easy option for cuts.
Why should Britain leave the EU?
It is manifestly corrupt and unwieldy. It is an organisation we never voted for. We need to be able to make our own laws with our own representatives. David Cameron can’t be trusted to deliver a fair referendum, just as a Labour government didn’t have a fair referendum in the 1970s. It’s the basis of democracy to make our own laws, but we’ve sleep-walked into a position where we’ve handed over powers to Brussels.
In 2013 the Japanese government said that if Britain leaves the EU, up to 130,000 jobs with firms like Nissan in Britain will go too. Wouldn’t other firms pull out, plunging the country into economic chaos?
That’s not going to happen. The trade advantages that there were in the 1970s are no longer as stark. I doubt any companies will decide to leave, if anything I think more companies would choose to come here because we’d be free of burdensome regulations.
The Tories accuse you of having a £37 billion black hole in your spending plans, how do you respond?
We are the only party who has got outside reputable consultants to assess our spending plans. It is fully costed, although I’m not surprised by the unprincipled attacks by either of the establishment parties against us. On taxes we want to simplify the system to get people at the bottom end of the scale into jobs and work, and extend the zero rate of income tax band. The second is to raise more taxes with a simpler system. That means we need a rate at the top end that stops people either leaving or finding ways to avoid paying. History shows that if you squeeze those at the top, you end up getting less tax coming in.
Is it fair to cut foreign aid to poor countries?
It’s a matter of priority when so many of our own services are facing cuts or are under-funded. It’s quite wrong to send billions of pounds in aid to countries like India, which wastes so much of its own money on vanity projects like a space programme. If these countries want to trade with us or have something to sell then we will do business. But it’s not right that our taxpayers should be paying for projects abroad which should be paid for by their own governments.
You have opposed local plans for thousands of new homes in Canterbury and Thanet, why?
I think the Conservatives behaved disgracefully over changing the planning laws in favour of big developers. Councils in the south east now face the prospect of the London commuter overspill, leading to housing built on greenfield sites. The number of homes proposed is too high as councils are encouraged to get a new homes bonus from the government. Housing should be subject to local authority control and should almost always not be built on greenfield sites.
There are 2,200 people who need affordable homes across Canterbury, how many new homes would you build?
There are a lot of deserted and uninhabited homes in this constituency, and we need a different tax regime to encourage development on brownfield sites.
Can you win?
Yes I can. I haven’t come here to applaud Sir Roger Gale and welcome him to a seventh term. In 2010 North Thanet was one of the few constituencies where we didn’t lose our deposit. But a lot has changed since then. The traditional parties have been complacent. There is a genuine desire for change. The enthusiasm for a non-establishment party like Ukip has never been seen in this country before, and Herne Bay and North Thanet is leading the way.
Is Ukip just a party of racists, loonies and disgraced former Tories?
No we are not. Immigration is a serious social and economic issue. We are a party of ordinary people who want a government that looks after and prioritises ordinary people.
Are you concerned to be supported by the likes of Nick Griffin?
There may be people who oppose immigration for other reasons. I think they are misunderstanding us. We don’t need their endorsement. We certainly don’t encourage people like that to join us. Whoever shows themselves to be racist is immediately expelled from our party.
Herne Bay Gazette, April 23rd 2015