Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

© Erica Smith

UKIP made me go to the pub!

HOT’s Erica Smith finds a good reason to drink beer…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how non-political I’ve become – the stories I cover on Hastings Online Times tend to be about art shows or photography. I have worked hard within my local community, because I love St Leonards, but I haven’t been on a demonstration for ages. I’m not a member of a political party and although I think Russell Brand has a place in society, I can’t help finding him a bit irritating… and then UKIP had a meeting in the function room of my favourite local pub, and it made me feel VERY grumpy.

My favourite local pub is the Horse and Groom – up at the top of Norman Road. It proudly boasts its history as the oldest pub in St Leonards and is a fine example of what I have always called “OMPs” – Old Man’s Pubs. That’s not an insult, it’s just a special kind of pub. You enter and there’s usually a warm, quiet atmosphere – a bit of chat at the bar, a few small groups of people sat around tables, a solitary chap reading a paper with a well behaved dog at his feet. And no background noise. No hits of the ’80s, no heavy rock, no dub-step, no sport on the telly, no expectations to talk to anyone else, not even the person you walked in with. Just lovely, warm, quietness with well-aged soft furnishings and carpets to cushion any sound that might otherwise bounce around. The primary assault on the senses is the reassuring hoppy smell of well kept ales. Bliss.

It is true that in any OMP a degree of tolerance of others not like yourself is necessary. Politics and strong opinions are best hung-up with your overcoat. There will always be someone at the bar who will have different opinions to you. That is one of the good things about going out – it reminds you that, thankfully, there is diversity in this world. It was hardly a surprise to me that people who vote for UKIP drink at the Horse & Groom, it’s a free country and why on earth would they not appreciate a well-kept pint of Harveys as much as the next woman?

But halfway through November, when a poster for a UKIP fundraiser in the venue behind the pub went up, I started feeling uncomfortable. Then I heard that there was to be a closed meeting in the same venue in early December for UKIP to select a new parliamentary candidate. In my mind there is a difference between a few people at the bar who have views different to your own and a pub being formally identified with a political party, because it holds regular meetings there.

There is nothing wrong with that, so long as you aren’t too bothered about the policies and behaviour of that particular party. But I do have a problem with UKIP. Generally, I am a very tolerant person – some people might say that I’m too tolerant. However, the one thing I do not tolerate is intolerance, and, in my opinion, UKIP policies – and more importantly – the actions of many of the individuals within the party – are intolerant to the point of ignorance. I don’t need to go into details – the Daily Mail can do that. If you want to, you can follow the link to one of the latest embarrassing examples of UKIP foot-in-mouth disease here.

So, through the end of November and early December I was struggling with an internal dilemma. Do I stop going to my favourite pub because they are becoming associated with UKIP? Would boycotting my favourite pub be worth the opportunity cost? I did have a few words with David, the landlord, and I did talk to other people about it. And there were rumblings and grumblings on Facebook, but no suggestion of any action. My heart was telling me I loved the Horse & Groom so much I should just ignore the UKIP connection. But my stomach was telling me that the beer just wouldn’t taste right any more.

I tried some of the other pubs around, and lovely as they are, they didn’t feel like ‘home’. I realised with horror that I have morphed into a grumpy old woman. I went back and had a half in the Horse & Groom, but it wasn’t working for me. So I stayed at home and sulked.

The day of the ‘closed’ UKIP meeting where they selected their parliamentary candidate came and went (the man from Gogglebox, say no more), and I remembered the next day that I’d forgotten to do anything about it. More murmurings on Facebook appeared last Tuesday, but still no sign of any action. It became apparent that if anything was going to happen, I’d have to do it. I didn’t want to organise a boycott – too angry and confrontational – and I didn’t want to upset David either. David may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s a good landlord, and I figured his decision to rent the function room to UKIP was probably no different to dealing with any other group who might want to rent a venue.

So, instead of boycotting, I invited all my Facebook friends in Hastings to come and have a Christmas drink with me on the evening of the UKIP meeting. I thought that whilst the UKIP-pers were having their quiz and fish and chips and meat raffle in the back room, it would be good to fill the pub up with people who like their beer, but don’t like UKIP policies. I made some stickers which spoke the truth: “UKIP put me off my Beer” – I even thought about organising a tofu raffle.

I have a lot of Facebook friends. I know most of them in the ‘real’ world, and a lot live in Hastings. I invited them all. Even the recovering alcoholics and wheelchair users who probably wouldn’t have been able to get through the front door. I figured they could always invite their friends who might come along. In the end, about 700 people were invited, and out of that about 30 said they would come and 20 said they might.

By the end of Tuesday afternoon, David had got wind of the plan, and cancelled the UKIP meeting. I have to say, I was VERY surprised as well as very delighted.

I still went to the pub on Thursday – I turned up on my own not having any idea who or how many people to expect. The pub was busy, as it often is on a night leading up to Christmas. At first I didn’t recognise many people, then saw a few people who would probably have been there anyway. But as the steam left my spex, and I got to peer myopically around, I saw that there were indeed a good few faces who had fulfilled the Facebook promise and turned up in the real world. I had left the stickers and the tofu at home – it didn’t seem necessary to wave them around gloating, we just had a jolly night drinking beer – and it tasted GOOD!

I want to say a formal THANK YOU to David for changing his mind about the meeting that Thursday. I really appreciate it. You run a good pub, Mr Sansbury, and I will be happy to carry on buying pints, half pints and the occasional very small glass of Rioja from you.

There is also a big postscript to this little local action. Even though the stickers didn’t get used, a friend of mine from Margate saw the picture on Facebook and suggested getting 1,000 beermats printed. Thanet is where Nigel Farage is standing for election next May. We did a TINY bit of informal crowdfunding and in less than 24 hours we raised enough money to print 20,000 beermats. I’ve also just sent off my “UKIP put me off my Beer” graphic to be printed on mugs. Nigel Farage may well have a head full of froth, but UKIP don’t have a monopoly on drinking good old British beer in lovely Old Man’s Pubs. Spread the word – and Three Cheers for the Beer!

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Posted 13:03 Monday, Dec 15, 2014 In: Campaigns


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Henry Paul

    Oh dear! I stumbled upon this local website without realising it was just a left-wing rag. Shame!

    Comment by Henry Paul — Tuesday, Mar 24, 2015 @ 19:54

  2. Jamie Smith

    Send is some for Great Yarmouth!

    Comment by Jamie Smith — Monday, Mar 23, 2015 @ 21:04

  3. Erica

    I think he realised it would not be wise to be known as ‘The UKIP pub’. His favourite paper is the Daily Telegraph, so it’s no surprise he doesn’t like lefty politics. I do hope he is not so far right that he wastes his vote on UKIP, but that is up to him!

    Comment by Erica — Friday, Jan 23, 2015 @ 18:33

  4. Keith Forbes

    did David change his mind about UKIP, or did he just realise his
    pocket may be hit?
    The last time I was in the Horse n Gloom he was pretty vocal about his distaste for left politics.

    Comment by Keith Forbes — Friday, Jan 23, 2015 @ 10:20

  5. Erica

    Peter, I will contact you by email. We (the ‘UKIP put me off my Beer’ ‘we’, not Hastings Online Times), are crowdfunding for a second run of beermats (100,000) and we do want to find a couple of distribution points Oop North. Sounds like we could help each other out!

    Comment by Erica — Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015 @ 13:30

  6. peter lazenby

    Brilliant! Can I get hold of some beermats for my Trades Club and local in the Yorkshire Pennines?

    Comment by peter lazenby — Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015 @ 11:35

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