Friends pay tribute to long-serving Norwich UKIP and Brexit campaigner Steve Emmens who has died
PUBLISHED: 16:19 09 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:23 09 January 2017
A long-serving UK Independence Party campaigner and key figure in the Brexit movement in Norfolk has died after a short battle with cancer.
Steve Emmens died this morning at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
The 52-year-old became a well-known figure in local politics after he begun his bid for public office ten years ago. He first attempted to join Norwich City Council in 2007 and stood as the UK Independence Party candidate in Norwich South at the last two general elections. In the 2015 general election he managed to secure 4,539 votes - a 7pc improvement on his previous attempt.
His friend Eric Masters, the Ukip Norwich South Constituency chairman between 2013 and 2016 and a Vote Leave co-ordinator for Norfolk during the European Union referendum, said Mr Emmens had not just made an outstanding contribution to local politics since he had first stood for the city council election a decade ago, but he had a heart as big as his personality.
He recalled Mr Emmens face as “a picture” in the early hours of the morning of June 24 when it became clear that Britain had voted to leave the European Union.
“I am so pleased that Steve was able to play a full part in our county’s overwhelming vote to leave last June and was able to see the fruits of 10 years banging the drum of Independence from the EU.
“He felt so proud to have been part of a team across the county who worked tirelessly to make the result happen and I know Steve’s efforts and enthusiastic door knocking campaigns made a real contribution to our county’s efforts.”
“Steve would often reminisce that it was the Conservative Party that left him to follow a “European Dream” and that UKIP was still true to Conservative grass roots scepticism of a European super state and felt vindicated when so many voted to control immigration by a points based system in the referendum, just a year after being called racist for promoting it in the 2015 General Election. He would often say “what a difference a year makes”.
Cliff Watson, Vote Leave Norfolk campaign director, said: “In terms of time and achievement, Steve was one of the biggest contributors to the Vote Leave campaign in Norfolk. It was truly an honour to work with such a committed individual. He will be sadly missed by all his friends in the political world.”
He is survived Tania, who he was married to for 15 years.
Political rivals have spoken of their sadness at the death of Steve Emmens who was a “fixture” of the Norwich election circuit.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, who stood against Mr Emmens in the 2015 general election, said that while he vehemently disagreed with some of his views, Mr Emmens had been a democrat. “Steve Emmens was one of those people I didn’t see eye to eye with but would have a pint with, and did have a pint with.”
“I actually found him polite and engaging. While I thought some of his views were awful, I would tell him so to his face, and he would tell me to my face what he thought of what I said.
“He will be missed. You form a bond with other people on the campaign trail. There will be a lot of people who say ‘how can a black Labour MP have something in common with someone from UKIP?’ I didn’t agree with anything he said, but there was that common humanity I could see in Steve. He was a human being with flaws and all.
“I saw someone who threw themselves into political life and was full of life and laughter and had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“He was hard not to like. I did try!”.
Mr Lewis added: “The fact that he won’t be standing again is sad in some ways - he had become a fixture on the election circuit. He turned up to everything.”
Former Norwich South MP Simon Wright, who stood against Mr Emmens in two general elections in Norwich South, said: “Steve was very easy to get along with. We regularly met at hustings, public meetings, election counts, and out campaigning on the streets of Norwich. He always greeted his political rivals with a cheery smile, and would often joke about campaign experiences. But he took his politics very seriously and never shied away from a political challenge. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.”