Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Lord Pearson makes an ass of himself in the Mail
Not one of Lord Pearson's finest moments.
It is interesting to note that Pearson claims UKIP is for 'individual thinkers'. What planet is he living on? In UKIP being an 'individual thinker' can get you into serious trouble. Just ask Del Young, David Abbott or Eric Edmond!
We also note that the noble Lord is still trying to deny that he offered to disband UKIP in exchange for the Tories agreeing to a referendum on the EU. Silly man. Trying to spin such nonsense won't change the fact!
Is Lord Pearson suffering from foot in mouth disease? It seems so. But at least he has his wife to watch out for gaffes!
JAN MOIR talks to Baron Pearson of Rannoch, the gloriously eccentric and accident-prone new head of UKIP
29th December 2009
Oh, Lordy, Lordy. This is not going exactly to plan, is it? Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the newly elected leader of the UK Independence Party has had, to say the least, a rocky few weeks in office.
He had only been in the job 24 hours when he ignited a row that still threatens to tear UKIP apart, he has been drawn into the expenses debacle and then there is the small matter of allegations of his involvement with a corrupt South American regime.
'Yes, yes, yes. It has been an interesting time. Not exactly a bed of roses, no,' he says, with a cheerful nod.
On his first day in office, Lord Pearson annoyed many in the Right-wing, anti-Europe UKIP by saying that if the Tories promised a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU, he would disband his own party.
'A rather original approach to leadership,' as Glenys Kinnock dryly noted in the House of Lords recently.
It has also come to light that Pearson has received £100,000 over six years by claiming that his £3.6million house in London was his second home.
'For tax purposes. That's not fibbing or anything. You know, the point I find impossible to get over to critics is what I have actually given up to do this,' he sighs, estimating that entering the House of Lords at Margaret Thatcher's behest 20 years ago has impoverished him to the tune of £200,000 a year in lost earnings.
He says he is also losing money by selflessly leading UKIP. If he carries on down this spiral, he'll be as poor as a church mouse.
Or perhaps not. Pearson's critics would argue that, to the contrary, all he has done is indulge himself by funding his pet hobby; politics.
And as a millionaire insurance broker, he could well afford to take the drop anyway. 'No, I am not rich enough,' he says.
He insists that all he owns is a London town house, a moor, a deer forest and a 12,000-acre country estate in the Highlands, plus a share portfolio worth around £2.5million and a pension fund with 'about' £600,000 in it.
'And that's it!' he cries. 'The house is worth £1.2million. Scotland is probably worth about £3million or £4million - but not unless you sell it. And then what do you do? Nothing? Lie on a beach? Oh, everyone is so anti-rich these days, aren't they?
'Andrew Neil was going on about my wealth the other day when I was on his television programme. I should have said: "Mr Neil, if being rich was a crime in this country, then you would have been behind bars years ago."'
Why didn't you? 'I'm just not quick enough, I'm afraid.' How glad the uber-modern Conservatives must be that Pearson left their party years ago!
At a time when David Cameron - rightly or wrongly - seems obsessed with de-toffing his party, the last thing he wants is someone like the flamboyant anti-Europe, pro-hunting, outspoken millionaire Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch, rocking the careful carpentry of his egalitarian boat.
Small of stature, ruddy of cheek but loud of opinion, Pearson is the kind of unreconstructed Old Etonian dinosaur - 'My nickname at Eton was Malc The Knife,' he says, without a blush - who must give the Tory leader nightmares.
He even says yah! when he means yes; practically a hanging offence in the modern political world.
'At least I am who I am,' says Pearson. 'David Cameron has given up shooting and hunting and he has resigned from White's. I mean, it is absurd.
'He is trying to show that he is something that he isn't - or isn't something that he is, let's put it that way. I am not going to do that. I can't be bothered to pretend. If people don't like it, then tough,' he adds, brushing the arm of his charcoal pinstripe suit.
Even at the age of 67 he still has his suits made by the Eton tailors Tom Brown because: 'I am a very awkward shape; low-slung, with thick legs and rather short arms.'
His shirts are handmade for the same reason.
'From Turnbull & Asser, I'm afraid. Whoops, there goes another headline,' he says.
We meet in Pearson's South London home, a perfect Georgian town house in a perfect Georgian square and practically next door to one of the original 18th century sites of the House of Bedlam, where fashionable Londoners used to come to stare at the inmates.
However, this is not Pearson's famously flipped home; this is the one he moved to in 2007 to save money.
Lord Pearson and his third wife, the much younger, poetically named Caroline St Vincent Rose, 'downsized' here from his much grander, Grade II listed stucco house in Belgravia, situated in a square where Ian Fleming and Michael Portillo once lived.
Part of the £2million the Pearsons made on the property deal was ploughed back into the running of Lord Pearson's ruinously expensive Scottish estate.
'The thing about a deer forest,' he says, 'is that the income can't possibly meet the expenditure.'
It must be appalling. 'Yah. However, it is worth it. We have a lot of people to stay in Scotland in the summer. And a lot of them wouldn't get that sort of holiday if they didn't come.'
Who are they, orphans? 'Important people. We refresh a lot of really good people who come to stay,' he says. 'People we put together who wouldn't otherwise meet. People who do really good work and of whom you would approve.'
The ground floor of the Pearsons' London home is all pale wood and white walls, with light pouring in from a conservatory-type extension to the rear. I count at least nine oil portraits of groupings of short-haired German pointers; a rapt audience of adoring doggy eyes which track your every move around the room.
