In a week in which UKIP has attacked European Council President Herman Van Rompuy for being "unelected", they have chosen an unelected peer, rather than one of their elected MEPs, to lead them. Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch was elected leader of UKIP with 47.7% of the vote, followed by Gerard Batten MEP with 25.8%. Nikki Sinclaire MEP with 12.2%, Mike Nattrass MEP with 11.0% and and Alan Wood 3.2% .
So who is Lord Pearson and what does he stand for?
According to wikipedia he was born in 1942 in Devizes and educated at Eton. He is chairman of the Pearson Webb Springbett (PWS) Group of reinsurance brokers, which he founded in 1964 and was made a life peer by Mrs Thatcher in 1990, sitting as a Conservative until he was expelled by them in 2004, joining UKIP in 2007. He is also the co-founder of an pro-globalised free trade think-tank, Global Britain. Pearson has been married three times: to Francesca Frua de Angeli in 1965, with whom he had one daughter and whom he divorced in 1970; to the Hon. Mary Charteris in 1977, with whom he had two daughters and whom he divorced in 1995; and to Caroline St Vincent Rose in 1997.
But beyond this, It seems he is not just eurosceptic, but a climate sceptic, an opponent of all muslims, anti-gay and a strong supporter of reversing the ban on cruel forms of hunting. Oh, and there is a little matter of his parliamentary expense claims.
His voting record in the House of Lords, according to "They Work for You" is that he has:
Voted strongly against the hunting ban. votes, speeches
Voted very strongly against equal gay rights. votes, speeches
Voted a mixture of for and against laws to stop climate change. votes, speeches
On Europe, from his own website, his personal manifesto says:
"What of my political philosophy? I am essentially interested in conserving the British constitution against all who threaten it, most particularly from those 'Traitors within the Gate', the British politicians who have betrayed their own people."
"My ambition is for UKIP to do well enough in the General Election to trigger a revolutionary realignment of British politics. In place of our current ‘one party state’, with all the older parties blindly deferring to the EU, we desperately need a new and genuine Opposition."
"UKIP policies should be short and incisive and targeted to emphasise what can only be achieved by leaving the EU. They should also be selected to embarrass the old parties by showing how their political correctitude has left them out of touch with the basic common sense of real people. Examples abound: Their refusal to entrust us with education vouchers or to insist on work permits for foreigners; their failure to maintain our borders and their appeasement of militant Islam."
But it is not just the EU that he hates, it is government in general: "We don't need these monkeys in Westminster," he said bluntly on getting the UKIP leadership. "And we've had enough of Brussels too. We're going to change it." (BBC website article Friday, 27 November 2009).
On climate change, denial is an attitude common to many eurosceptics (for instance BNP's Nick Griffin, UKIP's Godfrey Bloom, the Conservatives' Roger Helmer), all of whom claim that it is an exaggerated conspiracy by the political elite to screw more money out of the taxpayer.
On islam, in the words of the New Statesman blog: "We have blogged before about the odious Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the UKIPer and front-runner for the leadership of that EU-obsessed party. But is Europe its only obsession? The Telegraph's Ed West says that "Lord Pearson told me that, if elected, he will make the threat of radical Islam the major focus" of the UK Independence Party.
It is not "violent Islam" that exercises him; it is the presence of Muslims -- all Muslims! -- in Britain. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that his alarmist and ill-informed predictions about the Muslim birthrate, and the demonising and dehumanising language ("breeding ten times faster than us"; "resist their demands"), mirror the language employed by the far right about the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s."
In February 2009, he invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show the anti-Islam film Fitna before the House of Lords. However, Wilders was prevented from entering the UK on the instructions of the Home Secretary. In response, Pearson and Cox accused the Government of "appeasing" militant Islam.
On hunting, he is a supporter of the pro-field sports and conservation Countryside Alliance, serving as chairman of its deerstalking committee.
But questions about his expenses are potentially the most embarrassing for UKIP (especially after two of their former MEPs have already been in jail). According to the Daily Telegraph website, he has made substantial expense claims as a peer. According to the Telegraph:
"The new leader of the UK Independence Party, Lord Pearson, claimed more than £100,000in publicly-funded expenses on the basis that his £3.7 million house in London was his second home while also owning in a 12,000-acre estate with servants in Scotland. He has told the Parliamentary authorities that his estate beside Loch Rannoch, Perthshire, is his “main home”. This enabled him to claim about £100,000 in taxpayer-funded overnight subsistence allowances (“for the purpose of attending sittings of the House”) between April 2001 and June 2007 for staying at his town house in Victoria, one mile away from Parliament in central London, where he had no mortgage to pay.
After selling the flat for £3.7 million In June 2007, Lord Pearson moved to another London flat two miles away in Kennington. He paid £1.2 million for the flat, again without a mortgage. He then claimed another £15,000 in allowances on the basis of his overnight stays there.
Lord Pearson has repeatedly declared in official company documents that his London home was his “usual residential address”.
His London house was also given as the address to which applicants wishing to work as a housekeeper or gardener at the Scottish estate should send their CVs, in an advert placed by Lady Pearson in The Scottish Farmer in January this year.
Lords rules state: “Members whose main residence is within Greater London cannot claim night subsistence.”
As well as claiming £115,683 for overnight subsistence, since 2001 Lord Pearson has claimed £56,685 in “day subsistence” allowances. Peers can claim £86.50 a day for meals, drinks and taxis while working in Westminster, with no need for receipts.
The peer – who was paid £40,000 a year for his remaining City work until being elected UKIP leader – also claimed £48,471 in travel expenses – including £10,064 for the cost of flying between Scotland and London in the last two recorded years alone."
"He said: “My (main) home is in Scotland. I spend almost exactly half the year there.” He said he had cited the London home as his “usual” address in company documents “for convenience” in dealing with business correspondence".
Yet, it is Lord Pearson who warned that the MPs' expenses scandal exposed a “growing gulf between the political class and the British people”.
A newly emerged controversy is about his alleged offer to make a deal with the Conservatives: 'UKIP faces resignations over offer to disband if Tories held EU referendum’ (Times, 30 Nov. p10).
UKIP faces a ‘wave of resignations’ amid grassroots fury over the revelation that its new leader offered to stand down candidates at the next election and disband the party if the Tories agreed to hold a referendum on EU membership. Lord Pearson faces a rocky start to his leadership after it was reported that he proposed a deal to the Tory leader in the Lords. Nikki Sinclaire MEP said that she was being called by outraged members threatening to resign. Gerald Batten said: ‘I am appalled they can offer to sell the party down the river to the Tories — it is a betrayal of the members, and we will probably see a wave of resignations over this. If he had run in the leadership election telling people that is what he had done, he would have come bottom. The membership do not want it and it has caused outrage."
But is he completely mad? Some comments on the blogosphere might lead one to wonder. For instance: "Pearson underwent a profound religious experience in 1977, and has undertaken to raise his banner for the Light in the Manichaean battle between good and evil, and would join battle in the name of Good with the baleful malignity of Ahriman and Lucifer, the twin evils of Euro-Federalism and Jihadist Islam. For Pearson it's about a morality so fundamental that all else is spume."