Politics

Gair Rhydd meets the ‘Donald Trump of Wales’

Gareth Bennett, UKIP group leader in Wales. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Silvia Martelli

Gareth Bennett is easily one of the most blunt Welsh Assembly Members, so much so that earlier this year he was temporarily banned from speaking in the Chamber for remarks he made in a debate about transgender rights. Having been labelled ‘The Donald Trump of Wales’ by the press, he sat down with Gair Rhydd and discussed some of his most debated comments.

You claimed that the Welsh Assembly is unrepresentative of the public opinion. Is there any way to make it more representative?

Well, I suppose there are many problems with the Welsh Assembly – one problem is that it is virtually a one-party state because that means one party will always form the government, and that’s Labour. We’ve had 19 years of the Assembly – let’s say 20 – and Labour has always been the main party of government. There is a democratic deficit in Wales: whatever people want, we always end up with a Labour government. Another problem is that only 42% of people vote in Assembly elections, which demonstrates that there is a majority of people in Wales who are disengaged with the process of devolution, so in that sense the Assembly is unrepresentative of the public.

So is there a way to fix this?

Yeah – get rid of it! I want UKIP to take an anti-assembly direction – that was my main policy platform when I stood for group leader.

Do you think there should be a people’s vote?

A people’s vote? We had a people’s vote, we had two people’s votes: we had a people’s vote in 1975 when we took a decision, when the British public took a decision to remain in what was then called the ‘common market’. So that was the first referendum, when we didn’t know what it was gonna be like. 2016 was the second referendum, when we did know what it was like and that is when we decided to leave.

Let’s say there were a second referendum though, do you think people would still want to leave?

There is no point even considering it, why should there be? And it wouldn’t be the second, it’d be the third. What would be the point in considering it?

But if there were?

I don’t even consider the possibility of another referendum, it’s pointless, it’s treachery to even consider it.

I would just like to know if you feel like people would still want to leave the EU.

Of course.

In 2017, you claimed that UKIP “didn’t quite share the same enthusiasm for so-called human rights” as other parties did. Which human rights do you specifically refer to?

I was making a statement denigrating the entire human rights industry which has grown up over the last few years. A lot of highly paid, clever lawyers making a lot of money out of public funds and actually eroding the rights of the majority people in this country, because every time you give more rights to a minority group, it will consequently erode the rights of the majority.

Which minorities are you referring to?

Transgender rights, ethnic minority rights, women’s rights – women are not a minority, they are actually a majority, but they are treated as a minority. We have had all this nonsense about equal pay, but all the statistics used in favour are completely wrong because they don’t take certain things into account.

There are numerous statistics that prove women are paid less than men in the same exact positions.

Yes, I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, that does clearly happens, but the statistics that are commonly used by the women’s rights movements do not take into account various factors of why women are in lower paid jobs than men, such as they are more likely to be in part-time jobs.

Given your previous comments on burqa and the debate that succeeded it, what is your stance on it now? Would you like to have it banned?

Of course, I called for it to be banned, it’s UKIP policy for it to be banned. Because I think that it is not part of British culture, it’s something that is an example of minority rights. When we had the start of debates on immigration, probably going back in 1950s, the whole idea was that immigrant groups would become integrated into British society and they’d follow the British way of life. Today, we have lots and lots of people who aren’t following any traditional British way of life, they want to follow a Pakistani way of life, or a Bengali way of life… they want to walk around wearing Pakistani clothes which are not even suitable to the British climate, they are designed for a hot climate so there is no real, logical reason for them to be doing it. They’ve ‘ghettoised’ their own communities by grouping together. Is that going to lead to a good outcome?

You stated that mosques are becoming a challenge.

What do we know about the funding of mosques in the UK? What do we know about the who preaches in them? Should we have a system of licensing for mosques in the UK, or should we just allow them to just sprout up willy-nilly without any oversight of them whatsoever? We need to license them, regulate them and know what is going on in them. Some of them are not problematic, I am sure they are just community facilities. We don’t want to hinder them from doing their work, but we need to have a system of licensing so we know broadly what is going on, and we need to look at the finances. We need to cut off finances from Saudi Arabia which are spreading Wahabi culture.

How do you feel about being nicknamed the Donald Trump of Wales?

I was happy because it gave me an identity at the time. However, the problem is that, at that time, Trump was a mere candidate, now he is the president of the United States. I can’t be held accountable for every decision he makes, I can’t say he’s always right, he has executive power now and has to do what he sees fit… but I’m not his cheerleader saying everything he does is brilliant!

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