Etheridge in 2014
|UKIP spokesperson for defence|
29 November 2016 – 15 January 2018
|Preceded by||Mike Hookem|
|Succeeded by||Henry Bolton|
|Member of the European Parliament|
for West Midlands
1 July 2014 – 1 July 2019
|Preceded by||Malcolm Harbour|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Kerr|
William Milroy Etheridge
18 March 1970
|Political party||UKIP (2011-2018; 2020–present)|
|Brexit Party (2019-2020)|
|Alma mater||Dudley College|
University of Wolverhampton
William Milroy Etheridge (born 18 March 1970) is an English politician who was previously a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the West Midlands region. He was elected in 2014 as a UK Independence Party candidate, but left the party in October 2018 and joined the Libertarian Party. He joined the Brexit Party in 2019 but rejoined UKIP in September 2020.
Etheridge joined the Conservative Party in 2008. Both he and his wife, Star, unsuccessfully stood as Conservative candidates in the Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council elections in 2010. In March 2011, they resigned from the Conservatives after their membership was suspended following complaints from party members that they were photographed posing with knitted golliwogs on their Facebook profile pages as part of a protest against political correctness. They joined the UK Independence Party and he stood, unsuccessfully, as UKIP candidate in the Dudley council elections in 2011 and 2012.
Member of UKIP: 2011–2018
Etheridge stood for UKIP in the 2011 local election. In 2012, he stood in the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner election for UKIP; he finished fourth with 17,563 votes (7.37%).
In 2014, as well as being elected to the European Parliament, he was also elected as a councillor for the Sedgley ward on Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, unseating a Conservative. His wife, Star, was also elected for UKIP in the Coseley East ward. Etheridge lost his seat on Dudley MBC in the May 2018 local council elections.
In August 2014, Etheridge highlighted the speaking style of Adolf Hitler during a public-speaking seminar he gave to members of the UKIP youth wing, including the dangers it presented. According to Etheridge, he was "the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history" who "achieved a great deal" in relation to convincing people. A spokesman for UKIP said: "Bill Etheridge gave a seminar on public speaking and highlighted great speakers of the past, like Churchill, Blair, Martin Luther King and Hitler as people whose style, not content could be studied". When contacted by The Independent on Sunday, Etheridge stated that "Hitler and the Nazis were monsters" and said "At no point did I endorse Hitler or anybody else".
At the general election in May 2015, Etheridge stood as UKIP's parliamentary candidate for Dudley North. He finished third with a vote of 9,113, triple that of the vote in 2010. At 24% of the votes cast, it also represented double the national average for UKIP.
Etheridge, who is also a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), has been active in the UKIP front campaign; West Midlands Save The Pub. He has urged the Conservative government to increase the power of the Asset of Community Value, brought in as part of the Localism Act 2011. This would enable local communities to acquire their local pubs. This did lead to Etheridge making efforts to save a number of pubs in his ward, including The Seven Stars.
Etheridge sat on the EU Regional Development Committee; his belief that power should be handed back to communities has seen him emerge as a critic of combined authorities.
In May 2017, Etheridge launched his book; Putting Great Back In Britain, with a guest appearance from Nigel Farage. In the book, Etheridge outlines his vision for a post-Brexit Britain.
Etheridge is a prominent UK libertarian and is chairman of The Indigo Group. He has launched a platform of libertarian policies in his EFDD book, Prosperous, Happy and at Peace, co-authored with Paul Brothwood.
Etheridge launched a book, The EU's engagement with the politics of international recognition, co-authored with Paul Brothwood, at an EU conference about Somaliland on 6 December 2018.
UKIP leadership bids
In July 2016, Etheridge launched his bid to become leader of UKIP following the resignation of Nigel Farage. Launching his campaign at the Seven Stars pub in Sedgley, Etheridge said: "I want us to represent the view of the people against the establishment". Etheridge received 13.7% of the vote, with the third-most votes cast. He promised to work and support with the new leader, Diane James, who was only briefly in the post. His policy proposals included cheaper beer, better representation for fathers in the family court system and a referendum on bringing back the death penalty. Also amongst his policy proposals were prison reform and a move to save the British public house by reintroducing smoking via the use of efficient extraction systems as used within the European Parliament itself. While in favour of Muslim faith schools and same-sex marriage, he advocates banning the burka.
In October 2016, Etheridge launched his bid to become leader of UKIP following Diane James' resignation, after declaring he would refuse to back Steven Woolfe and stand himself during an interview on the BBC's Sunday Politics. He withdrew on 25 October, and endorsed the eventual winner, Paul Nuttall.
Etheridge subsequently launched his third leadership bid for the 2017 UK Independence Party leadership election, having previously stood in both of UKIP's 2016 leadership elections. A key divide between candidates was between what The Guardian described as "Farage-ist economic libertarians" like Etheridge and the "more hard-right, Islam-focused" Anne Marie Waters and Peter Whittle. Etheridge stated that "whichever side wins, the other side won't have a future in the party". On 26 July 2017, two days before close of nominations, Etheridge withdrew his candidacy.
Etheridge left UKIP in October 2018, saying the party is seen by voters as a "vehicle of hate towards Muslims and the Gay community". He remains part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament.
Libertarian and Brexit Party
At the Liberty Rising Conference on 6 October 2018, Etheridge announced he had joined the Libertarian Party UK. He became its deputy chairman. However, he ceased to have that role when, in February 2019, he left to join the Brexit Party. In September 2020 he returned to UKIP and became economics spokesman.
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- Local Election 2010, Dudley Borough Council. Retrieved 30 October 2018
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- Walker, Peter (2 July 2017). "Large influx of new Ukip members prompts fears of far-right takeover". The Guardian.
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- Madeley, Pete. "Bill Etheridge: It's my time to lead Ukip and make the Black Country a post-Brexit industrial powerhouse". Express and Star. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- Madeley, Pete. "Bill Etheridge suspends fourth UKIP leadership campaign to back anti-Islam candidate". Express and Star.
- "MEP Bill Etheridge quits UKIP over 'extreme nationalist' views". ITV News - Central. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
- Bagdi, Annabal (8 October 2018). "Bill Etheridge joins Libertarian Party days after UKIP exit". Express & Star. Wolverhampton. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
- "No". 14 February 2019.
- "MEP Tim Aker joins new Brexit Party". Your Thurrock. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
- Madeley, Peter (28 September 2020). "Bill Etheridge rejoins UKIP two years after quitting party". Express & Star. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
- "Spokespeople". Ukip.org. Retrieved 16 October 2020.