Brexit Party founder, friend of Nigel Farage, and Norfolk resident - who is Catherine Blaiklock?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:21 15 February 2019
Copyright 2014 Andrew McMeekin PHOTGRAPHY
She is a former Ukip candidate, Norfolk guesthouse owner, and now the founder of a new Brexit Party with Nigel Farage as its MEP.
But who is controversial Catherine Blaiklock and what is she hoping to achieve?
“I wouldn’t be doing what I was doing if things weren’t absolutely dire,” Ms Blaiklock told Breitbart’s James Delingpole podcast in October last year.
It was three months before Ms Blaiklock, who is based in Lingwood, launched the Brexit Party, which former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said had 35,000 people sign up as members in its first 48 hours - although critics online said it was easy for one person to sign up multiple times.
But is not Ms Blaiklock’s first foray in politics, as she joined Ukip in 2014.
However, it was not until after the EU referendum she started to get more actively involved.
Norfolk voters may recognise her as the Ukip candidate for Great Yarmouth in the 2017 general election. Ms Blaiklock, 56, lost to Conservative Brandon Lewis but remained Ukip’s economics spokesman until leader Gerrard Batten appointed former leader of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - as an advisor.
Ms Blaiklock told this newspaper: “I left because of the direction that Gerard Batten took. I did not think it was appropriate for someone who had specifically been banned as being a member becoming an advisor, because all former members of the BNP and EDL were banned. Gerard Batten forgot that Ukip was set up as a libertarian party that did not discriminate on race, religion or sex.”
Ms Blaiklock grew up in care homes, where she said her parents sent her because she had bulimia and they found her “wayward and difficult”.
“Between myself and Holloway for a girl there was nowhere else,” she told James Delingpole. “I was with drug dealers and people who were there having underage sex and car thieves.
“They could have sent me to a government boarding school, instead I cost the state around £80,000 a year. My bulimia of course got way worse.”
But Ms Blaiklock ended up going to Christchurch College, Oxford, to study geography - the same course as prime minister Theresa May - and she worked around the world in places such as Jordan, Singapore, and Tokyo.
“I was a hippy to a large extent,” she said. “I then went back to join the American banks and my friends they said you’ll never last you’re just a old hippy.”
But Ms Blaiklock continued to work in city trading, before moving to Asia and setting up a healthcare charity in Nepal.
However in recent months some of her past opinion pieces for pro-Tommy Robinson news website Politicalite, the conservative quarterly magazine the Salisbury Review, and The Conservative Woman have been criticised.
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They include one focusing on pubs turning into mosques, referencing the former Queen Charlotte pub on Dereham Road in Norwich which has been turned into the base of the Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association (NNMA).
In her piece Ms Blaiklock said: “I doubt that you would ever see a Burka and rarely a Hijab, but it seems that there are enough Muslims to build a large mosque.
“You have to question where such a small community gets £1.5m of donations from. It takes a lot of Bangladeshi takeaways dishes at £1 profit a time to raise and save these sort of amounts.”
In another piece on how to save the NHS money she suggested ending the use of translators in the health service, stopping procedures for fertility treatment, and making healthcare more like that in Nepal.
She said: “If you go into hospital in Nepal, you get a bed but no sheets, no food, and no care except medical care. The doctor sticks a prescription on the end of the bed and your relatives have to go and buy the drugs and bring them back for administering. Your family bring in your food. That is how Nepal manages to spend £100 per year per head on healthcare. Obviously such a scheme is ‘unthinkable’ here, but why? Why shouldn’t people pay for food that they would obviously pay for if they were not in hospital?”
She also hit the headlines when she said she could not be racist, because her husband is black, and that foodbanks are fuelling the obesity crisis.
But when asked by this newspaper about the pieces, Ms Blaiklock said her comments were often “taken out of context”. She said: “I have done a lot for Nepal and have appeared many times previously in this paper and did a lot during the Nepalese earthquake but instead, I get personally attacked for some comment I made which gets taken out of context.
“I raised over £100,000 in a week for the Nepal earthquake and the charity I founded and chair sent an operating team from the James Paget and hundreds of tents and sleeping bags from Norfolk which were collected all over the county.”
MORE: ‘Let them eat spuds!’ Ex-UKIP candidate says food banks are fuelling the obesity crisis
And she added having Nigel Farage as an MEP for her new party meant “people try to attack you as a person rather than on the issues, for purely political purposes”.
She said the Brexit process was “terrible”. And that if the government “betrays the referendum the significant leave majority in Norfolk will use The Brexit Party to make it clear how they feel and give us significant support if there were to be a future European election. We are confident we would top the polls in the county.
“No country has ever signed a deal such as that which Mrs May is proposing in peacetime,” she said. “We are perhaps going to pay £39bn or most likely more, which equates to £1,450 per hardworking British family for what? To get stuck in basically the same trade relationship we are in now, unable to set up our own trade deals, taking rules but not even voting on them. The worst of all possible worlds.”
While she did not want to confirm exact figures of support - despite Mr Farage’s claims - Ms Blaiklock said “support and candidates has been overwhelming”. She said: “There have been tens of thousands from all corners of the UK joining everyday since we launched, but I cannot give you exact figures.
“One Labour MP has said we could ‘sweep the country’, Lord Adonis, arch-remainer, recognises the our threat, one Tory has called us a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over the current political system.
MORE: Ukip candidate in Great Yarmouth shows audience a photo of her Jamaican husband in bid to dispense perceptions of racism in her party
“The Brexit Party is here to keep the legacy political parties honest. If they do not keep their word and deliver Brexit on March 29 then they will face serious electoral consequences.
“If they delay Brexit, then the Brexit Party will compete and win the European Elections, stripping them of jobs and patronage. It is the only thing they will listen to, losing jobs, their own.
“What we expect is the Brexit that people voted for - ie out, not half in, half out or remain or delay or some terrible deal where we become stuck in an undemocratic super state with no say.”
And she believed leaving the EU would benefit Norfolk, and the constituency in which she stood for election, Great Yarmouth.
She said: “Leaving the EU will allow the UK to focus on the issues that matter to people where they live, rather than wasting billions of pounds on EU priorities. So yes it will help Great Yarmouth but more broadly. As to specific issues, the party is not campaigning on local issues but on the key issue of getting out of the EU, it does what it says on the tin.
“We are a single issue party. The two parties are entrenched and tribal but none of them stand for all the people in Norfolk which voted overwhelmingly out - like in Great Yarmouth which was over 70pc. They also both campaigned in 2017 that they would deliver Brexit.”