All of this was to prove to be a mere curtain-raiser to what became know as “The Battle Of Stony Stratford” in July 2011.
Stony Stratford is a small town in the Milton Keynes area. One of its local Councillors suggested a classic extension of the Nanny state. His proposal was that a smoking ban be extended to the streets of the town. The main justification for this being that smokers dropping their butts cause litter but there were obviously all sorts of other justifications floated. The somewhat eccentric Councillor who was behind the idea made it very clear he wanted this to be the start of a trend all across the country.
Not unsurprisingly, local people and businessmen were up in arms against the measure. They organised and began a concentrated campaign against the measure. The prime mover was a blogger going under the name of Dick Puddlecote!
The campaign culminated in a rally at a town centre pub. I was delighted to be invited along to speak on behalf of The Freedom Association. This was a classic case where the libertarian principles of the TFA were very relevant to the situation and I was pleased to get the opportunity to speak on their behalf. The other names on the bill included the maverick Conservative MEP Roger Helmer and UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
I was very much the warm up act for the more established names to follow later, indeed Mr Farage was very much later having been caught in traffic and I had left before his arrival. I had made the three hour journey by car with my wife and parents crammed in alongside me, I was glad to have the family support as a novice public speaker. It had teemed down with rain all day so I arrived rather bedraggled and soaking wet. There was a degree of confusion over when we were going to start the event as the organisers were obviously keen to await the arrival of Mr Farage, this led to a number of the natives getting restless and some at least well lubricated at the bar.
I was struck by the number of people at the event that I knew through political discussions and postings on the internet. This was a true gathering of new media activists as well as local people. Eventually the decision was taken to get the event under way and hope Mr Farage made it in time.
I was first on the bill. As I stood up to begin my speech I looked at the two hundred or so faces staring back at me in a scrum leading back to the bar, these were people who were up for some serious rebellion and wanted the Nanny State putting back in its box. I was determined not to let them down !
My speech started with a little information about The Freedom Association before launching into a full scale attack on the proposal. I ended by calling on the spirit of Churchill and asking the crowd to imagine what response the local council would have received from the great man had they told him he could not smoke his cigar in the street. With that there was a great cheer and we all raised our fingers in a V salute!
Roger Helmer followed up with a superb speech during which he promised to be back leading a campaign of civil disobedience should the measure be passed.
When Nigel Farage finally managed to arrive, he gave a typically stirring oration which made it into the media. I was sorry to have missed it.
The result of our efforts was that the measure was thrown out at the next council meeting. This may not be a massive moment in history or a front page making occurrence but it is significant. It shows that we can fight back and there are people who are prepared to make the effort to stand up for our freedoms.
from "The Rise of UKIP" by Bill Etheridge
Get your copy HERE