MEET Luke Hindhaugh. He’s 27 and is the young, new face of the UK Independence Party in Gloucester. He has thrown his name into the hat for the 2015 fight for the city’s parliamentary constituency. Public affairs reporter Mike Wilkinson went to meet him.
MW: How did you get into politics? And why UKIP?
LH: I have always been interested in politics ever since I was 16 when I was at school in Lincolnshire. It was only a rural school with about 380 pupils but I was deputy head boy and it was a bit like being involved in politics there with the responsibility that I had, helping students. We used to meet to take about what we would like to improve. I really enjoyed that. I eventually came to Gloucester and I was 23 when the Conservatives asked me to stand in Hucclecote and I tried. I carried on with them and helped out in the 2011 elections, doing some campaigning in Matson. But then I watched the Conservatives go through with the massive cus to the military. Then, on Europe, in October 2011 we had a chance to have a referendum. I was disillusioned with the Conservatives. It wasn’t the party that i joined. Someone mentioned UKIP to me and I fell into it from there.
MW: Can we really trade with the world without being part of the Europe Union?
LH: Countries like Mexico have negotiated trade agreements with the EU, so there is no reason we couldn't. The EU negotiates all our trade agreements and we have got no say in that. You could say that trade is on the up but could we do better deals? I am a big fan of free trade.
MW: Isn’t UKIP just a single issue party with nothing else to talk about?
LH: I don’t know what UKIP was like 20 years ago but we can’t be a single issue party. If you pull out of Europe you’ve got to have policies about what we do after that. Coming out of Europe is a big issue, but what do we do next? UKIP’s policies are still being created and after that I want to meet people and get to understand their concerns.
MW: What are your chances of success in a marginal seat like Gloucester?
LH: It is a tricky one. I don’t know. Everyone says it is all about Labour and the Conservatives but you see our popularity growing. We have to represent the UKIP supports and offer a real change. The other parties are stuck in the same old political framework. We can offer something different but I am not here to cause problems for Richard Graham or Sophy Gardner. We have already been meeting people. We have, of course, had a mixed reception. Everyone is entitled to their view. I am still friends with the Conservatives and we have had a cheeky debate or two.
MW: Have you ever been a member of a far-right group?
LH: As a party we have had some embarrassing moments. But now as a candidate I have to go through an assessment to show that I have never been a member of certain parties such as the British National Party or the National Front. You are not even allowed to be a member of UKIP if you have been with those groups. It is just not what we are about.
MW: Nigel Farage has said we shouldn’t get involved in the affairs of other countries such as Ukraine, so why do we need to increase the defence budget by 40 per cent as UKIP suggested?
LH: It is important to me. I wasn’t a big fan of cutting our defence when we’ve needed them badly. We are also seeing a rise in terrorism and cyber terrorism. We have always got to have a military. They are used for other roles too such as during the recent floods. I stand by what Nigel said. I don’t think we should get involved in places like Ukraine because they are difficult issues and you have to be careful what you get into.
MW: Do you support equal marriage?
LH: I support civil partnerships. As for equal marriage, I would not want to see religious groups being forced into this. I would want to see the issue put to a local referendum. If people supported it, then I would push it through.
MW: What do you think of plans for a Gloucestershire incinerator?
LH: I have mixed views on it. Places like Sweden were already doing it 20 years ago. I am of the opinion that there are new options to landfill. Landfill is becoming costly because an EU tax is being imposed on it. There are other technologies. For me, here the location is the problem and it is right next to Junction 12. I’m not sure the area could take all these extra lorries.
MW: UKIP have previously denied that man-made climate change exists. Does it exist?
LH: I am not a scientist but of course it exists. How much and what is causing it is a really tricky one. We have six million people in fuel poverty yet we have got green taxes and we are building more wind farms. Shale gas is the answer. I am not sure if we should have fracking in Gloucestershire but it will happen in the UK. Tidal power could be a great option too. Wind farm only operate about 25 per cent of time. They just don’t work.
MW: UKIP has said it would offer a referendum on the fox hunting ban. Do you agree with fox hunting?
LH: Our policy is to put it to a local referendum. If people in Gloucester don’t want it, then we won’t have it in Gloucester.
MW: Yes, but do you support fox hunting personally?
LH: I would say no to it in this county. I am also against the badger cull. It was very ineffective and expensive.
MW: Should pubs be allowed to have smoking rooms again?
LH: If pubs want to have a room where people can smoke then that should be up to them. It is a massive shame to see so many pubs closing. I used to go to the Ridge and Furrow. It was a brilliant local. It is places like that where people like to meet and catch up, so we should do more to support our pubs.
MW: Aren’t all UKIP members white-haired men who used to vote Tory?
LH: It is true that many people see us like that. There is a young bunch of us in Gloucester. One person came up to us and said ‘you’re all meant to be old aren’t you?’. Trying to attract younger people into politics can be hard for any party but we want more younger people to get involved. They don’t even need to be a member, but after all it is our young people who are going to keep this country going.