The Election @ After Nyne…Josie Anne Gray on Fish, Farage & The Future

culture magazine

In the lead up to the UK General Election, After Nyne will be keeping a keen eye on issues affecting the nation, and the public response. 

This is a repost from The Dock…writer and arts entrepreneur Josie Anne Gray reports on the arrival of UKIP in Grimsby this week and how the locals dealt with it. 

While the Twittersphere goes into a headspin regarding Joey Essex and Farage being pictured together on a fishing boat, there is a different and more compelling story to be told regarding the UKIP leader’s visit to Grimsby today. Starting out on the docks, Farage made his views on renewable energy abundantly clear; “So I have to say, I think in 10 years’ time there won’t be a renewable industry, we will have rethought the whole thing.” (Source BBC News)

Farage envisions the renewable investment in Grimsby to be a wasted effort, a flash in the pan. He unveiled a poster promising a return to the glory days of the fishing industry in Grimsby should he achieve his ambitions and be in a position to pull the UK out of the European Union.

A politician promising a return to a mythologised past is hardly something new. The Tories have been promising a return to Victorian values for over a century but there is something especially pernicious about a millionaire stockbroker with little to no real knowledge of post industrial towns like Grimsby making flying visits on an election trail and promising the undeliverable.

On the street this morning, outside the town hall, a small but enthusiastic group of protesters made their feelings about Farage and UKIP’s policies abundantly clear. There was a great deal of chanting and shouting, the kind of thing the media likes to use to represent protesters as a rabble but talking to individuals it was obvious that those present had genuine arguments with UKIP and that those arguments were articulate and grounded in a factual understanding of the greater picture.

‘I’m here to defend my class,’ said Rob Parrish from Scunthorpe, ‘there is a lot of solidarity between places like Grimsby and Scunthorpe. Farage is a threat to our class and a dangerous man.’ Kieran Barlow of Grimsby and part of TUSC said ‘UKIP is using populist ideas to create a movement that alienates and divides working class people. Poorer people in difficult situations are being offered someone to blame.’

Yasmin Shelton, a vibrant young woman spoke passionately about UKIP’S anti-woman, homophobic agenda citing the continual struggle the LGBT community has regarding equality. Her brother Adam told me ‘I’m from Leicester where it’s culturally vibrant. It’s beautiful. People want a multi-cultural society.’ Callum Stanland told me he stands against UKIP for their demonising of migrant workers, the LGBT community and the disabled. ‘They can’t be allowed to get away with it.’

The area around the town hall became increasingly busy as camera crews, reporters, protestors and onlookers gathered. The UKIP supporters, numbering around seventy, who had been invited to attend made their way up the steps, many of them hotly contending the chant ‘Nigel Farage, we know you, you’re a racist, Tory too.’

Obviously feeling the need to have their voices heard, UKIP councillors came out of the town hall to speak to the protestors. Presenting himself as highly reasonable Chris Osborne told me ‘I fiercely stand against racism, bigotry and prejudice. I support the right to protest.’ One has to wonder what he is doing in UKIP if he adheres to these admirable values when he is surrounded by those who patently do not.

Val O’Flynn, the Grimsby parliamentary candidate for TUSC explained the basis of TUSC’s opposition to the EU. ‘It is underfunding not migrant workers that has led to economic problems. The EU works in favour of business and capitalism, not the workers. Migrant workers come here from countries ruined by austerity to do the best for their families. We need migrant workers to work alongside the unions to get fixed union rates of pay.’ Her Cleethorpes counterpart Malcolm Morland criticised UKIP and Farage on the basis that they misrepresent what they are really about. ‘Nigel Farage is a tax-avoiding stock broker who claims to be a man of the people. He is misleading poorer people and working people. He wants to take away the welfare state and to bring in privatisation.’

Farage was running late and the temperature of the protest began to rise when Victoria Ayling appeared on the steps of the town hall. She was repeatedly asked to clarify if she was or was not affiliated to the National Front in the past. She made no answer to the question.

She was very effective at standing there in an imperious fashion, waiting for her leader to arrive. Her attitude towards immigrants is well documented and her views on renewable energy laid bare for all to see. Ditched by the Tories five years ago for making misleading claims about her professional life she does not cut a credible figure as a potential future MP. Long serving and well respected councillor Andrew De Freitas said ‘it will be horrendous for Grimsby if she becomes MP.’

Ayling did manage to stand in the path of the protest. She was unflinching in the barrage of hostility that she faced. Farage, the ‘man of the people,’ when he finally arrived, late, did not face the people but instead slid in to his meeting through a side door. That says a great deal. He slithered out by the same exit at the end and was allegedly whisked off to the pub for the obligatory pint. However, it later transpired that he didn’t make it to the pub and instead went for fish and chips with his new best friend, Joey Essex.

Andy Dickson who works in the renewable industry for Siemens was pleased to talk to me about the great potential opportunities for the area and for the development of a skilled workforce. He began working offshore in 2008 and has worked in Greece, Denmark and France, taking his expertise around Europe. ‘It’s not just foreign workers coming here,’ he said, ‘I go elsewhere. UKIP is a disaster for Grimsby. There are plans for up to 3000 offshore turbines at Hornsea and Dogger Bank, the potential for work for a generation. The Able Marine Park could bring 4,500 manufacturing jobs to the region. All of this investment is coming from Europe. If Ayling wins, it could end this potential investment.’

It’s not just the racist agenda, the backward-looking attitudes to equality and diversity, the homophobia and the chimera of speaking for the people that is ugly about UKIP. It is the real threat to jobs, particularly in our region. Grimsby, Immingham and the Humber region could have a vibrant future in renewable technologies.

This area could contribute hugely to addressing climate change by embracing and developing new and more sustainable energy production. In a town of high unemployment, low aspiration and abandonment by successive governments UKIP is threatening to slam the door in the face of hope. It will be truly tragic if the town votes for its own demise on May 7th.

Josie Anne Gray @merlinskeepmuse