Since the closure of the airport was announced, just over a year ago, I have worked tirelessly, on both the SMA and the SuMA Committees, with the sole objective of restoring Manston Airport to aviation use.
Last Autumn, when it was announced that Nigel Farage was going to stand for UKIP in South Thanet, I decided that this would be an opportune time to escalate the Manston campaign onto a bigger stage. My reasoning was that with Farage there would inevitably follow a huge amount of National media interest. So I decided, there and then, that I would run against him for the Parliamentary seat in South Thanet. Further motives for standing were to act as a thorn in the side of all the political parties and to keep the issue of the airport to the forefront of their minds.
I gathered a team together and we worked through the complexities of registering the Party, creating a logo, website, business cards and all the accoutrement that goes with a political campaign to form the Manston Airport Independent Party.
Almost immediately two of the main political Parties contacted me wanting to meet – to date I have had meetings with three of the main Parties. The agenda was more or less the same each time – to ask me to either stand down or to run as one of their candidates. I politely refused both invitations. Promises were made, deals were suggested and even some cautionary tactics deployed. To each party I said the same thing that I would step aside if, and only if, the airport was secured before April 9th when the deposit needs to be paid.
To date my purpose in standing has proved moderately successful. In accordance with the Electoral Commission rules, whenever one candidate is mentioned, interviewed or invited to a public hustings then the others, including the Manston Airport Independent Party, must also be in the interests of balance.
I have attended hustings, I have been interviewed, I was even mentioned in a couple of National newspapers. However, it is not me that is important but every time that I am mentioned so is the name of Manston Airport Independent Party. It is keeping the campaign very much alive.
The Conservatives are, obviously, doing the most for the Manston campaign purely for the fact that they have been in power both locally and nationally for the past year. Sir Roger Gale’s efforts cannot be faulted. He, along with Laura Sandys, has done everything humanly possible to restore the airport. However the Government did not really show an interest until the election loomed and Farage declared that he was standing in South Thanet. Recently the Conservatives have signed a five-point pledge to do all they can to save the airport. The Government has also engaged PricewaterhouseCooper to examine the credentials of the American company RiverOak who wish to purchase and operate the airport. PWC will also examine TDC’s questionable handling of the CPO procedure which resulted in a vote of no confidence in RiverOak. At the end of the day however, visits from Government Ministers spouting rhetoric are fine and dandy but what we really need to see is action.
The Conservatives have, unfortunately, also been let down by the maverick Leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, who sides with the regeneration team that wish to build the biggest Business Park in Kent despite there being hundreds of empty business units in Thanet.
Nigel Farage has realised, or been told, what an important local issue Manston is and promises that, if a majority UKIP Local Council is returned, they will immediately Compulsory Purchase the Airport. One does wonder, however, why he hasn’t done anything for the airport before in his capacity as MEP.
There is no doubt a lot of electioneering currently in play and a lot of promises being made. How realistic are these promises? How much credence can we give to any of the Party’s pledges? Once the election is over and their role secured will they just drop the Manston issue like a stone? Are the main parties just stringing us along for votes?
It is three days until the Election nominations close, the airport is still shut. Non-aviation related businesses are moving into hangars on the site and there is no immediate sign of any major breakthroughs.
Therefore, on Tuesday morning, I have an appointment with the Returning Officer at Thanet District Council offices to go and pay the £500 deposit.
I have thought long and hard about whether or not this is the right thing to do. I do have a residual nagging worry that my candidature could split the vote and let in someone who will not proceed with the campaign but, with eleven candidates standing, that could be said of any one of the other six minority parties too.
At the end of the day I have made a commitment and, in the absence of any definite action from any of the major political parties, I am going to see it through. I’m doing this for those that believe in what I am doing, for those that have supported me with advice and kind words, for those that have donated money to my campaign and in order to keep the publicity going. I am doing it entirely for Manston Airport.
PPC Thanet South,
Manston Aiport Independent Party