You might think I don’t have better things to do with my time but alas this evening I ventured out to conduct my second interview with Jamie Bryson. I was surprised when he contacted me saying he wanted to talk to me again, as our first encounter led him to be generally criticised but I thought with his attempts to fundraise and Billy Hutchinson’s recent comments about him it was worth another go.
I began the interview by asking him directly were his attempts to fundraise not a bit farcical at this stage, since a mock character called KoKo the Flegger had already gained more cash? Yet, Jamie seemed to brush off these claims telling me that he was 90% sure that he could raise the £5,000 needed to get his name on the ballot claiming that the online fundraising was only one part of his machine, but that he has held fundraisers and auctions plus he has more events planned in places like Scotland to raise other funds.
I did put to him LAD’s offer for a fundraiser but he seemed unhappy;
I have no interest in irrelevant faceless bullies and I’ll not be engaging in any farcical nonsense with them. What LAD do is up to LAD. They’re people hiding behind a mask essentially.
But, would he accept a donation?
Well, if they want to make a donation I will accept donations from anybody but I’m not going to get into talking about LAD.
I still remained unconvinced about his bid, so I put it to him that was this not simply the most expensive suicide mission in history?
It’s certainly going to be difficult to get a seat in Europe…I will stand on the basis of what I believe, I have always been open about what I believe…In that sense I don’t expect to get elected. I don’t think things are bad enough for someone like me to get elected.
Bryson did however say that he would tell his supporters to give their second preferences to the UKIP candidate, Henry Reilly but will not give any support to Diane Dodds as he believes that a vote for the DUP, is a vote for Sinn Fein.
So, that’s Europe, but what about the Local elections? Bryson confirmed that he will likely run in Bangor East and made the commitment that if he is elected he would only take the old Councillor salary of £9k per year and donate the remainder to charity.
We pressed on to his response to the recent comments Billy Hutchinson made about him in the Newsletter but he simply dismissed it and said that he ‘no response to make.’
I moved on, interested to know what he made of the recent debacle surrounding the Sinn Fein Councillor, Catherine Seeley’s treatment at the hands of the Protestant Coalition. Bryson mentioned that he believed that if somebody was doing their job properly they shouldn’t be attacked but when I pressed him on condemning what the Protestant Coalition did; he refused to do so as he said ‘he did not know the ins and outs of that situation.’
I asked him about the attacks on Anna Lo recently due to her comments on the issue of a United Ireland but that he believed that while she was entitled to express a view that she was not best placed to give an opinion on the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. This again is an interesting twist in Bryson’s logic as he again repeated his view that he has more respect for Sinn Fein than the Alliance party and had little sympathy for the treatment that Naomi Long had received over the past 18 months.
This view of Naomi led me to ask the question had his own campaign to restore the flag not been a failure when you consider the declining numbers at protests? But, without a pause he said that there had been no decline at all and cited how long Twaddell had gone on for as measure of its success. I did follow up with a question on the cost, but Bryson simply said ‘you cannot put a price on culture.’
Everything Jamie seemed to say to me harked back to the old Unionist days (1921-72), so after everything he said I asked him what his own view of that period and the discrimination that took place?
I think that nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or their political beliefs. However, I do believe the government has a right to take certain steps to protect the state from those who are seeking to overthrow it.
Frustrated at the answer I gave him the specific of the Gerrymandering on Derry City Council as an example and asked if he felt that was ok?
I can understand it. I would not condone discrimination against anybody but I could understand it. I genuinely could understand it to protect the state from those who were trying to subvert it.
At this point, we ended the interview.
My final thoughts-Jamie is in person very polite and friendly but when it comes to politics I cannot help but think that his statements like the one above and those comments about Anna Lo are the result of a massive disconnect from the reality of modern politics. Jamie is content to be the voice in the wilderness howling at the moon but like most people who do this very little progress ends up coming with them. If Jamie wants to mobilise a base, he needs to stop alienating others and thinking about ways to broaden his appeal and I am not holding my breath on either happening soon. All of his begs the question is he simply a rebel without a hope?
UPDATE-Bryson has confirmed he will now not run in the European elections-A week is is truly a long time in politics
Speaking to Slugger-Jamie has said that it was the ‘adverse media’ reaction to his European bid that played a factor in his pull out of the election.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs