Onto the conference itself (many thanks to Witterings for the lift). This was the first full proper party conference I've ever attended. So a slightly new experience for me. (though most conferences, political or otherwise, can usually be summed up with one word - alcohol). First impressions; good location and well organised, although a slight black mark for the person who forgot to remove the EU flag from a pole on the roof above the entrance.
I listened to about 3/4 of the speeches. Highlights on day one, speech wise, was Petr Mach a politician from the Czech Republic and founder of the eurosceptic Free Citizens Party, Lord Stoddart a very early Labour critic of the common market before the UK joined, and Lord Monckton. Lord Monckton told me a wonderful and amusing story outside the hall, before he was due to go on stage, about how he conducted a citizen's arrest on a traffic warden for breach of the peace, when said warden tried to ticket his motorbike for a parking offence.
The most powerful speech for me in the whole conference was given by Gerard Batten on the Saturday regarding the failings of the European Arrest Warrant. His speech can be found here in full, it really is worth a read. As part of the speech, a short video was played regarding the case of Mark Turner and Jason McGoldrick who were victims of the warrant. Locked up for 117 days, without charge, on trumped up evidence; their accounts of conditions in the Hungarian former KGB jail were truly horrific. It took the hard work of UKIP MEP William Dartmouth to secure their release, unfortunately only on bail at the moment. Mark and Jason had turned up in person to thank UKIP and specifically William Dartmouth in person. Where were the other parties' MEPs and MPs in this case you may ask, why was it left to a UKIP MEP? Well I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Batten's speech in fact left me feeling so angry that I had to leave not long after he had finished to calm down. Here's an extract regarding Andrew Symeou which indicates why (my emphasis):
It was obvious to the Appeal Court Judges that there was no real evidence against him and what there was appeared to be fabricated by the Greek police. But they were powerless to consider it.The political establishment really hate us don't they?
They did the only thing that they could which was refer the appeal to the House of Lords on the basis of asking if the apparent fabrication of evidence amounted to an abuse of process of the EAW. The House of Lords, in what must be one of the most despicable decisions in its long history, refused to even hear the case on the grounds it “did not have an arguable point of law of general public interest”. So it became official. The highest court in the land did not think it of general public interest if one of our citizens is consigned to a foreign prison system on trumped up charges.
The other major issue was, of course, the next leadership election. Nigel Farage used his speech to put his name forward, not entirely unsurprising in my view, as did others - David Campbell Bannerman launched a not very veiled attack on Farage. Let the leadership shenanigans begin.
I also went to an unofficial fringe meeting hosted by Nikki Sinclair. She was launching this referendum campaign which aims to gain a 100,000 signatures for a referendum on our membership with the EU, in accordance with these proposals from the coalition not yet debated:
Present proposals to the House of Commons to ensure that any petition that secures 100,000 signatures within a given year will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament, and that the petition with the most signatures be tabled as a BillNikki's campaign is not to be confused with this one.
So all in all a successful conference, it's good to meet up again with familiar faces and meet new UKIP ones such as Mark Wadsworth, but slightly overshadowed by what will be another bout of UKIP's tendency for in-fighting.
After it was all over I had a quick beer in a recommended pub in Torquay while waiting to go home. It was a proper local's pub, very friendly. Obviously me being in a suit and tie led to some inquisitive questions from those sat at the bar. A discussion about politics quickly followed. The first complaint / concerns from the locals? Yep you've guessed it, immigration.
As an aside, if you should wish to visit and stay in Torquay then I thoroughly recommend this place. It was one of the best B&B's I've ever stayed in.