It’s the 9th November 2015 and the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage is in Gloucester for the first time, to speak to a packed GL1 audience about leaving the European Union. I walk into the foyer and get handed a hessian bag for life with UKIP and anti-EU material inside it. I enter the auditorium and take my seat not really knowing what to expect. As I look around, I notice an aged audience with the odd working mum and suited men. Moreover, the majority of audience members seemed to be men.
I knew that I wouldn't agree with most of the material that came from Nigel Farage or his fellow speakers but, I didn't think I would disagree that much. As a self-proclaimed lefty, I don’t agree with much of what UKIP say or stand for. I do, however, like Nigel Farage and I agree with his anti-establishment rhetoric. As Mr. Farage entered the stage, the audience went wild, began clapping, screaming, whistling and stood to their feet. I was shocked. It was more like a stand-up appearance from a well-liked comedian than a political meeting. Naturally, I stood and clapped to keep up appearances.
Much of what Nigel Farage had to say was believable. Most of it was even agreeable. However, for me, many of his statistics do little to support his argument and are easily broken down by the opposing side. Firstly, he often uses Iceland as an example to back up the formation of treaties and trade agreements with other countries outside of the EU. In this case, he stated that Iceland or as UKIP’s trade spokesman kept saying ‘Ice land’, has half the population of Gloucestershire and yet has a trade agreement with China. The audience loved this. However, Iceland’s trade agreement isn't really what it seems. Iceland is effectively China’s bitch. China set the terms and Iceland agree to them. There’s no negotiation and China benefits far more than Iceland does. The other example that Nigel Farage uses is, Norway and Switzerland.
Norway are, as pointed out by Farage, a prosperous, happy, sustainable, rich country. (He obviously forgot the word socialist) He argues that Norway aren't in the European Union but are doing so much better than us. That is correct but there’s a major problem here. UKIP are campaigning for complete independence from the EU. Norway is not completely independent from the European Union. Norway is part of the European Economic Area. This means, they can form trade deals with other countries, control their fisheries and farms, they aren’t impacted by the unstable European currency and they aren't governed directly by Brussels. That all sounds great to UKIP. However, to be part of the EEA, they still have to abide by the four freedoms (which includes free movement of people), they still pay enormous amounts to the European Union but they don’t have a seat at the table. They’re almost a paying member of a club that they're not allowed in.
Before Nigel Farage entered the room to an onslaught of cheers, UKIP’s trade spokesman said a few words. For someone who is meant to specialise in trade, his entire speech was generally about his hatred for the BBC and their apparent bias towards UKIP. He stated that the BBC are and will campaign subconsciously for the ‘yes’ side and show political bias towards UKIP and the no campaign. Now, the audience loved this. I’m not necessarily convinced that the BBC are that bias towards UKIP and instead the pundits who are invited onto BBC shows project bias and not the BBC themselves. I also believe that anyone will have a pop at any publicly funded organisation or department because the depreciation of it will effectively save them money. Opposing the BBC could potentially regain you £145 if the BBC were to fold or lose the TV licence tax.
At one stage, questions from the public were put forward to the speakers. One question asked Nigel Farage “Does anyone know how many people are actually living in the UK?” To which Farage replied with an anecdote about sheep being electronically tagged so we know how many sheep we have but not citizens of the UK. I’ll let you read into that what you will but it didn't sound great.
The entire meeting was about Nigel. Every question but one was to him and the one that wasn’t, he answered it anyway. And that just sums up the party. Without Nigel, there is no UKIP. Without Nigel, there would be no referendum. At times, I did feel very uncomfortable. Although charismatic as he is, the event seemed more like a rally than a meeting. His voice echoed throughout the hall like a chilling, yet soothing Dalek. The audience was entranced by him. They constantly cheered and stood up to clap numerous times. It did feel like the cult of Farage had emerged and it didn't help when he called them ‘the people’s army’.