Bognor Regis is hardly a key battleground in the coming General Election. It’s a safe Tory seat, where the incumbent took 59% of the vote in 2017. Traditional folk live here, unlike the trendy liberals of nearby Brighton (otherwise known as London-by-Sea). However, being of Remain disposition in a Leave community, MP Nick Gibb is not to everyone’s satisfaction. How will dedicated Brexiteers cast their vote?
When Nigel Farage agreed not to compete in the 317 Tory seats, there was consternation from Brexit Party candidates. These men and women had paid for the privilege of interview, had their social media profiles carefully scrutinised, and had already began campaigning in high streets. By contrast, there was much relief for sitting MPs – half of whom are Remainers who could yet throw a spanner in the Brexit works.
Effectively, a constituency with a Tory Remainer MP has no Brexit option at the coming election. Unless it is one of the few seats where UKIP is putting up a fight. Yes, UKIP – the chaotic remnants of Farage’s vehicle that drove the Tories to deliver a referendum on EU membership. Having lost count of its numerous leaders since then, most people are unaware that UKIP still exists. Despite reaching 11% earlier this year, it no longer features in opinion polls. Although the party won seats in the north of England in local authority elections, it failed miserably in the EU election in May.
Apart from self-destruction, the main reason for the demise of UKIP was the sudden rise of the Brexit Party, founded by Catherine Blaiklock, and driven off the forecourt by Farage for his latest political journey. This slick new machine swept across the country in May, topping the EU poll merely six weeks after launch. But the Brexit Party’s withdrawal of candidates has left a perch for a parrot.
Meanwhile back in Bognor, UKIP stalwart David Kurten is striving to unseat a Tory Remainer in his home town. A genuine conservative, Kurten has been a fly in Sadiq Khan’s ointment, courageously speaking up for Brexit and for traditional Christian values in the London Assembly. Kurten was tempted by the Brexit Party for a while, but is now glad that he stayed with UKIP. Farage’s party has betrayed some of the ideals of Leave voters; and as Blaiklock observes, it has been taken over by neoliberal globalists in favour of lax immigration and deregulation. There is something Blairite about the Brexit Party as it vies for attention.
UKIP gets zero media coverage, and that may be to its advantage. Under the leadership of Gerard Batten, the party was persistently smeared as extremist for its association with Tommy Robinson and YouTube stars Paul Joseph Watson and Sargon of Akkad. In Bognor and other constituencies where it is standing, UKIP will be a leaner, more localised operation. Kurten is explaining to voters why Boris’ withdrawal agreement offers a paucity of sovereignty and control. It’s another establishment stitch-up.
But Kurten is not only focusing on Brexit. The area has changed immeasurably since he was a lad, and not all for the better. The constituency includes Littlehampton, a former fishing port devastated by EU quotas. Despite being disparaged as outmoded seaside resorts with a large elderly population, these towns are growing rapidly. The sprawl of bland new housing estates eats into the surrounding farmland, and national planning policy has set a target for 20000 more homes in the constituency. Stamping of human footprint over nature continues apace, and road traffic rises inexorably on a metastasis of roundabouts. Houses are built on flood plains, but who cares? Local opposition to building plans seems futile.
Rather than a nostalgic outpost, Bognor Regis is a mirror of a transforming British society. The demand for housing is entirely due, indirectly and directly, to immigration. Families move here because they cannot afford to live in London or elsewhere in the South East. Undoubtedly immigration has forced house prices up in the region – only a fool would argue otherwise. As well as spill-over, Bognor has a steady influx from eastern European and other parts of the world. Walk through the shopping precinct and you will hear a plethora of foreign languages. The current MP has done nothing to protect the community from these pressures; indeed, he regards this growth as progress.
Nick Gibb also has a progressive approach to identity politics and the gender revolution. As the government minister for schools, he is responsible for the imposition of LGBT teaching to primary and secondary schoolchildren. Many parents who Kurten has met are concerned by the indoctrination of gender fluidity and the impact this is having on confused teenagers. Kurten on the other hand makes no apology for his Christian principles.
This general election, though, is dominated by Brexit. And that will be Kurten’s main line of attack on the status quo? Leavers must learn from the lies of the 2017 election, when Remainers promised that they would honour the biggest mandate in British political history. Boris may win well, but the Green benches will still be packed by MPs like Nick Gibb who think that they know best. Given a chance, they will rig Brexit and keep the Littlehampton fishermen signing on at the Job Centre.
Author: Niall McCrae
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