Party Leader Chris Mendes sat down with Mike Swadling, co-founder of the Croydon Constitutionalists, for a quick chat about Chris’ political background and present views.
The Croydon Constitutionalists is a classically liberal leaning campaign group arguing for Brexit, low taxes, free markets and free speech.
What first got you involved in politics?
The EU referendum. A choice between one direction or another was never clearer. Having adopted a strongly held view – to leave – the permanent nature of the referendum result compelled me to act. Over an eight month period I campaigned on the ground running street stalls, knocking on doors and holding public meetings to persuade others to vote to leave. It was clearly a rare opportunity, possibly the only opportunity, to activate the railroad switch for changing the track on which our country runs in this regard, from the wrong one to the right one.
I was, and still am, emphatically unpersuaded by the necessity of our membership of the European Union. And when the primary argument made for voting for something does not revolve around the merits of that something, but the exaggerated-for-effect demerits of not voting for it, then that argument is an inherently weak and unpersuasive argument by default, in my opinion.
‘Project Fear’, the Remain campaign’s desperate ultra-cynical strategy of scaring as many people as possible into submission – watching it on television but also seeing the impact on the ground, the real fright affected upon some people whom I encountered – shocked me.
And so it was and is the unhealthy state of our politics that has drawn me in. The gross irresponsibility and lack of leadership from people too cowardly to present an argument on its own merit, at the expense of ethics and more constructive discourse that in the end sinks us all, must be challenged.
For as long as open, calm and confident civilised debate is absent from our politics, we will forever move at a snail’s pace, if at all, towards forming any form of meaningful consensus around serious progressive change of any kind.
What campaigns have you been involved in?
The campaign I remain most proud of has been the most important campaign so far, the Leave campaign for Croydon. Week after week we distributed information and made the pro-Brexit argument in favour of national self-government and a healthier democracy.
More recently however, my new party, the Foundation Party, is at the very beginning of its journey. We took part in the Local Elections 2019. It was a mixed occasion for us featuring both wins and defeats. But the highlight was the election of Foundation Party Councillor Peter Harris in Tendring, Essex, where we topped the poll collecting the same number of votes as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats combined. Hearing this result announced live on LBC was quite a buzz!
Prior to forming a new party, I volunteered at a senior level for UKIP working with the then party leadership. I thought at the time it might be a party that could push on and advance a much-needed political reform agenda. But in the end, it showed itself plainly to have no such potential.
What do you think is next for Brexit?
From where we are now, leaving the EU without a deal is the only course.
The outgoing Prime Minister’s “withdrawal agreement” violates the result of the referendum. The big print says “we are leaving”, while the small print says “we may not be leaving, it depends”. The UK would require the EU’s permission to annul the agreed “backstop” and leave the EU completely, which after a historic nation-wide majority voted to leave and “take back control”, is one of the greatest civilised insults from politicians to the people anywhere at any time.
Regardless as to what happens outside the Conservative Party, Brexit is eventually resolved from inside the Conservative Party.
Brexit in the end is not about cargo, but constitution. We voted for our industries, our public services and our democracy to operate within a free, independent and self-governing country. We must leave the European Union. And the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, in the event of failing to secure a better deal, must take us out without a deal and show the same degree of courage as the people who voted for it.
What surprised you most about getting actively involved in politics?
The capacity of the individual to make a difference. Having your say and helping to one extent or another is more possible than one might think.
If you could introduce or repeal 3 laws, other than for Brexit. What would they be?
So many to choose from! OK, here are my chosen three…
Top of my list of priorities is the introduction of a new completely codified constitution, similar to that of France and the United States, with explicit guarantees of independence and self-government, enforced by the Supreme Court, changeable only by a direct mandate from the people expressed via a referendum. This would help prevent temporarily elected politicians from permanently trading away our nation’s sovereignty, slowly over many years, without the proper transparency or authority from the people.
I would repeal the current ban on grammar schools and encourage the establishment of new such schools throughout the country. There is no greater gift given to academically gifted children from poorer backgrounds in particular, than granting them access to an elite standard of education. It is a shameful social injustice that this education is currently available only to much wealthier families who can afford to live in the few very expensive-to-live areas that have them.
And for my third choice I could have chosen a radical tax reform policy I have in mind, or the power decentralisation agenda that I strongly believe in – details of which can be found on our party’s website – however I’m going to stick with cleaning up politics.
I would legislate to cap donations to political parties from any one individual or organisation at £20,000 per year. As a voluntary measure this is the Foundation Party’s highly principled policy and it is hard-coded in our constitution. We reject the murky pattern of every major political party where rich individuals make huge donations in return for unjust and undemocratic influence over the party and our democracy.
Addressing the question of party funding is just one of the many aspects of the political reform agenda, and our party is determined to campaign for real action towards rebuilding our broken democracy. The career politicians won’t do it, so we the people must.
What do you see as your parties route to electoral success?
The key to obtaining popular support on the one hand and votes for winning an election in a given area on the other, are clearly two distinct objectives that need to be appreciated separately. In the age of social media, it is all too common to get carried away and mistakenly conclude that ‘likes’ and ‘re-tweets’ will carry a candidate to electoral victory.
We will focus relentlessly on building relationships with people on the ground in local communities, listen to their concerns, listen to their worries, help them where we can, offer our thoughts on matters big and small, and see if we can build partnerships and, in time, lead a movement towards radical change that could change our country for the better.
Our mission is to campaign for greater accountability of the state and greater power and control for ordinary citizens.
Control, control, control. It is the sexiest word in politics today. No one is voting for less of it. And future elections will be won, not by parties that pledge the same old recycled notions of grand design where government is the answer to every problem and the source of every opportunity, but by parties that offer to transfer economic and political power and decision-making downwards to local communities, individuals and families.
This agenda touches on a range of issues such as freeing the country from the intrusive and democracy-diluting EU super state, cleaning up Westminster and making it more accountable, reducing the scope of national government and increasing that of local government, greater parent choice in the education system, greater patient choice within the healthcare system, simpler and lower taxes so we keep more of our own money, and constitutional protection for rights such as freedom of speech which is, shockingly, well and truly, under attack.
This is a message and a policy platform that I am very excited about. There is a different way of doing things outside the tired and out-dated mantra of the major political parties. And in the years to come, we’ll see how well they cope when the people rightly come knocking and insist on depending less on them, and instead, demand the proper power and control to improve their own lives for themselves.