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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Martin urges 'decency' in politics
by Jackie Storer
BBC News Online political staff

With a flourish of his hat, wild applause and a standing ovation, Tony Martin received a hero's welcome when he dropped in to the UK Independence Party's annual conference.

Tony Martin
Martin said he was a "non-voting" Tory
Mr Martin made his way through about 500 representatives to the platform to tell them he thought there should be more "decency" in British politics.

The silver-haired farmer, who was jailed for killing a teenage burglar in August 1999 during a break-in at his Norfolk home, admitted he had not voted for any party for 20 years.

But after his brief address at the Emmanuel Christian Centre in central London, Mr Martin prompted an impromptu debate with a senior official of UKIP - staunch campaigners for keeping the pound - that if Britain was forced to choose a new currency, it should be the dollar.

I don't actually belong to any particular party, but if any party has got anything to do with decency, I'm all for that
Tony Martin

Mr Martin, who was released from jail this summer after serving two thirds of a five year sentence, looked surprised and touched by the applause he received as he took to the stage at the dome shaped Christian centre on Friday.

He surveyed the wooden panelled hall, to comment: "I'm sorry, I feel rather emotional at these sorts of things. It would help if I had my dog Otto with me."

'Non-voting Tory'

But then, he prompted laughter when he quipped: "I must say, this is probably better than Congress."

Mr Martin, who describes himself as "a non-voting Conservative", told the mostly ageing audience: "I don't actually belong to any particular party, but if any party has got anything to do with decency, I'm all for that.

I wish the MPs in this country were not our masters, but our friends ... I can't see them in touch with the ordinary people in the street
Tony Martin

"I think at this stage in this country's history, that is more important than democracy.

"I'd just like to finish off and say I wish the MPs in this country were not our masters, but our friends ... I can't see them in touch with the ordinary people in the street."

Mr Martin said he had travelled around the country and had heard similar views.

"It would be nice for Parliament, which is the home of democracy, to see a bit of decency and instead of keep arguing with each other all the time, to actually unite and make us a stronger country."

Vote earners

With that, the star of the moment was off, making his way through the pew-lined rows, waving his hat to more appreciation from the crowd.

Outside the chamber, Mr Martin stressed that he did not know what UKIP policies were and had visited on a law and order platform only.

He would not vote for anybody unless they could prove they were "a true leader".

"I'm not going to give somebody a vote to walk away and do what they want to do," he said.

As Mike Nattrass, UKIP's deputy leader, stood beside him, Mr Martin admitted he was "not interested in Europe".

"We are 60 million people in this country. If we can't stand on our two feet, there's something wrong, and you know as well as I do, if you join a club, you only get out of it what you put into it," he remarked.

American dream?

On the issue of the euro, Mr Martin said: "If you are forced to because we're getting into larger zones of currency, you would go for the dollar wouldn't you?

"For Christ's sake, cousins across the water aren't they? America is an extension of this country. I might sound arrogant."

Mr Nattrass quickly stepped in to point out: "That isn't the policy of this party. We're the fourth largest economy. We actually lose more than 20bn a year in Europe in donations ... and to scandals that are happening all the time."

He explained that "if you lose your economy" and monetary system, it "means that somebody else is running the show and that's the end of Britain".

Mr Martin said he understood the argument, but conceded: "The only reason I'm living here today is the Americans and two World Wars.

"It's not an insult to the British people who fought for this country to say that without the Americans help, the world would not be a free place ... it's as good as you're going to get."

Earlier, UKIP's chairman David Lott opened the two-day conference by urging activists to increase their numbers from 15,000 to 20,000 by Christmas.

He said they should take to the streets and get people to sign a petition for a referendum on the draft EU constitution.

"It doesn't matter if you are shy - they will talk to you - all you have to be is an agony aunt ... If you know of anybody who sympathises with your views, give us their name and telephone number. We will contact them," he said.

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