David Coburn claims in an interview with the Big Issue that he was against the EU from 1st January 1973 onward, for a rather odd reason:
“I was politicised young, while I was a pupil at Glasgow High School. I collected old coins, bought and sold silver shillings to dealers, I was busy and happy. Then we joined the European Union, decimalisation was introduced, and overnight my coin business was destroyed. That set me not only against the government, but also the EU.”
David Coburn was born in 1958. If his birthday is between March and August, he would probably have started primary school in August 1963, and gone on to high school (secondary school) in August 1970, when he was 12. (If his birthday is between September and February, he would probably have started at high school in August 1969.)
But the day that the UK and Ireland decimalised our currencies was 15th February 1971, when David Coburn could not have been older than 13. The transition period for the pre-decimal currency ended on 31st August 1971.
We’ll overlook David Coburn’s confusion of the EU (established 1993) with the European Economic Community. He’s also confused the year the UK decimalised the currency (announced in 1966, when he was 8: finally completed in 1971, when he was 13) when the year the UK joined the EEC (1973, when he was 15).
Instead let’s consider his claims to have been running an antique coin business when a schoolboy.
The very first decimal coins – the 5p and the 10p – were introduced in 1968, when David Coburn was 10, five years before the UK joined the EEC. These were, as my older readers will remember, the same size and the same value as a shilling and a florin coin. The ten shilling note was replaced in 1969 by the 50p coin, when David Coburn was 11, well before he went to Glasgow High School. In February 1971, the Royal Mint issued the decimal penny and 2p coin: in August, just as Coburn was beginning either his second year or his third year at Glasgow High, the last of the pre-decimal currency was withdrawn, except for the shillings and florins.
Shillings and florins went on circulating until the new mini-5p and mini-10p coins were introduced in 1990 and 1992 respectively, but silver shillings (1946 and earlier) were always rare in general circulation because anyone with nous enough to spot one in a handful of change would hang on to it and sell it to a dealer. (I collected coins as a child, and have a near-complete run of old shillings and florins from 1947 to 1967, simply from always checking my change: I never found a pre-1947 shilling.)
In principle, David Coburn could have had the habit (as I did) of always checking his change for older coins that might be worth something. He could even have gone out of his way to sort through larger quantities of change, enough to call this a “coin business”.
But the dates simply don’t add up. The transition period during which pre-decimal coins circulated alongside new decimal coinage was three years long – before Coburn turned 14. No child that age refers to a three-year period – or even a six-month period between February and August – as “overnight”.
Shillings, which Coburn specifically names as something he looked out for (pre-1947 shillings) went on circulating til long after Coburn had failed his law degree at Leeds University and moved to London.
(Glasgow High School, when David Coburn went there, was a local-authority run fee-paying boys-only school: it did not become co-educational until 1976, and young David was off to Leeds University in 1977.)
My guess is, in David Coburn’s mind the “coin business” he had when he was thirteen or fourteen has grown to a very successful enterprise, just as whatever time he spent as a student in Leeds doing weekends in the Territorials has expanded in his mind to “served in the Territorials”.
I also guess that when asked why he supports UKIP, his schoolboy “coin business” shut down “overnight” by the EU and decimalisation, has become the regular story he tells to cronies and fellow-Ukippers. No one has ever bothered to fact-check it, or, really, cared that it can’t possibly be accurate.
What should really bother us is not that David Coburn likes to make things up but that he’s due to take office as an MEP in July, and he still doesn’t seem to have much idea what a Member of the European Parliament actually does, which ignorance he blames on “lack of media training”.
David Coburn claimed on his nomination form that his full home address was in Kensington. He claimed to the Scottish electorate that he had moved to Edinburgh. Lying to the electorate about where you live is not an offence: Coburn has only committed an offence if Police Scotland decide that prior to 24th April 2014, he had in fact moved to Edinburgh and yet gave his full home address as in Kensington.
“I love being up here, but like most Scots, I am terrified of the prospect of an unlikely SNP win in the referendum. Who knows what will happen to the property market. It will bomb quite frankly, and I don’t want to be left in a negative equity situation.”
The referendum is on 18th September, less than three months in to Coburn’s five-year term. If Yes gets the majority, we can assume that Coburn will return to his home in Kensington and continue to represent Scottish UKIP voters from there?
David Coburn was chosen in February this year by Ukip Bexley (they consider him to be “one of UKIP’s best public speakers and media performers”) to stand for Bexleyheath and Crayford in the 2015 General Election. They say:
David has been Chairman of the Bexley Branch for 4 years and has built it into an effective fighting force which will be taking Council seats in May with an exciting line up of enthusiastic candidates.