Good Morning Ladies & Gentlemen
Welcome to Nottingham and Robin Hood country!
I am delighted to be able to greet you all on this, the 8th Annual General Meeting, since we were launched on August 20th 2002. In those 8 years this Party, and the English movement generally, have made great strides forward. I just want to take a moment or two to reflect on that because we often lose sight of what progress we have made in our quite understandable anxiety to improve further.
What we are attempting to do, Ladies and Gentlemen, is something that in its true meaning is little short of revolutionary!
We are attempting by peaceful, moderate, reasonable, legal and thoroughly democratic means to create from its foundations up an entirely new structure – an entirely new political party - which will be the voice for the English Nation.
In those 8 years we have spent a considerable sum of money, certainly in excess of £400,000, and we have spent a great deal of time and effort. As I look around this room I can see many of those who have put in what is well beyond the call of duty into this Cause and into trying to make it succeed.
We have shown in this recent General Election (as we did in the EU one last year, with 279,801 votes) that we are currently England’s 7th largest party. With 107 candidates (which was more than the SNP and Plaid Cymru put together), we got 64,826 votes. Our percentage in this election if it had been spread over the whole of England’s 533 seats, would have worked out at an averaged equivalent of 324,064 votes nationwide.
I think that we are now on the very cusp of making a breakthrough to being an established political party and an effective campaigning force for the English Nation.
So as we reflect on how far we have come we should thank those members who are here and also, in their absence, all those members who have helped us get where we are by campaigning, leafleting, standing in elections and taking part in building our organisation.
Could I ask our last year’s National Council Members to stand up. Ladies and Gentlemen, our National Council meets once a month and members of our National Council give their time and travel freely for the Cause and richly deserve our thanks.
Now could I please ask all those who stood in the General Election and helped us get not only 64,826 votes, but also the essential Party Election Broadcast and coverage in the broadcast media that we would not have got if we had stood less candidates.
Ladies and Gentlemen could I ask those parliamentary candidates who are present to stand up. They gave their time to the Cause freely and also in many cases spent significant amounts of money to make it possible and they richly deserve our thanks.
Last, but by no means least, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have quite a number of people who have stood in local elections. Standing in local elections isn’t as expensive as standing in parliamentary elections, as there is no deposit and the amount of leafleting is far less, but nevertheless it is a very important part of getting the message out there. Ladies and Gentlemen I would ask those who stood in local elections to stand so that we can thank them also for their time and effort for our Cause.
The reason why we are as near the cusp of breakthrough as we are is because in all these years we have been building our “brand awareness”. I am speaking in marketing terms. There is a marketing theory that unless someone has heard something about us at least five times, they do not actually fully register that they have heard of us, but after the fifth time they are likely to say to themselves that they have heard of us and perhaps will then consider supporting us.
All our hard work on building our brand awareness is working but please do remember that when you are discussing what the English Democrats are about, do compare us with the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru and not with the BNP. If you say we are not the BNP, not racist and so on, all of that is true, but it does create the wrong associations in people’s minds and involves you in a detailed explanation. Whereas if you simply say that we are like the Scottish National Party or Plaid Cymru for England then you are triggering different associations in people’s minds and then people are usually interested in hearing the details of what we are about – instead of pigeon holing us in a bad and dangerous pigeon hole!
In order to make the actual breakthrough to winning elections we do have to move from where we are at the moment which is simply leafleting for elections to actually canvassing electors. In election winning terms there can be no substitute to talking to as many electors as possible. Many parties do six “sweeps” of their target constituency. Each time taking note of waivers, supporters and opponents and making sure that supporters are followed up on election day to see they have in fact voted and also avoiding any further leafleting of opponents as they do not want to encourage them to vote.
Let me give you a quotation from another Chairman, “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice, and surmount every difficulty to win victory”. Chairman Mao Tse Tung.
Ladies and Gentlemen one of the things you might also like to consider that shows that we have had some success is the fact that a Commission to consider the West Lothian question (which I think should more properly be called the English Question), is an item that has been expressly agreed in the Coalition pact. Of course what has been agreed between them is that the issue will be kicked into the long grass and that the Commission will no doubt take many years to report, but the fact that the West Lothian question now has special prominence and that it has had to be treated in this way shows that we are making headway and that we are worrying the Westminster Establishment.
