It was my pleasure to attend the UKIP North East Conference in Hartlepool on Saturday 7th February. The event was well attended and included a speech from UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, in which he stated that he expects Hartlepool to be one of UKIP’s first seats in Westminster. The feeling is though, that UKIP will generally do very well in the North of England, coming at least second in many seats; it now is the main opposition party to Labour in this region, which reinforces the “two horse race” message on my second leaflet for Stockton North.
It is clear that we have a real chance of also winning Stockton North and it’s certainly true to say – Vote Tory, get Labour – Vote UKIP, get UKIP. From the support I’ve been seeing on the streets when I’ve been out and about I am confident I have an excellent chance of taking the seat from Alex Cunningham.
Policies discussed at the conference included, of course, the NHS, where Louise Bours and other speakers reiterated the UKIP commitment to keep the NHS free at the point of need and delivery, alongside the commitment to give an extra £3 billion to the NHS and keep it separate from the current TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations. We will save £2 billion on health tourism by insisting that visitors to the UK have an NHS approved insurance policy – in the same way as we have to buy travel insurance when we go abroad. UKIP is also committed to making hospital car parking free in England. It was pointed out time and time again that it was Labour that started the privatisation of the NHS through expensive PFI (Private Finance Initiative) agreements, through which Labour signed deals to borrow £50 billion to build new hospitals that will cost the country £300 billion to repay. UKIP has promised no new PFIs.
Locally, Phillip Broughton, the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool, emphasised our commitment to keeping Hartlepool and North Tees hospitals open. We will reopen closed departments and reinvest in these hospitals, as opposed to supporting a PFI funded hospital in Wynyard.
I was honoured to chair the afternoon session and introduced, amongst others, Melanie Hurst, our prospective candidate for Wansbeck, who gave some persuasive arguments as to why women should vote UKIP. I also introduced Paul Nuttall, our deputy leader. Paul, who will be standing as MP for Bootle in the General Election, gave a powerful speech about “Taking on Labour in their Heartland” and criticised the Labour elite for becoming detached from ordinary people. He said most of them would fail the working man’s club test. I mean, could you see Ed Miliband enjoying a pint in the Billingham Synthonia Club?