MAGNUS Nielsen has been the guy from UKIP in the north of Camden for what must be going on for at least ten years, maybe for as long as UKIP has been a thing. I’m not offended, but every election he introduces himself to me like we’ve never met before and tonight he insisted his party really were the ‘new kids on the block’ for next week’s council elections. No longer alone, a row of UKIP supporters were among those in the Emmanuel School hall for well-attended hustings organised by the West Hampstead Life website. For those who hadn’t seen Magnus at work, this was a vintage performance to start off with. His answers were so unlike all the other voices that his answers were capable of unifying the candidates from the other parties in a shared level of bemusement.
The strange thing is, that despite the fact he now has colleagues to talk to at these events, he is liable to sort of freestyle his own thoughts. He starts predicating answers with a reminder that these are his ideas, not necessarily Nigel Farage’s. This tendency led to a curious reply to a question about what local politicians were doing to improve election turnout, the question couched with a reminder that figures are unlikely to push to much beyond 30 percent in ward ballots next week. Magnus’s suggestion was that the voting franchise could be restricted on the grounds that people often craved what they couldn’t have and that threatening to take away the right to vote would make people value it more.
Here’s his wisdom: “I have reflected on this over a period of time and I have drawn I wouldn’t say conclusions, but ideas. I wanted to emphasise they are my ideas, not the ideas of Nigel Farage, or the party or anyone else standing for UKIP. I sometimes think the people who fought for the vote in 1832 and 1888 and so forth, trying to extend the franchise were probably doing the wrong thing. Generally speaking when you start taking things away, or threatening to take things away, people start clamouring and say they really want it.”
It goes on, you can listen to it all:
Well, it’s different, and, give him his dues, to his credit he does not shy away from saying what he thinks, regardless of the tittering you can hear on the tape.
The members from the main parties answered that question by insisting they had been door to door to every house on their patch, had made themselves ever available to residents and had been active on Twitter. I don’t mean to ruin that last suggestion, but here’s a health warning: follow local politicians on Twitter and adopt the brace position when doing so for a tornado of group pictures of themselves holding banners and leaflets and insisting they’ve just been on a fantastic ‘doorstep’. Whether this stream of grinning increases turnout, who knows? In its favour, the audience tonight seemed to see it as preferable to increasing the turnout percentages by cutting the numbers actually eligible to vote. Our host for the evening, Jonathan Turton, who set up the West Hampstead Life site, asked whether anyone in the room agreed that the franchise should be restricted. ‘Somebody should restrict Magnus,’ came a heckled reply, but no easily noticeable raised hands.
It was all just so classic Magnus. Earlier in the evening, the panellists had been asked whether there should be new primary and secondary schools opened in the West Hampstead and Fortune Green area. He said he could ‘see the importance’ of it all, but we didn’t get to what his precise thoughts on the new schools were, such was the time taken on a recount of his tutoring the children of a ‘very rich Russian oligarch’. “People say why don’t you teach the disadvantaged and the poor too,” he said, “and I would love to do that – but I’m not the sort of person who fits into the conventional education system.”