The phone connection is terrible, but I interview TV star Andrew Michael despite such interference and the noise from passing cars.
Image courtesy of Andrew Michael
Andrew Michael is known in living rooms across the country for his appearances on Channel 4’s Gogglebox as part of the Michael family. However, in order to stand for UKIP his family had to leave the show, as candidates from any party cannot stand for election whilst being on Gogglebox.
He is standing for UKIP in the seaside seat of Hastings and Rye, which is currently held by the Conservatives’ Amber Rudd who in 2010 had a 41.1% share of the vote. Despite her large majority, Andrew tells me he is confident that he can turn the two horse race between the Tories and Labour into a three horse race - and do very well.
Before discussing politics I ask him about his favourite thing from being on Gogglebox. He responds to me by saying:
“I think probably my favourite bit was when we were watching One Born Every Minute about filming women giving birth and I said 'I remember, Katie...when I put you on my shoulder when you were just born and you didn’t move at all, whereas when I put Louis on my shoulder he kept bouncing off'. Then Louis, as quick as a flash, said: ‘I’ve been trying to get away from you since day one’.”
I then ask if he is recognised whilst out campaigning to which he says that he often is and is warmly welcomed. As for whether he thinks that will help at all he says “marginally” so.
We then move on to discuss Nigel Farage. On a recent Daily Politics episode, Andrew was interviewed and said that he looked forward to meeting his party leader at the conference earlier this year. Sadly for him, the UKIP leader was too busy. Andrew says he thought the conference was manic and that to the party faithful Farage was seen as a “rockstar” and that he was “impressed by the affection” people have for him.
UKIP are attracting people from all over the country so I then ask him what drew him to UKIP in particular. For him, he says, there were three core things that attracted him to the party:
The first being opposition to the EU. “We’re not only getting a bad deal from the EU, but we’re also being taken advantage of,” he tells me before critisising the cost of EU membership - “£11bn a year” - and “the whole raft of legislation that penalises business”. His response is not surprising from a UKIP candidate, but it shows just how strongly UKIPers feel about the Brussels-based institution.
Andrew then says that the second thing that attracted him to UKIP was the “need to control immigration” and that the British public agree with his party and that polls show that three quarters of Brits think that immigration is too high. He then moves on to say that part of this problem is Labour’s fault, by allowing the EU to expand and resultantly increase the number of migrants able to come to the UK, before then saying that he “entirely agrees with” UKIP’s proposal of a points-based Australian immigration system.
So far, his reasons are typical of most people drawn to UKIP but his third reason for why he was attracted to Farage’s party interests me most. He says that he feels aligned with UKIP due to their opposition to British participation in foreign wars that have nothing to do with the UK. He recalls how in February 2003 he was part of the famous ‘million’ strong march in London making the case against military intervention in Iraq. He talks of how he was proud to be a part of that, proud to be making the case against intervention, well before UKIP were a big player on the political scene.
Following a moment of being unable to hear each other, we move on and discuss Andrew’s campaign in Hastings and Rye, which he says is going “very well”. He talks about the UKIP shop - the only one in East Sussex - and how it’s good for people who know what UKIP stand for and are interested and for those who are not so sure but are curious about it.
He then discusses how his constituency has been going back and forth between Labour and the Conservatives over the last few elections and how if UKIP can make it a three horse race they have a good chance of winning. He says that many ‘old Labour’ voters are making the leap to Nigel Farage’s party and that he thinks that former Labourites could be beginning to outnumber ex-Conservatives.
It is certainly true that many ex-Labour voters are moving to UKIP. A recent YouGov poll indicates that 7% of those who voted Labour in 2010 plan to vote for Nigel Farage’s party this time around. The figure is not quite the 17% of Conservative 2010 voters who plan to vote UKIP in May, but it does highlight the Labour-UKIP switch that is going on the in country.
Following, our talk on the campaign, I move onto my final question:
“With 51 days until the election there’s a lot of undecideds out there. If you could make the case for UKIP in just one or two sentences what would they be?”
Andrew’s reply is a powerful one, going deeper than policy and instead focusing on values and passion.
“The core of UKIP’s appeal, I believe, is that we are actually in tune with the British people, that we’re moving to the heartbeat of the British people, not the other parties. UKIP have got their finger on the pulse, they really have, for all the reasons I’ve outlined earlier. We are the people’s army.”
UKIP are a party on the up and May 2015 will show that as UKIP will likely become Britain’s third party in terms of vote share. Andrew offered an insight into his campaign at a ground level, as well as looking at the bigger picture. He hopes to win in May, but if he does not, a close second place in Hastings and Rye - and other seats across the country - could set the party up for a bigger Commons breakthrough in 2020 or sooner.
UKIP’s rise has only just begun.