So it has come to pass that UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, aka the Bad Bootle Meff, has been selected - unopposed, naturally - to stand for the Kippers in Stoke on Trent Central. To celebrate this event, Nuttall has been swaggering his way round TV studios in London, telling anyone and everyone that he spends all his time in the north, and making cheap jokes about Labour and Islington. But the campaign has hardly started.
Ullo Stoke people, gorra new motor?
No-one has yet asked this amalgam of early Alexei Sayle and Al Murray’s Pub Landlord why, if he is such an electoral asset, he has a chance rather equivalent to that of a snowball in hell of winning an election - any election - on his native Merseyside, or indeed, why he is so universally despised there. No-one is asking about the questionable claims on his CV which he has been allowed to laugh off as mere admin errors.
No-one has yet asked him how he could have been in the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough stadium on that fateful day in April 1989, yet apparently also have experienced the crush outside the ground. No-one is yet pulling him up on his basic failure of knowledge when he suggested the ECHR was part of the EU - this from someone who has been an MEP since 2009, so might be expected to know something about that.
No-one is yet holding Nuttall to account for his flip-flop on NHS sell-offs, his belated decision to approve of what Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin is up to in the Middle East, his denigration of LGBT rights, his claim to be a “man of the people” while advocating for his party to be awarded peerages, his climate change denialism, and his plainly Islamophobic stance. So during the by-election campaign, there is an opportunity for someone.
And that someone should be Channel 4 News’ Michael Crick, who knows a thing or two about skewering dishonest and slippery politicians, having dealt previously with the likes of Jeffrey Archer and Iain Duncan Cough. Crick would be the ideal inquisitor of Nuttall, well able to keep in the Bad Bootle Meff’s face on his lack of candour.
That lack of candour would include the MEP’s highly questionable expense claims: for someone who likes to tell his audiences that Brussels holds very little interest for him, Nuttall has no problem billing the European Parliament for an office whose address is actually a Royal Mail building. It appears to be nothing more than a mailbox, only for correspondence. Nuttall did open an office in Bootle in 2010, but.
By 2014, that office was shuttered and empty. Small wonder the EU’s anti-fraud unit is investigating him, and his claims not only for an office that appears not to be there, but also three staff whose presence appears equally illusory. It has been alleged that he is claiming for several assistants, most of whom do not exist. It has also been alleged that one of his staff is actually based in Kent, rather a long way from Merseyside.
Yes, there would be plenty for someone like Michael Crick to get their teeth into when it comes to Paul Nuttall. The voters in Stoke need to know, to paraphrase Richard Milhous Nixon, if their candidate’s a crook. We may find that out sooner rather than later.