It is also interesting that even Labour have now been saying that they need to become a more English Party.
Both David Milliband and that darling of the left, John Cruddas, have said as much, along with a number of other Labour MPs.
As I have said the General Election showed us as being the 7th largest Party in England in terms of popular support. Ladies and Gentlemen, this has been achieved without any serious financial backing and with all the money raised from the pockets of Party members. If we are to be able to make that breakthrough we do need to raise more money and I would consider this issue to be one of our most serious challenges. I think all of us who have canvassed know that on the street there is tremendous potential support for this Party, but we do need the money which will enable us to be more organised and to do all that we need to do in terms of electioneering.
Ladies and Gentlemen building our name recognition branding in the political market place has cost many hours of hard work by our activists and, as I have said, has cost at least £400,000 of our Party Members’ money and Ladies and Gentlemen I have to tell you that we need much more to make the difference.
Ladies & Gentlemen, I don’t know if you have heard about the two young men, Jack and Bob, whose car got stuck in a torrential downpour in the Lake District a few years ago?
Luckily they were near a farmhouse and so asked the lady who answered the door if they could stay the night.
“I realise it’s terrible weather out there”, she said “and I have this huge house all to myself, but I’m worried neighbours will gossip if I let you stay in my house”
“Don’t worry,” Jack said to her. “We’ll be happy to sleep in the barn. And if the weather improves, we’ll be gone at dawn”.
The lady agreed, and the two men waded over to the barn and settled in for the night.
Come morning, the rain had cleared up, and they went on their way.
About nine months later, Jack got an unexpected letter from a Cumbrian solicitor. It took him a few minutes to understand it but he finally worked out that it was from the solicitor of that attractive widow he had met on that wet weekend.
He went round to see his friend Bob and asked, “Bob, do you remember that good-looking widow from the farm where we sheltered in the barn up in the Lake District?”
“Yes I do”, replied Bob
“Did you happen to get up in the middle of the night, go up to the house and pay her a visit?” asked Jack
“Yes,” Bob said, a little embarrassed about being found out. “I have to admit that I did”.
“And did you happen to use my name instead of telling her your name?”
Bob’s face turned bright pink and he said, “Yes, Sorry mate. I’m afraid I did. Why do you ask?”
Jack replied “Well she just died and left me all her money.”
So could I please urge that if any of you are in that kind of situation, please could you say that your name is “English Democrats” because we could really do with having the legacy!
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us now ookin around us at the political situation we now find ourselves in.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have had a look at Nick Clegg’s recent speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference and it may surprise you to hear me say it but “I agree with Nick” when he says “Britain in 2010 is anxious, unsure about the future, but Britain in 2015 will be a different country” - but not, I think, for the reasons that he gave!
Looking around the world, Coalition Governments lead often to a realignment of politics. Let me give you an example. If you look at the Coalition Government formed in 1916 and which went on until 1922. It led to a dramatic realignment of politics. If you consider that the Conservative Party before the First World War was something of a rump of extremists with their then leader being involved in gun-running to Northern Ireland, but by 1922 the boundaries of what it meant to be Conservative had changed dramatically. So, for example, a man who had been one of the leading lights of the Liberal Party and had for some years been regularly a Liberal Cabinet Minister, I mean Winston Churchill. By 1922 he had become a Conservative and the Liberal Party itself was left as a small rump which never held power again, until one might argue this year.
Churchill had originally, when he first entered Parliament, been elected as a Conservative but he had ratted soon afterwards. In 1922 he was accused of ratting again and he said that “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat”!
So what I say is that Nick is right that it will be a different country by 2015 because of the likely realignment of politics – that may well not suit Nick!
Turning to Labour, interestingly Labour didn’t suffer as much of a collapse in support as it seemed possible they might have done at some stages in the run up to the election. I think this was partly due to David Cameron’s brand of Conservatism, and to it not being at all clear what he stood for, but also that Labour voters turned out to be as deeply tribal about supporting Labour as any Conservative votes are about voting Conservative.
However buried under the AV Referendum is a clever move by the Conservatives, which is to equalize the size of the constituencies.
