Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
UoB Student Runs as UKIP Candidate in Wolverhampton
History and Politics student Rob Jones is running as a candidate for UKIP in his home constituency of Wolverhampton South West
Rob Jones joined UKIP roughly four years ago mainly due to euroscepticism. ‘The biggest issue for me was that laws could be made on our behalf that we didn’t get a say on’ he told Redbrick. ‘I think at the moment one of the things that puts young people off is that they feel that politics and their lives are separate things.’
“'I think if people were given that power back, then they’d have much greater interest in it and they’d want to get involved'
Whilst Jones said that he wants a ‘hard’ Brexit, he noted that he didn’t like the general tone associated with it. ‘I think at the moment the tone is either completely love Europe or be hostile to it,’ he said. ‘Whereas we should be seeing each other as two separate entities which could come together on common grounds’.
Jones was optimistic about the prospects that Brexit will deliver for young people. ‘I think it can make sure that young people can have more say over their country,’ he said. ‘We’ll be able to see businesses grow and people getting good jobs’. What’s more, Jones said that he wants to protect schemes like Erasmus and hopes for continued cooperation with European universities.
He also hopes that money saved from UK contributions to the EU can be used to replace the research grants that UK universities receive annually from EU sources worth over £800 million. ‘There’s a lot of focus on STEM subjects that we’re looking to protect,’ he said.
Jones added that he would like to see more local or national referendums on key issues. ‘I think if people were given that power back, then they’d have much greater interest in it and they’d want to get involved.’
“‘What comes up a lot is people don’t trust the whole strong and stable image’
In 2015, UKIP receive over 10% of the vote in Jones’ home constituency of Wolverhampton South-West, however, this time around Jones is simply hoping to keep the deposit which requires at least 5% of the vote. ‘I like truth in politics, I like people who don’t try to spin,’ he said. ‘I think we’ll keep our deposit [...] but I don’t think we’ll do as well as we did last time because the situation has changed.’
Aside from the EU referendum taking place since the last election, meaning that, according to Jones, UKIP are ‘looking for its new identity’, Jones claimed that there is a perception that this election is a battle between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. ‘People will be voting for what they believe is the lesser of two evils whether they vote May or Corbyn,’ he said.
Jones told Redbrick that he aims to appeal to both former Labour and former Conservative voters, rather than just targeting one. Talking about his experience on the campaign trail he said that the response to UKIP had been ‘fairly positive’. Whilst a lot of people may have told him that they would not vote for UKIP, he claimed that many of them have respect for the party.
Wolverhampton South West was won by Labour in the 2015 election after having been a Conservative seat previously. Jones said that towards the start of the campaign, it seemed like a definite Conservative win but after the electoral expenses scandal in South Thanet and the ‘poor’ manifesto, Labour have a good chance of keeping the seat. ‘What comes up a lot is people don’t trust the whole strong and stable image’, he said.
The margin of victory in the last election was only 2%, and Jones predicts that the race will be even tighter this time, saying that it could be a matter of just a few hundred votes. ‘I think Corbyn has possibly mobilised more people here than Miliband so they just might keep it,’ he said.
“'I’ve had better responses than people saying they’re Tories'
When asked what it’s like to be a UKIP supporter as a student, Jones said it was ‘interesting’, pointing to the fact that most students tend to be Labour, Green and Lib Dem. ‘A lot of people don’t think that it’s a party that attracts students,’ he said. ‘I’ve had better responses than people saying they’re Tories’.
Ultimately though, finishing his degree has been the first priority for Jones. ‘The election was launched back in April, I still had exams and work to hand in, and I said I might be late coming to the game and my efforts wouldn’t be as great as they could be,’ he explained. ‘But university has to be prioritised’.