Godfrey Bloom resents the idea that he’s ever offended anyone. As a man who’s been criticised heavily in the press over the last year, he has resisted the urge to cry “offense” harder than most politicians. As he notes, “I’ve been vilified and misquoted in the media for the last eight years – I found that upsetting, I found that offensive. We need to get to the point where people aren’t held back from saying what they think because of perceived ‘offense’, mock ‘offense’.”
Since arriving as a UKIP MEP in 2004, this ‘offense’ has dominated his career. Last month, a decade of gaffes culminated in his expulsion from the party.
In June he’d referred to UK aid sent to ‘bongo-bongo land’, and at conference in September he jokingly called a group of women ‘sluts’, before hitting journalist Michael Crick with a party programme. The whip was withdrawn on 21st September.
Bloom blames the political climate for his treatment. “We seem to take the most shallow view of politics. I mean, when I raised in my speech in Birmingham, for example, the fact that we’re sending one billion pounds a month in overseas aid with no audit trail, when they are closing A&E wings in hospitals … all people wanted to talk about for the first twenty-four hours was the fact that I’d used the word ‘bongo.’
“Who was offended? The answer is nobody was offended. That’s the truth of it, nobody was offended.”
The media are also culpable. “The people who write these things, I think you’d agree, tend to live in more metropolitan areas. It’s in London, not even all of London, where everybody around the dinner table agrees and everybody in the Westminster-bubble agrees with what they’re saying, even if it’s out of touch with the rest of the country.” The media are unrepresentative, he notes, “I’ve never had a bad piece written about me by somebody who had taken the trouble to get the train up here.”
But Bloom has also chosen his notoriety – he’s aware of the political value of generating controversy. He describes the need for ‘spice’ in articles and speeches. “People need to be outraged, even if it’s fake most of the time; they need to be outraged, or amused, or laugh. Otherwise I wouldn’t sell an article… My articles need a bit of spice, otherwise nobody would read them.”
This ‘spice’ was Bloom’s downfall. He’s been constantly accused of misogyny ever since he stated in 2004 that women “don’t clean behind the fridge enough.”
Yet he remains adamant he’s not sexist. “I’ve always been a very big supporter of women, the advancement of women in both sport and business, and I also sponsor ladies’ equestrian sport. All of which is very well documented, but none of which is ever touched by the newspapers because it doesn’t touch the pigeon hole… What it might actually give an indication of is that any accusations that I’m a misogynist are clearly ridiculous.”
Nevertheless, his views on gender are undeniably provocative. He constantly refers to gender differences “that we don’t fully understand”. He refers to men’s dominance in music. “If you were to sit down with pen and paper, and I’m a keen classical music buff, you would get your first hundred great works of musical genius and you would not in your first hundred names… come to a female name.” While he hasn’t “the faintest idea why”, Bloom maintains that gender is too inexplicable to legislate on.
Since leaving UKIP, Bloom has attacked the party. This week, he told The Times that Nigel Farage has “lost touch”. Today he’s similarly critical of UKIP. “I would like to see an admission that drugs policy both in America and in the United Kingdom in the last couple of years has been a dismal failure… it’s something that UKIP are absolutely determined not to talk about.”
“Politicians are only interested in what’s going to happen in 2015, electorally. How can it be that the country has 1.3 trillion pounds of debt? … The answer is that it’s the most unbelievable incompetence, and failure to address fundamental economic issues, and I now feel much freer to address those.”
Bloom differs from UKIP economically. He’s an advocate of the Austrian School, condemning Oxford University because “you won’t have a single Austrian economist, not one. There’ll be Keynesians, and some Chicago School, both schools of which have palpably failed completely. But your undergraduates are still being taught the most ridiculous nonsense in their economics classes.” His libertarian agenda has been “side-lined” by UKIP in the last eighteen months.
Yet Bloom can’t escape his politician’s mind-set. He refers to UKIP as “we”, and is evangelical about its strengths. “The media tends to worry about Conservatives switching to UKIP, but the long and the short of it is that it isn’t like this. I mean, I won a Labour seat up here – most of my activists are Labour, old Labour. So this Conservative Party splinter group thing doesn’t play.”
UKIP has won voters who’ve been “abandoned” by Labour and the Tories, “the artisan classes”, who are “pithead winders or joiners, people like that, the real middle England people who are conservative with a small ‘c’, used to vote Old Labour, and have a picture of the Queen in the parlour.”
Bloom’s party career is over. He’s described anybody who enters politics as “insane”: “I went into politics for the same reason my father climbed into a spitfire in 1940 – it was to save the country.”
For Bloom, there’s too much emphasis on delivery, not enough on policy. “It’s a bit like you getting a message – I send you a message with a very important letter, and you then spend hours agonising over the choice of envelope, and how I addressed it.” Politicians “need a hide like a rhino. I hide most of my stuff from my wife: she’d be horrified.”
This disillusionment with politics doesn’t mean Bloom is leaving Parliament. He’s unsure whether he’ll stand again in 2014, now the whip is withdrawn. “People are asking me to. People are saying for God’s sake, let’s send an Independent! Somebody who doesn’t represent any party, will you stand again? The answer is I don’t know.”
Although this optimism about re-election seems delusional, Bloom’s populist ramblings have won him thousands of fans. As he says, he’s been elected by those “completely and utterly disengaged” from mainstream politics – maybe Bloom will be gaffing through Brussels well into his seventies.