Labour’s chances of winning an election will be dramatically reduced by this as the current electoral system has been very skewed towards Labour victory and of course the Boundary Commission which had been appointed during Labour’s time in office had been increasingly pro-Labour. The new arrangements will also give Cameron the opportunity of replacing them with his appointments.
The AV Referendum itself could be of interest to us because although both Labour and Conservative strategists believe that the alternative vote system will help to entrench support for the three main parties and discourage support for other parties, their calculations are based on voters voting exactly the same way as they currently vote. But if you actually look at the way people vote, when given the alternative, then the picture is not so clear cut. Consider how many votes UKIP get in EU elections as opposed to their results in General Elections and, indeed, consider the fact that when second preferences were counted in the Doncaster Mayoral election - we won!
Looking wider afield, while the Greens got a parliamentary seat in Brighton and will therefore inevitably get more coverage in future parliamentary elections, nevertheless they came nowhere near winning in their other target seat of Norwich and they actually had a dramatic reduction in their votes elsewhere in the country. I would also say that Brighton is a very unusual seat with a very unusual social mix and therefore perhaps in a way it may show the high water mark of what the Greens can achieve.
So far as UKIP is concerned, they are of course in another leadership election with it seeming likely that Nigel Farage will become Leader of their Party again. Many of you will know that we, as a Party, did try to have an electoral pact in place for the General Election so that Eurosceptic parties would not stand against each other and had a meeting with Lord Pearson and members of UKIP’s NEC, after which it became clear that in fact UKIP wasn’t seriously campaigning to win seats in the General Election, but was instead campaigning to get more votes because they think that Party State funding will be apportioned in future on the number of votes. Their leadership is really their NEC and it is controlled by their MEPs and so is more interested in fighting EU elections than in winning Westminster seats.
The BNP of course are warring amongst themselves, following their poor showing in the General Election. They appear to be in deep financial trouble as well.
All this leaves the English Democrats as one of the few smaller parties that made any headway in the General Election. So my message to you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the coming year is another one of Churchill’s famous sayings which I suspect was a reference to the way the army worked in the trenches in the First World War, where the Commander in Chief regularly issued orders of the day to try and encourage the troops to greater exertion and sacrifice. Churchill’s version of the order of the day, was “That the order of the day is KBO” – Keep buggering on!
Consider every time we make contact with people we are raising our profile. Consider what has happened with the BNP over the last few years. As recently as the Uxbridge by-election on the 31st July 1997, the BNP was beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party and really had no national profile.
D Sutch Official Monster Raving Loony Party 396 1.2%
I Anderson British National Party 205 0.6%
Consider that our Party has now reached the point where in a number of parts of the country we have reached a critical mass, where instead of what happened originally within our Party, which was that members of the National Council had to get involved in encouraging people to stand in local government by-elections, now it is just happening without any input from the National Council. This helps us as a Party maintain our impetus between big elections.
Consider also that in this conference we have an exciting new initiative to announce to you Ladies and Gentlemen which I am very excited about and which I think positions our Party very much on the ground of what we are really about - which is improving democracy in England.
That initiative is for petitions for referenda to have directly elected Mayors running local government everywhere in England.
In the afternoon of this conference we have got Professor Colin Copus, who is the leading academic commentator on directly elected mayors and Peter Davies, our elected Mayor, going to speak to us about the Mayoralty.
I and others who have already got some experience of running these campaigns will be talking about the nuts and bolts of how you can make it happen where you live, but the results that we have obtained in terms of local coverage, has really been beyond our wildest dreams.
Ladies and Gentlemen let me tell you that when I launched the petition for a mayoralty in Brentwood Borough Council, I not only got full page coverage, the lead editorial, but also a letter published in the leading local paper.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that coverage was more coverage on that one issue than I had got locally in all the years of campaigning. The mayoralty campaign is an issue where we can get genuine interest from local papers. It is a local issue, it is about democracy. It will get our name out there in a way that campaigning on our more national orientated issues is beyond the remit of local papers.
We know from long experience that it is very hard to get national coverage for what we are saying because the national media is British or EU’ish in its leanings and it is also usually tied into one or other of the Establishment parties.
Referenda for elected mayors is an issue, Ladies and Gentlemen, where I think we can make real headway and I hope, once you have heard what we are planning, you will be as excited about it as I am.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen with those thoughts in mind I turn to our agenda for today.