Since being elected as an MEP in 2014, David Coburn has revelled in his profile as UKIP’s only elected politician in Scotland, and the party’s leader north of the border.
To say that he is an controversial and colourful character would be an understatement.
He has compared SNP minister Humza Yousaf to convicted terrorist Abu Hamza; he was
accused of calling rival SNP candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh “Pashmina, Jasmine, and Tamzin;” and he was mercilessly trolled by internet pranksters during an attempt to conduct a live television broadcast.
Nonetheless, Coburn enjoys the spotlight, and the result of Brexit referendum seemed to him, and many of his colleagues, a vindication of UKIP’s tireless campaigning to pull the country out of the European Union; a signal that the party has finally entered the mainstream of British politics.
Business Insider spoke to Coburn to hear why he thinks UKIP is not a Conservative party, why Brexit was inevitable, and why Donald Trump is going to be the next American president.
Business Insider’s Thomas Colson: What do you consider to be the primary cause of Brexit? Do you think it was a cry against globalisation, against immigration, or was it based on the abstract idea of reclaiming sovereignty?
David Coburn: It was a bit of everything. People watched the establishment taking them for a ride. The establishment got richer while they got poorer, and they’d had enough. Ordinary people were getting stuffed by a bunch of bloated plutocrats, and they were sick to death of it.
It might all be very wonderful for them, but it’s not very good for ordinary people earning a living. It is a situation where ordinary people are pouring a load of money into countries that are failing, and subsidising a German economic empire. It doesn’t seem sensible.
I think, perhaps even more importantly, the thing that really hit people between the eyes was the immigration problem. Immigration policy has been based on big business wanting to export cheap labour round the world, regardless of the harm it does to ordinary people living in these countries, and regardless of whether they wanted immigrants to come or not.
That, I think, was the thing that really got people activated, motivated, and fed up to the back teeth. If you’re an industrial worker and you’re not earning a big salary, or you’re a white van man and you go round doing plumbing and then suddenly a load of other people come in working at half the rate from the rest of the world and it puts you out of business, well — you’re not going to be very happy about that, are you? And who could blame them?
I think that’s what brought it home to a lot of people. Also, the fact that you just watch our social services declining because they’re overused by people coming from all over the world, and people’s standards of living dropping. That’s not on. And people’s salaries being eroded. It was two fingers up to the ruling class and about saying, “Let’s support UKIP; let’s support people who care about ordinary folk,” and not just about international big business and exploitation.
TC: Do you think those same forces moving against globalisation and immigration have spurred Donald Trump on in America?
DC: I do — and Nigel Farage is out there helping and advising him. Quite frankly, I do believe that Donald Trump will win.
I don’t like to comment about the heads of state of other countries, because one day I might have to deal with them. So it’s for the Americans to decide. But I do think that a lot of what he says economically makes sense. Some of what he says socially is wildly over the top, and considered fairly unacceptable in the United Kingdom.
But things have come to a pretty pass in America. I think people feel socially excluded. I think people feel that they have been economically raped by the banking classes. People have just had enough. It’s a bit like 1848, the year of revolutions going round the world.
I think, quite frankly, that UKIP have done more for world revolution than Karl Marx and Lenin combined.
TC: That’s quite a big claim.
DC: It’s a big claim and it’s a very factual claim. We are the revolution — we are the purple revolution. We’ve overthrown the government of Great Britain, we’ve overthrown the prime minister, we’ve destroyed the opposition party in Great Britain, we’ve overthrown the European socialist nomenclature, and in many ways we’ve helped start a revolution in the United States.
What we say is this: we are the zeitgeist. We are the future. And there’s a lot of nonsense talked by the Conservatives that, “Oh, well, UKIP is all over now, people can come into the Conservatives, and whatever.” Well, that just shows how little they understand.
We are not a Conservative party — far from it. We are a radical party. And we are a party that wants to change things, and change things for the better. We are certainly not a conservative party, and that’s a huge mistake on the part of the liberal press, seeming to think that we’ll just go home to the Tories now. That’s not going to happen. It’s certainly not going to happen to me, and I can assure you it’s not going to happen to many Ukippers. We’re here, and our revolution is here to stay.
TC: The biggest problem for UKIP seems to be winning seats within the first past the post system, even if they have 20% or 25% of the vote share — do you see that as a problem?
DC: It’s a big problem. I think the current system is pretty unfair. All you have to do is look to see how many Scottish National MPs got elected in Scotland. We did extremely well but we didn’t get any, which is ludicrous to put it mildly [in fact, UKIP only received 1.6% of the Scottish vote share in the 2015 General Election.] Anybody, even the SNP, said “oh yes, we should change it,” they said that proportional representation would be better. And it is a ludicrous position when you get only a certain percentage of votes and you bag all of the seats available. It highlights how farcical the whole thing is. It needs to be more fair.
TC: What future do you think the party has without Nigel Farage, who looks set to be stepping down from the party?
DC: I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I think he’s just looking forward to not having to run the party all the time. It’s a pretty hard job and he’s been doing it for years. I think he’s looking forward to doing more politics and less boring tedious administration — settling disputes and all that nonsense.
I think he’s much more interested in doing all the political stuff, and discussing economics, and doing the thinking part of it. I think that’s what it is. Running UKIP is a tremendous strain — for one thing we’re a libertarian party which makes it fearfully difficult, it’s like herding cats.
TC: As for the future direction of UKIP, what did you mean when you said you were fed up with the party’s “pashmina politics” and you wanted a return to the “good old days”?
NB: “pashmina politics” is a term coined by Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith which describes a party adopting “fashionable policies” in order to win votes, even if the policy isn’t in line with the traditional values of that party.
DC: I am totally appalled by pashmina politics. I’ve no interest in that. There are some in the party who are pashmina politicians but I’m not one of them, and I don’t want to see anymore. I’m not interested in that sort of nonsense. Those who like that sort of thing — well, the Conservative party are for them. But, quite frankly, that’s not what UKIP are about. We are pretty hard-edged and our revolution hasn’t finished. It’s only just begun.
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