Labour retained the Newport West seat in yesterday’s Parliamentary by-election, with Ruth Jones succeeding the late Paul Flynn, albeit with a reduced majority. The turnout, at a miserable 37.1%, was well down on the 2017 mark of 67.5%, which partly explains that reduction. But Labour held on, despite Ms Jones being a Remain supporter and all those dire predictions that, in a heavily Leave seat, she would be defeated.
So far, so routine, but attention then shifted to UKIP, which saw an increased share in its vote and retained its deposit. The party of Adolf von Batten was represented by one Mostyn Neil Hamilton, still politically active into his 71st year. Why, one wonders, is Hamilton still there in UKIP when the party has been dragged to the right and involved in street protests? Why stay when it has become a by-word for intimidation and thuggery?
The reason for that is straightforward: intimidation and thuggery are very familiar territory where Hamilton is concerned, as those who remember the legal battle over BBC Panorama special Maggie’s Militant Tendency know all too well. The Beeb caved in and settled when they could, and should, have defeated and humiliated Hamilton over his extremist links, extremist views, and bigoted behaviour.
Giving a Nazi salute when in what was then West Germany (an illegal act), blacking up so he could impersonate then Ugandan leader Idi Amin, giving a speech to an Italian neo-fascist group, membership of the far-right Eldon Group, and association with George Kennedy Young, who had published anti-Semitic slurs against Leon Brittan and Nigel Lawson, all were on the agenda. Why the BBC folded remains unexplained.
But what was explained all too clearly was that several witnesses to the action had been subjected to intimidation. Maybe it was just a phone call, or a “word in their ear”, but witnesses were “turned”. Also, the suspicion of interference extended to the BBC Governors potentially overruling the then Director General Alasdair Milne.
And Hamilton doesn’t do thuggery personally, but in the past used his own chosen substitute, heavy-handed legal threats and actions. Here, he could count on the support of a number of wealthy backers, not least the late James Goldsmith, and the Spectator columnist Taki Theordoracopulos, a vicious and unrepentant anti-Semite. Sadly, that approach failed when he tried it on with the Guardian and lost.
All of which means Neil Hamilton is happily at home in today’s bully-boy UKIP. Batten’s suspected links to bent coppers, the bringing on board of Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, along with those pals of his like Daniel Thomas, must bring back memories. Plenty of intimidation, a little thuggery here and there, plenty of far-right links to keep him happy - Hamilton will be like the proverbial pig in shit.
That’s why someone who served as a Conservative MP for 14 years fits right in with today’s UKIP. It’s also an indictment on that broad Tory church letting in the boot boys for so many years with no questions asked. I’ll just leave that one there.
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