It’s fair to say that UKIP’s environmental policies, especially those involving any deep thought or reflection, are hard to find anything other than a little bit silly. And this sense isn’t helped by the antics of their environmental spokesman Dr Earth aka Andrew Charalambous. At least he has now apparently withdrawn the claim that he is a professor of environmental science. I guess this blog does have some influence after all!
One of the more bizarre claims from UKIP is that wind farms are actually going to lead to the total loss of biodiversity and eventually the whole plant will be ripped to shreds by their evil blades. This is what they say:
Apart from devastating the view of serenity and breathtaking scenery of our countryside the rotating blades kill and maim countless of innocent birds even from protected species. Moreover, wind farms emit grotesquely disturbing noise pollution which petrifies so many small animals causing them to abandon their historical habitat. In addition, the various oils and greases used by the turbines contribute to the imbalance of our ecosystems.
Now aside from the fact that this appears to have been translated by google translator, the idea that the turbine oils and greases are a significant threat to our ecosystems, compared to say, fracking, or indeed pretty anything else, what it does indicate is that UKIP do really care about Landscapes. Time and again they talk about our precious countryside, breathtaking scenery, marvellous views and so on. Charalambous again:
The environment is and should be sacred. That is why we need to protect our countryside, the most breathtaking on mother Earth not only from development but wind farms too.
This can also be seen in UKIP’s preference for brownfield development, and protection of the green belt at all costs. I am not convinced all within UKIP understand the difference between greenfield and greenbelt, at least not at the lofty level of UK spokesman. But there are plenty within UKIP who do understand this difference and some are in influential places.
Stephen Crowther is chairman of UKIP. Some say he is the real power behind the Farage puppet with his arm stuck up it pulling the strings. I think I did hear Farage say “gottle of geer gottle of geer” on the BBC one day last week. Not much is known about his past other than he is from North Devon, went into PR and journalism and returned to Devon. Interestingly he was an active Lib Dem before going UKIP and was also active in the North Devon CPRE group, where he came to prominence helping to run an anti wind farm campaign. He rose out of nowhere to become UKIP chair. As chair of UKIP he has been apparently ruthless in his actions,. This from Tom Pride
According to UKIP insiders, the real power behind UKIP is not Farage, but party chairman Steve Crowther.
Crowther’s a bit of a mystery. He appeared out of the blue in UKIP circles only around 5 years ago and rapidly rose to take a top position in UKIP.
What we do know is that he is a former journalist, political spin doctor, PR expert, and marketing executive – who has been described by UKIP insiders as a “svengali-like” figure and a “man of mystery”.
As a former journalist and PR executive, Crowther is unsurprisingly the mouthpiece for UKIP. He sends regular emails to UKIP representatives and candidates instructing them in great detail what they can and cannot say in public and to the press.
And anyone who doesn’t toe Crowther’s line is summarily disciplined or even sacked.
Crowther decides who becomes a candidate, who is allowed to become a member and who remains a member of the party – a power he is not afraid to ruthlessly wield.
Oh and before he took over UKIP, Crowther used to be an activist in the Liberal Democrats.
I wonder if Douglas Carswell knows he’s now become the underling of a ruthless and autocratic former Lib Dem?
Crowther is standing as the UKIP candidate against the Lib Dem incumbent for North Devon in the General Election. He could win.
It just happens that CPRE are running a campaign called “waste of space” asking members of the public to tell them about unused brownfield sites where houses can be built. And this is just what UKIP are also calling for, through a UK Brownfield Agency. Brownfield is shorthand for previously developed land, which can include land that was previously used for industry. Of course it depends how far you go back, but some of the “pristine landscapes” beloved of CPRE and UKIPPERS are of course, post industrial landscapes. The Dartmoor upland landscape has been fundamentally shaped by the milliennia old Tin Industry for example.
Another landscape where UKIP are already having a great influence is the Peak District. The Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority is a key role, highly influential and especially at this time as they are recruiting their new Chief Executive. Chair of the PDNPA is Lesley Roberts, who has been on the NPA for a number of years. I believe she first joined as a Lib Dem district councillor (most NPA members are drawn from the local councils). Although her seat on the NPA is now via her Parish Council, she recently stood as a UKIP candidate in a local council election. the PDNPA is, to my knowledge, the first major statutory body chaired by a UKIP person.
So here we have another ex Lib Dem activist, moving to UKIP, who is very concerned and clearly very well versed in landscape protection.
Bill Cash was one of those Eurosceptic MPs who made life hell for that nice Mr Major during the early 90s. Now his son, William Cash, has become UKIP’s heritage spokesman. Cash Minor lives in the family pile in Shropshire. Cash has done very well running a magazine for the uber wealthy called Spear’s. I guess now he wants to get into politics. Cash’s all for protecting our precious heritage, countryside the green belt and so on. Or he is self interested in promoting the heritage industry, as would appear to be the case from his website , where you can “buy in” to the aristocratic lifestyle, if you’re wealthy enough. Only for the weekend mind.
Finally, one of the key funders of UKIP is a swiss banker ( I kid you not) called Henry Angest. Again, not much is known about him, but he owns a Bank, which owns a business which makes a lot of money out of lending unsecured loans to people in financial trouble. It’s not Wonga. It’s called Everyday Loans. He also has influence, and recently was embroiled in a bit of a story about Esther McVey accepting a donation from him, when she was Minister for cutting benefits. Just the sort of people who might have to go to nice Mr Angest for a loan, at 80% interest.
Mr Angest is also interested in the landscape, especially the Scottish landscape, of which I understand he owns quite a large chunk. But I suspect he is more interested in less regulation and lower taxes for businesses. Andy Wightman’s piece on Angest is well worth reading in full, here. Angest has given over £7M to the Tory party before starting to fund UKIP.
What can we conclude from all this anecdote, heresay, and hard evidence?
UKIP are most certainly interested in landscape and protecting it from allcomers – and I expect there will be quite a few CPRE members around the country who will be voting UKIP next May. While many people will be thinking UKIP speaks for them, in truth, far from being the People’s Army, UKIP are a clique of the mega wealthy, the landed gentry, and political opportunists who have jumped ship from the Lib Dems and Tories.
Do we really want them to impose on us what landscapes, or any other “British” values, that they cherish?
Remember, this has all happened before: read Simon Sharma’s Landscape and Memory ,to understand how a sense of identity, linked to values of landscape, can be corrupted.
Windfarm photo by Jon Blathwayt (Winterton Wind Turbines) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons