Many have the impression that councillors have had an easy upbringing, but not in the case of Paul Godier. The Ukip councillor pours out his heart to political reporter Miles O’Leary about the horrors of his childhood, and how he wants to make a difference to the lives of young people in his community.
While many children have a stable upbringing, Paul Godier had a turbulent start to life.
The Ukip councillor, new to the political scene after clinching a seat in Portsmouth’s Charles Dickens ward at the May council elections, recalls the nightmare of his upbringing.
At an early age, Paul left home due to his mum having a breakdown, and that’s when the abuse began.
Tormented by what happened, he fled Northampton and started sleeping rough with a group of friends at the age of 13.
‘I still remember my first night on the street,’ Paul says.
‘I was sleeping in an alleyway that connected to a shopping precinct.
‘I remember the police came along, took me back to my mum’s house, then I would either get thrown out or walk out.’
Paul travelled all over the country while on the streets, getting into trouble and going on as many adventures as possible to forget his torrid past, but would occasionally return and get caught up with the wrong people.
It wasn’t until after a few rollercoaster years, during which time he dabbled with drugs, that Paul came to Portsmouth for the first time.
And he says it was thanks to that first visit that he embarked on the road to recovery.
‘My friends had experiences of abuse,’ Paul explains.
‘Northampton had nothing.
‘There were no job prospects, nothing to look forward to.
‘Then I came to Portsmouth when I was 16, and it was thriving.
‘It was during the summer so that probably helped to sell it, but people had cars and there wasn’t any crime going on.
‘In my home town, people were getting knifed and robbed – we’re talking young boys and girls here.
‘It was a horrible place to grow up.’
A year later in 1994, he moved to Portsmouth for good and after spending the night in a hostel that mainly accommodated older people, was given a bed at All Saints’ youth hostel in Landport.
Paul, now 39, explains he had a lot of issues at the time, and it wasn’t until later on in his 30s that he properly got over what happened to him as a boy.
‘Normally they would only keep people in for three months, but I stayed there for a year, that’s how bad I was,’ he says.
‘I was a very angry and confused young man.
‘I had dabbled with recreational drugs for a while. I had my first joint when I was 13.
‘When I was about 14 I was living in a house-share in Northampton and people would be turning up with suitcases. They were coke dealers and credit card fraudsters. These were the kind of people I was seeing around all the time.’
His time with All Saints’ finally got him on his feet, and years on, Paul is a hard-working councillor, loyal father and future husband to his fiancee Sharlene Bland, 27.
‘There were a few hiccups along the way, especially when depression would kick in,’ he says.
‘With my background I would fall into depression quite deeply.
‘It wasn’t until my 30s that I really got over my childhood and I’m thankful to the family I have got now.’
Paul has a three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who he calls ‘his princess’, and who he looks after while Sharlene goes out to work.
He also has two sons from a previous relationship; Lee, 20, and Christopher, 17, who lives with him at home.
Paul admits he has little contact with Lee and wasn’t around for his upbringing given he was born at a bad time in his life.
‘Christopher made me realise who I was and Elizabeth smoothed off the edges and got rid of all the issues,’ he says.
‘I’ve made sure their childhood has been 100 per cent better than mine.’
Paul beat Jacqui Hancock of the Lib Dems at the May council elections, clinching her seat in the city’s Charles Dickens ward.
He lives in the heart of the constituency in Nickleby House, Buckland, and says he can’t walk 100 yards down the road without bumping into someone he knows or a bloke he used to work with.
He was inspired to get into politics following a hammer attack in Buckland last year, and decided enough was enough and a politician needed to stand up to what was going on.
‘I thought to myself, my boy and my girl are growing up in this estate and I can’t be standing by and letting this sort of thing continue,’ Paul says.
‘I had never planned to get into politics.
‘If the politicians had done their job properly I would be working in a factory or in the dockyard, which I love.
He says his focus over the next four years as a councillor is to tackle the lack of opportunities there are for youngsters in Buckland and Landport, as he believes it’s one of the root causes for drug and alcohol abuse.
Paul shows me a picture on his phone of an everyday value can of bitter. ‘This is exactly what I’m talking about,’ he says. ‘Cans of beer like these are being sold for 27p.
‘You can’t even get a bag of sweets for that.
‘These kids need opportunities and hope. I see children play on glass-infested football pitches.
‘I could take you to any of the places in Buckland and within two minutes I would be able to find evidence of legal highs. Walking around these estates, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder.
‘A walk to the shop to get some bread isn’t simple.
‘It’s like an assault course. You have to find your place in the hierarchy of the area.’
As reported in The News, Paul has campaigned for greater awareness of legal highs and at the last meeting of the full council he, along with Tory councillor Hannah Hockaday, lobbied the leader Cllr Donna Jones to write to the government urging ministers to crackdown on the sale of them in shops – a request she readily agreed to.
‘Things have really gone wrong in the Buckland area,’ Paul says.
‘That’s partly down to police cuts but also because of a lack of opportunities and a lack of good housing.
‘The schools are failing. I’m never going to be able to afford my own house, this estate is where the government put me.
‘I want to see this area buzzing again like it was in the 1990s.’
Paul isn’t your everyday clean-cut politician.
He’s straight and honest about his past, and proudly shows off his knuckle tattoos.
At one time they said ‘love’ and ‘hate’ but, Paul had the hate one covered up and replaced with faith to represent the belief he now has in himself and his own convictions.
‘I tattooed them on myself after my Uncle Les died when I was 12,’ he says.
‘He had love and hate on his knuckles as well.’
So why did Paul choose to side with Ukip?
He says it’s because he’s anti-EU and none of the other main parties have ever pledged to make Britain independent.
‘All of these parties have promised an EU referendum and have never done it,’ he says.
‘Ukip encourages members not to toe the party line.
‘I don’t agree to things I don’t agree with.’
Where you can go for help
ORGANISATIONS are striving to help people in difficult situations get back on their feet.
Relate Portsmouth is an organisation that helps young people on a variety of issues, involving family life and relationships. Contact (023) 9282 7026.
The Roberts Centre, in Crasswell Street, Landport, is a charity that helps families which are struggling and dealing with homelessness. Contact (023) 9229 6919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Two Saints offers support to homeless people across Portsmouth, Southsea and Havant and provides secure accommodation. Contact its Fareham head office on 01329 234600.
If you have a room to spare to help someone in need, contact Two Saints service co-ordinator Nikki Hill on email@example.com
Alcoholics Anonymous can be contacted on 0845 769 7555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. People affected by drug issues can call UK Narcotics Anonymous on 0300 999 1212.