'That's Jock, that's Fred who ran away, that's Suchard [named after the chocolate], that's Jock Junior, that's Fred's grandfather. ..' says Pearson, going on to point out the hunting dogs who live on his Scottish estate in a manner of which they would no doubt approve.
In the dining area, there is also a huge landscape of gloomy Glencoe, featuring some Highland cattle grazing in the foreground.
'Oh, that's just Malcolm! He always likes to imagine he is in Scotland,' says Lady Pearson.
Willowy and rather lovely, she pads around in her tight green jeans and furry Uggs, keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. She has no intention, she says, of being a 'political wife', but she wants to support her husband as much as she can.
'This has been his absolute obsession for years,' she explains.
How does she think it is going so far? 'Interesting,' she says, and puts the kettle on.
For his part, the leader of UKIP feels that he has three main problems.
'Expenses, disband and Costa Rica,' he says, cheerfully counting them off on his fingers. 'Costa Rica, disband and expenses. Disband is my big one. I mean, did I really say the word "disband"? I guess I must have done. Bit of a cock-up, really.'
What he actually meant, he now says, is that his party would merely stand aside at the next General Election to avoid any potential split of the Tory vote and to help put David Cameron's Conservatives in a more powerful position.
In return, they would get their beloved referendum, and once they got that, they would reform themselves once more. Disband didn't come into it.
'I didn't think I was suggesting anything particularly naughty as far as the membership was concerned. If we got the referendum, we are confident that we would win it.
'Then we would be out of the EU and there would be a complete re-alignment of British politics. Perhaps even the start of a new party, like the Common Sense Party, co-operating with activists and real people in all the other parties.'
The Common Sense Party? 'Yes, something like that. That is just an idea.'
Then there is Costa Rica. Malc The Knife faces fresh questions about bribery allegations against his company Pearson Webb Springbett - the insurance brokers he co-founded 45 years ago - when it was operating in Costa Rica in the 1990s.
Pearson sold the company last year, but has been helping an official investigation into allegations that PWS had bribed the then president of Costa Rica while allegedly overcharging the country for its insurance premiums.
In his defence, Pearson has said his company operated by the normal South American business practices adopted by all international insurance companies at the time and that PWS had done nothing wrong.
'I knew my weak spots before I became leader of the party,' says Pearson, who also courted controversy earlier this year when he invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show the anti-Islam film Fitna before the House of Lords.
In the end, Wilders was prevented from entering the UK on the instructions of the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. In response, Pearson accused the Government of 'appeasing' militant Islam. Now he is cheered by other recent news from Europe.
'God bless the Swiss. Look at what they did the other day; they knocked out the wretched minarets. Wonderful!' he cries.
At other moments, he just sounds rather terrifyingly like the major in Fawlty Towers and he concedes: 'I am a sort of loony. A rebel, a maverick. I was brought up in the wilderness of Rannoch which teaches you to think for yourself.
'I spent all my school holidays there, wandering the hills and that made me an original thinker. I think I am even cursed with a little vision. No, not a seer. I wouldn't go as far as that.
'But as soon as I read the Treaties of Rome, I did see that this was a project heading in the wrong direction. I saw it very, very clearly.'
Pearson was elected to office when former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who is also a member of the European Parliament for the South-East, resigned in September to concentrate on his efforts to become an MP at Westminster.
'He is a Derby winner and I am a carthorse who puts his hooves in it sometimes, I'm afraid,' says Pearson.
'Be careful what you are saying, darling,' calls his wife.
The Pearsons married in 1997, after knowing each other 'for ages'. They have no children together, but he has three daughters; one from his first marriage to Francesca Frua de Angeli and two from his second marriage to the Hon. Mary Charteris.
His middle daughter has Down's syndrome and lives in a sheltered community. Over the years, Pearson has done much campaigning and political work on behalf of those with mental health problems.
'Being divorced twice has been very sad, but I remain on good terms with both former wives and our children. I don't make a very good husband, obviously, although Caroline and I are perfectly happy. I'm not all bad, though, am I?' he wonders. 'I do a few a chores.'
Such as? 'Such as the breakfast washing-up when we are in Scotland. I cook a bit. I make the finest cheese omelette in the land. I put the rubbish out.'
As if to emphasise his lordly domestic credentials, he has a minor fit when his wife serves coffee in mugs.
'A mug! Haven't we got a cup and saucer for our guest?' he cries, before absent-mindedly helping himself to one of my biscuits.
'Oh, I am not really a politician,' he sighs. 'To be honest, I did not want to be UKIP leader, but I came to see that I ought to try to do it.
'When I looked at the likely contenders for the leadership - ('Darling! I said be careful,' says Caroline) - 'I worried that if one or two of them won it, it would be very difficult to hold the party together because of factions and personal divides. UKIP is not for sheep, you know, it is not for lemmings. It is a party for individual thinkers and strong characters.'
Indeed. Three years ago, David Cameron described it as a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists . . .
'A somewhat puerile statement and churlishly rude of him, I think,' he says. 'But it helped us, in a way. It helped to bring a lot of people into the party.' It did?
In many ways I can't help liking this terrifyingly accident-prone, self-consciously eccentric aristocrat. However, the question is, will anyone take this seer of a peer Malc The Knife, his ideas and his wealth, seriously?
'If you are wealthy, you are, apparently, rich and evil these days. My message to everyone is that, yes, I did go to Eton, but my father died in debt. I am where I am today because of what I made myself. So get out and do it yourself, for goodness' sake.'
And what is he going to get up and do for the rest of the day?
'Just take the flak on my mobile,' he shrugs.
'Oh, do be careful, darling,' says Lady Pearson.
To see the original: LINK