Clifton Suspension Bridge

rssMy Journey to the UK Independence Party by William Dartmouth FCA

  • The UK Independence Party is constantly growing; all sorts of people have become active supporters. My fellow UKIP South West MEP Trevor Colman was, as I often tell him, sensible enough never to be in politics until he decided to join UKIP. I on the other hand had been active with the Conservative Party off and on since Oxford University days I had always been a mainstream Conservative. The following is an article originally published in March 2008.

"At Oxford University, I was an officer of the Conservative Association and was elected Secretary of the Oxford Union. I then contested for the Conservative Party the Leigh (Lancashire) Parliamentary Constituency. At 24, I was the youngest major party Parliamentary candidate in the country. At the next General Election, I again stood for the Conservative Party, for Stockport South. (The greater part of the Stockport South constituency, as Stockport, elected a Conservative MP 1983 – 1992.)
I am old enough to have had a vote in the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should remain in the Common Market. This was the last time the Political Establishment granted us the right to vote on what is now European Union (the EU). In that referendum, I then voted in favour of Britain staying in the Common Market. My view then was that I was voting only for membership of a Free Trade Zone. Back in 1975, Britain was economically “the Sick Man of Europe”. I thought that through membership of the Common Market, Britain would somehow get a slice of the (West) German economic miracle. As I look back, I am ashamed to admit that I genuinely believed what the leaders of the major parties told us – namely, that the Common Market had “no constitutional agenda” and membership would in no way affect Britain’s independence. We now know that Heath, Wilson and the others were systematically and knowingly misrepresenting the truth. (It could be called lying.)

I then worked as an accountant (I am a Chartered Accountant) in the Gulf (the UAE) for 2 years. After that I took a postgraduate degree in business (an MBA) at Harvard University in the US. Further, I continued to live and work in the US for another 6 years.

My experience living and working both in the Middle East and the US has clarified for me first that Britain is very well placed to benefit and to continue to benefit from globalisation. Second that the EU’s response to globalisation – massive regulation, trade barriers, and the rest - is absolutely the wrong answer for the 21st century. The EU places at risk Britain’s ability to compete. In short, the EU threatens (rather than enhances) Britain’s prosperity. Further, nothing is going to alter. The EU is institutionally corrupt, unchangeable and incapable of reform.

I returned to the UK in 1995 and worked full time in business. I still then saw myself as a mainstream Conservative. Then came the Maastricht Treaty, and Britain’s disastrous membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (the ERM), which was intended to pave the way for Britain’s abolishing the Pound.

It is strange to remember now that the leaders of all 3 political parties and most of the economic and business establishment were united in supporting Britain’s membership of the ERM.

One of the few things a postgraduate degree from Harvard does is that it helps one to make one’s own conclusions. After carefully thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that the Maastricht Treaty was a “Treaty too far.” Further, for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to set British interest rates would be wholly against Britain’s economic interest and an unacceptable loss of Britain’s independence.

Had I inherited my family’s peerage in time for the debates on the Maastricht Treaty, I would certainly have voted for a referendum, as many peers did – but not enough. In 1997, my father sadly passed away; I then took the family seat in the House of Lords, as then composed. I was a member of the House of Lords until November 1999. During this time I made a series of speeches, including on the European Central Bank, which even rereading today, stand the test of time.

During those years I stood for the European Parliament (June 1999 elections) again for the Conservative Party. As above, I had a robust Euro-sceptic point of view. However, I was utterly disillusioned to find that the bulk of the Conservative MEP candidates were Europhiles. Far from advancing and defending British interests, they were collaborators with the EU. Most of them had a highly developed “Quisling mentality”. (I include Giles Chichester MEP for the South West in this category.) More than that, Caroline Jackson MEP, James Elles MEP and Christopher Beazley MEP to name but 3, sincerely believed and believe that there should be a country called Europe - in which Britain would be no more than Airstrip 1.

In the 2004 European Parliamentary elections, I neither applied to be a Conservative candidate, nor did I stand. It was in the 2004 Euro election that I cast aside over 20 years of membership of the Conservative Party and voted for the UK Independence Party. (I also voted for the UK Independence Party in the 2005 General Election.)

Immediately after the 2004 Election for the European Parliament, both The Times and the Daily Telegraph published 2 lengthy letters from me on the Conservative Party and the EU. From my letter in the Daily Telegraph “…Michael Howard must face down Kenneth Clarke and the others, and put forward a coherent and intellectually consistent Euro-sceptic policy whose centrepiece is repatriation of powers or else withdrawal….” And from my letter in The Times “…We already have little or no influence. An enlarged EU means, if anything, even less influence for Britain, not more. EU enlargement creates no paradox. On the contrary, it sets in concrete the impossibility of meaningful reform.”

In 2005, David Cameron became Conservative leader. Political memories are short but it is worth remembering that David Cameron was elected Conservative leader as the Euro-sceptic candidate. Cameron then with relish and alacrity broke the Euro-sceptic promises he made, not just deferring withdrawal from the EPP, but abandoning the pre-existing (Conservative) policy to repatriate fishing. He also specifically barred as Shadow Minister(s) any Conservative MP who supported the “Better Off Out” campaign.

However, the tipping-point for me was when David Cameron gratuitously and offensively described the UK Independence Party as “…a bunch of ... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists…”. As a fellow Old Etonian and Oxford graduate – I have to say, “Shame on you Cameron”.

I then decided not just to vote for the UK Independence Party but to be become a member and an active one. When I joined the UK Independence Party, I was interviewed on the national Channel 4 News and the BBC website carried (most of) my formal statement.

At the end of last year I was selected as UK Independence Party prospective Parliamentary candidate for Exeter. To anyone who doubts our determination and ultimate ability to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, to quote a leading US politician, I would say, “Yes, we can….."

"William Dartmouth SW UKIP MEP"