For the first time, the region has elected a Ukip politician into a serious position of authority. Chris Webber talks to Jonathan Arnott
JONATHAN Arnott, general secretary of Ukip, is being whisked off to a major press conference in central London just a few hours after being elected as the North-East's first-ever Ukip Member of the European Parliament.
Journalists from around the world are there but Mr Arnott, who these days calls Guisborough home, takes time to set out his political stall to The Northern Echo.
But first the 33-year-old reflects on his achievement of somehow becoming a Ukip MEP in a region that, before last Thursday’s local elections, had just one Ukip councillor and still has only three after it (one in Yarm and two in Hartlepool).
The married, former maths teacher, who originally hails from Sheffield, said: “In the end, it was all quite quick and sudden. After the council elections we had idea we might win a seat but they just announced Sunderland and then the whole of the North-East really quickly afterwards, so there wasn’t much time to reflect. But it is such an honour to represent this region.”
Mr Arnott, who has been general secretary of the party since 2008, explained he had moved to the North-East about a year ago in order to fight as a candidate in the election. It is easily his greatest electoral success.
In the 2010 General Election this maths graduate, who was so bright he took his GCSEs and A-Levels three years early, lost his deposit in the Sheffield Attercliffe constituency. The chess player (he once had an England chess ranking of 179) has twice failed to be elected in previous European Union elections and has also failed to be elected as a councillor.
But the Ukip man, who explains he had previously voted Conservative and Liberal Democrat before discovering Ukip, said it was a passion for local democracy that kept him going.
Mr Arnott, who said he had kept up teaching half-a-day a week due to his belief that aspiring politicians should have regular experience of everyday work, said: “It was never really the EU itself that got me going, it was a more general belief in direct democracy. The EU can prevent that from happening. I think people should be able to call a referendum and for it to happen, it’s for the people to decide.”
He picked out the party’s policies on not taxing minimum-wage incomes and simplifying tax which would make it harder for rich people to avoid paying their share as stand-out Ukip policies before he even mentions immigration.
However he says the immigration issue, more specifically worries people have about the effect immigration is having on jobs, as a big issue on the doorstep.
With that Mr Arnott signs off, vowing to take the fight to Labour, his big press conference awaiting, and goes to begin his new life as the North-East’s first major Ukip figure.