Conference speech 2018
Speeches » Conference speech 2018
Good afternoon conference. This year we mark a key centenary in British life. 100 years since the end of the Great War.
But we have also marked a second and connected centenary. 100 years since women were given the right to vote.
In fact, let me correct that: 100 years since SOME women were given the right to vote, namely those over the age of 30 who owned property.
This social reform arose partly out of the First World War and the expanded role women took on the home front, especially within industry, with so many men away on active service. After women proved so capable across so many disciplines, the campaign for expanding our political rights became unstoppable.
But it took another 10 years before the right to vote was extended to almost all women over the age of 21 on the same basis as men. That did not happen until 1928.
Now in absolute terms 90 years is a long time, clearly. But in the great span of our island story it is little more than the blink of an eye. So do not make the mistake of thinking that gender equality before the law and across society can be taken for granted. It cannot be.
And do not forget that other key steps towards equality between the sexes are much more recent than the right to vote. There will be women in this hall today who remember having to seek a male guarantor in order to get a mortgage - a result of discrimination within the workplace that left most women locked out of secure and well remunerated employment. And that didn't change till the 1970s.
My generation of women was the first to benefit from female emancipation in so many areas, from the equal pay act to contraception on demand, from the opening-up of the professions, to the rise of the female entrepreneur.
I can look at you all today and say with confidence that women in this country in general have never had it so good when it comes to career opportunities, financial rights, civil rights and the rest of it.
In our universities, women outnumber men among undergraduate students. The same is true in teaching, in general medical practice and in a host of other professions and occupations. Girls, in general, are outperforming boys in school exams too.
While the proportion of MPs who are women is only around a third, it is rising from one parliament to the next and long gone are the days when television coverage of parliament would reveal just a sea of men in suits.
In the traditionally male preserve of sport, female elite performers are now every bit as celebrated as male ones. At Wimbledon the women's singles winner wins as big a prize as the men's - and no doubt some in the audience will note that is despite only playing three set matches, rather than five like the chaps!
The fastest growing sport in this country? Women's football. Once the butt of stupid jokes about shirt-swapping at the final whistle, now commanding rapidly growing attendances and with full-time professional players.
But again, this is all very recent. For instance, take a look at the schedule for women's events in Olympic athletics. In the 1972 games the longest distance running event for women was the fifteen hundred metres. The women's Olympic marathon was first run as recently as the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The women's pole vault did not become an Olympic event until the Sydney Games of the year 2000. Perhaps it was assumed that a woman would simply not be strong enough to do it. Wrong.
There are still rightly concerns about glass ceilings, particularly in respect of the lack of female participation on the boards of major companies. There is also the issue of the gender pay gap - though the equal pay act ensures parity of pay for work of equal value and I do not believe that politicians should be directing couples as to which of them takes primary responsibility for child-rearing and which for bread-winning. That, surely, is something for families to decide on themselves.
But while we must push the boundaries - and police them as well - there does come a time when we need to take a step back and survey the overall scene. When we should ask how many of these new rights and how many old ones too are just theoretical to some women in our country?
With the mass immigration we saw from the second half of the 20th century onwards, we brought into our country people from all kinds of different societies with different traditions and different attitudes towards many questions, including the status of and rights of women. And in some cases these traditions and attitudes were inferior to our own.
With our political establishment's approach of crude multiculturalism, we have all too often encouraged the new communities to carry on behaving exactly as if they were still in their countries of origin, rather than to adopt to the ways of their country of adoption, the country they proudly chose to make a new life in.
So it pains me to say that there are many women - some of them indeed living in this great city of Birmingham within just a few miles of this hall - for whom the first part of my speech about the great liberties and freedoms accorded to British women over recent decades may as well have been addressed to inhabitants of another planet.
These are women who are growing up in and living in deeply socially conservative, male-dominated communities. Who are not permitted to go out in public showing their faces, who are not permitted to choose a life partner, who are instructed who to vote for on their postal ballot if they are fortunate enough to see it at all, who may even have been subjected in adolescence to the horrors of female genital mutilation.
Let's be honest about this, even if honesty is uncomfortable: They are living in a pre-emancipated state. With a status often below that accorded to women in our country even in those days before the vote was given to the female middle classes a century ago.
The ultra-liberal, ultra-politically correct Westminster class has proven incapable of creating a legal framework which can point to even one single successful FGM prosecution. Police forces are failing to get to grips with honour violence. We even have political parties which claim to be mainstream and yet segregate their political meetings by gender.
Then there are the Establishment figures who first denied and then turned a blind eye to the organised grooming and then rape of vulnerable working class white girls by thousands of men of Pakistani heritage.
Fortunately there are public figures with the courage to speak up about these issues. People as eminent in the field of race relations as Trevor Phillips - hardly a right-wing bigot, I think you will agree - have warned about the dangers of segregated parallel communities springing up where fundamental British values and rights simply do not apply.
And yet woe betide the politician who seeks to challenge this. We all saw how the media treated Paul Nuttall in 2017 when he put forward an integration agenda which included the suggestion of full face coverings being banned in public places. He was accused of everything under the sun - despite opinion polls showing that most people outside the Westminster bubble actually agreed with him.
And it has got worse since then. In 2018, Boris Johnson has been similarly demonised, not even for backing a ban on full-face coverings - even though countries like France, Belgium and Denmark have brought them in. No, Boris just wrote an article opposing such a ban.
For that he was accused of being a racist, a fascist, of inciting hatred against Muslim women and even subjected to formal disciplinary procedures by his own party. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
The rights we as women have should be equal to the rights of any man. But we must also focus on making sure our formal rights are real rights for every woman - that every woman from every ethnic and class background has a chance to achieve her full potential in life and to make her fullest contribution towards our society. And it is in this latter aspect that massive disparities still exist.
Now, I want to conclude by saying a few words about the man who took on the leadership of UKIP earlier this year, in what I think you will all agree were pretty difficult circumstances.
Naturally, not everyone in the party agrees with all Gerard Batten's views on every subject. But everyone should respect the sincerity and calmness with which his views are communicated.
Gerard, you did not have to step up to the plate. You did not have to put yourself in line for a whole load of extra work and a whole heap of extra grief. But you did so uncomplainingly. You have brought order where there was chaos, you have stabilised the party financially, you have increased membership and also begun the process of our recovery in the opinion polls and in doing so quietened those critics of our party who said it was just a one-man band. In short, you've played a blinder.
We are not just still on the pitch. We have started scoring goals again. We are back nipping at the heels of the Lib Dems in the polls, just as we first did back in 2012 - in the run up to the Corby by-election in which I seem to recall relegating the Liberals to fourth place - with a lot of help from plenty of you in the hall, I hasten to add!
On the issues of excessive foreign aid, excessive political correctness, excessive immigration and the need to toughen up law and order where many senior police officers appear to have lost the plot, it is once again UKIP that is making the arguments that so many people wish to hear. And, of course, people know we are the one party that truly believes in restoring our country to the ranks of self-governing nations outside the European Union.
We are never going to be fashionable among the media elite. And if we ever were to be then I for one would be questioning what we must be doing wrong! But instead we are earning the quiet respect of huge numbers of ordinary, decent citizens for having the courage to stand up against fashionable idiocies.
To all in the punditry class who have performed the last rites over UKIP more times than most of us have had hot dinners, I say this: you've got it wrong again. Under Gerard Batten, UKIP is back. We have wind in our sails and we are going to be stronger than ever.
Conference, we are six months way from Brexit - now is the time for us to rally together and fight for to deliver the Brexit people voted for!