‘UKIP’s policy on immigration is not racist’ says the party’s candidate for Brent Central
- Credit: Archant
The newest recruit on the political spectrum, Stephen Priestley, joined the UK Independence Party (UKIP) last July.
His association with the party however, he says goes back far longer than that.
The 48 year-old was born and educated in Hong Kong, and bar a short unhappy stint in an English boarding school, he loved the multi cultural environment of the British colony that was “pulsating the whole time, a microcosm of all the ethnic living side by side.”
He said: “The thing that really galvanised my interest in UKIP as a party is for two main reasons, the first that UKIP, was for me, the only political party offering the British electorate a clear choice whether or not to stay in the European Union.”
He explained: “It’s a fact that the EU costs £55million a day for the UK to be a member of it. At a time when local governments have their budgets slashed for essential services I think that £55m could be immediately reinvested in the NHS and other essential services.”
His other objection is the perceived loss of British sovereignty as “EU laws are over trumping our own judiciary and our laws”.
He says that “it’s a myth that the UK will suddenly find itself economically isolated”, believing other countries will not suddenly embargo any trade agreements, though admitting that “nobody can predict how things will develop in the next five or 10 years”.
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He said his party’s line on immigration does not make it racist but the freedom of movement of people from various EU member states have to be looked at. “We couldn’t function as a country without the input of people from countries all over the world. You have to make sure that the people that are coming in to the country can offer something in terms of skills. If people come to this country and have never paid anything into national insurance then want to claim benefits immediately, then that is difficult and something that needs to be looked at.”
As a newcomer to the political platforms, he says his life experience qualifies him for the job.
He has spent an entire career in the health services, graduating Warwick University to work in blind welfare, rehabilitating people with visual impairments, learning Braille and touch-typing.
Following a masters degree in social work he worked within the NHS, with people with mental health issues, “some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the community.” Having watched the impact of government changes to health provision over the last two decades he added: “It’s made me realise there are many people in our society that has no voice and I want do something about that, to try and address what I see as the iniquity of a society which leaves some people very privileged and other people in very difficult positions.”
He denied that UKIP will privatise parts of the NHS. He said “UKIP is committed to defending the NHS and that it continues to be free at the point of purchase and shouldn’t be subject to private forces, private finance initiatives. It is against any form of privatisation of the NHS.”
“Being a great advocate for people in the past I want to take this to the level where I can try and campaign to make things better for people. If my constituents are coming to me in droves saying something is a big issue in Brent and what can we do about it. I want to be a person who can then influence things.
“If I am elected I will fight tooth and nail for their needs whether it be housing, benefits, access to service provision, and campaigning for their needs in whatever form they take.”