Election 2010 Lookahead: Wednesday 5 May

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With one day to go, here is what is happening on the campaign trail:

Labour

Gordon Brown will visit 13 constituencies on the eve of the election, covering London, north Wales, the north-west and Yorkshire, before heading up to his home seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, where he will remain on polling day.

 

Conservatives

David Cameron will continue his 24-hour campaign tour of the UK, meeting people working night shifts and early mornings, such as bakers and florists. Earlier today he was at Darwen (12.45am), Wakefield (3.15am) and Grimsby (5.30am), and will later visit Calverton (9.15am), Dudley (11.45am) and Montgomeryshire (2.30pm), before finally addressing a campaign rally in Bristol (6pm).

 

Liberal Democrats

Happy birthday, Nick Clegg -- who was elected to parliament this day five years ago. He continues his series of early-morning press conferences at the Work Foundation in London (7.30am). He will then attend a public rally at Western Lawns on King Edward's Parade in Eastbourne with the local Lib Dem candidate, Stephen Lloyd (11am), before heading north to attend a Q&A with students at the University of Durham (Pemberton Building, Palace Green, 4pm). He will round off the day with an election rally at Barker's Pool in Sheffield (6.45pm).

 

Other parties

The Scottish National Party leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, will rally the troops at SNP headquarters in Edinburgh (10am). The SNP is hoping to win 20 seats in the House of Commons this year.

 

The media

BBC2's The Daily Politics: 2010 Election Debates will feature the deputy Labour Party leader and House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, the Conservative shadow Commons leader, George Young, the Liberal Democrat equality spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, and the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price in "The Trust in Politics Debate" (2.15pm). Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn will be asking the questions.

 

Away from the campaign

Nominations for the five-year post of professor of poetry at Oxford University (annual salary: £6,901) close today. It's an election battle that surely makes the other pale into insignificance. Last year the process was disrupted when one of the nominees, Derek Walcott, pulled out over allegations of sexual harassment, followed by Ruth Padel, who admitted she had told the press about the allegations. Some of those hoping to make it this time are Geoffrey Hill, Paula Claire, Sean Haldane and Roger Lewis.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear