What Challenges will the New UKIP Leader have to Overcome?
It will come as no surprise to many people that I, in my very small and often shouted down voice have been calling for fundamental change within UKIP for a number of years now. Following our failure in the General Election to gain a sufficient number of Parliamentary seats and Nigel Farage flip-flopping with his resignation as a result of the NEC rejecting his resignation We have become even more of a riled party, that has suffered in regional elections, and failed to gain designation during the Referendum it had so fought for, for so many years. I must admit that I was in a small way relieved when UKIP didn’t win designation, as UKIP, as an entity with it’s in-fighting and often unprofessional had made it ‘so’ easy for the media to take the party down. One of the many arguments/in-fighting or internal issues at the wrong time during the closing stages of the Referendum could have resulted in defeat. Going back to 2014, when in my opinion, UKIP peaked. We had done a marvellous job of mobilising numbers, to go out on the streets to fight a positive campaign. Our brief was diverse, the changes we wanted to make in the UK and encourage through the European Parliament were broad and rival parties were genuinely concerned by UKIP taking votes from them. In my region on the south-coast, UKIP were gaining defections from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In my home away from home, Lancashire, UKIP were gaining defections and vast numbers of votes from a ‘left behind’ Labour Party support. UKIP were even setting the trend that resulted in parties trying to copy UKIP’s tactics and policies.
In the 2014 European Elections, UKIP made huge gains getting 26% of the national vote, and 4.4 million votes. This was a superb result and something we should have looked to build on. But alas, this is seemingly where things have begun to falter. First came Amjad Bashir’s suspension, and nigh-on immediate defection to the Conservatives. For me this event hasn’t been properly explained away, and it still baffles me as to what really happened. On one side you have UKIP claiming he had potentially broke the rules/law. However no charges were ever brought against him, and on the other side, the Conservatives and Mr Bashir had claimed that UKIP had caught wind of the fact that he was about to defect, so suspended him in a desperate effort to undermine the defection and play down the damage.
Secondly came Janice Atkinson’s suspension, after a much publicised unacceptable behaviour of her assistant, trying to play “fast and loose” with her Parliamentary expenses in a curry house. Janice Atkinson was no stranger to controversy being pictured in Kent swearing at anti-UKIP activists in the lead up to the 2014 elections. Why she was selected regardless of this I will never know. Alas, the party plodded on, picking up the odd council seat here and there. But not continuing with the sort of success they had gained in the European Elections. Next came the one big hope. The 2015 General Election and Council Elections. Where UKIP was predicted to gain anywhere from 2-50 MP’s. So confident were UKIP, that Nigel Farage pledged, in defiance of advisers and people within the party, to resign as party leader should he be defeated in South Thanet. In my opinion, the reason didn’t do as well as was expected during these elections, is that they didn’t talk up their brilliant manifesto enough. Instead trying to concentrate solely on the question of mass migration. This was of major frustration for myself, because having read the 2010 manifesto, I knew how much of an improvement the 2015 manifesto was in the 2010 manifesto. It was leaps and bounds ahead of it, even being the only manifesto in the General Election to be Independently costed.
I also believe that UKIP completely failed to counter the messages being put out by the Conservative Party. Namely that “if you voted UKIP, you would end up with Ed Miliband’s Labour and the SNP doing a dirty deal”. We also had the message that unless the Conservatives were increased with a majority, there would be no hope of an EU Referendum anytime soon. Both these messages needed countering, however, UKIP barely countered it, if at all. UKIP also failed to properly highlight areas where they could achieve. Going as far as to fail miserably in offering support, and encouraging interest. The South Coast, South West and some areas of the North such as Portsmouth, Havant, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Cambourne/Redruth, Hartlepool, Sunderland, Rotherham and elsewhere weren’t given anywhere near the level of support that was needed. Take Rotherham for example, how the Hell were the Labour Party able to increase their majority after all the stories that had come out the year previous? The candidate selection must also be questioned. With completely, ill-prepared people being pushed into prospective Parliamentary positions without even having read the UKIP manifesto. Leaflets were sent out without even being proof-read, covered in spelling mistakes and poor grammar, highlighting past manifesto policies that weren’t even current policies. There was quite literally no cooperation between the Regional UKIP outlets and the UKIP hierarchy. This is just a couple of the reasons UKIP failed during the 2015 General Election. Immediately following the General Election, UKIP made some moderately reasonable gains in the Council Elections. It’s most notable success being gaining control of Thanet District Council. This was done off the back of a promise to re-open Manston Airport.
This is just a couple of the reasons UKIP failed during the 2015 General Election. Immediately following the General Election, UKIP made some moderately reasonable gains in the Council Elections. It’s most notable success being gaining control of Thanet District Council. This was done off the back of a promise to re-open Manston Airport.Over the course of the months that came, newly elected UKIP councillors defected or resigned from Thanet District Councils UKIP group due in part to its failure to re-open the airport, and also due in part to the apparent hatred many of the members had for the leader of UKIP’s group in Thanet. The rather unfortunate truth at this stage is that a picture starts to form. Basically, when UKIP make gains, they are immediately following by faltering and embarrassment. Around about the same time the conflict between Nigel Farage and Suzanne Evans/Douglas Carswell started to take shape. Following Nigel’s defeat in Thanet South, he announced that as per his promise in his book. He would step down as leader of UKIP and install Suzanne Evans as deputy interim leader until a leadership contest could be completed. At this point, I suspected something was happening. Why would Nigel Farage install Suzanne Evans as interim leader, when his own deputy leader Paul Nuttall was still in place? Suzanne was invited onto the BBC’s Daily Politics to talk about the General Election result and the future of UKIP. She was asked the simple question; “Is Nigel Farage a divisive figure?” to which she replied, “I think Nigel Farage is perceived as divisive by some”. – Something which is undeniably a fact.
The outrage that followed this question was akin to others acting like Suzanne had just cursed Nigel Farage’s first born child. It was completely over the top, and it would seem to be the beginning of the end as far as Suzanne Evans wide-ranging support for the party was concerned. In the year that followed, Suzanne’s Spokesperson positions, and appointed positions were plucked away one by one, finishing with her suspension following her signing of a Petition attempting to have a UKIP candidate who had made homophobic comments removed from nomination. Other trumped up claims had been made against Suzanne, each one more ridiculous than the next. Each gaining more and more abuse from a small section of Nigel Farage’s fan-base within the party.
The party also had a situation (and still does) surrounding Douglas Carswell, it’s only MP. Douglas Carswell at the time of Nigel Farage’s resignation, and un-resignation had called on a leadership contest taking place. Saying that the party needed to go in a new direction. This call was repeated over the months that followed, right up until the 2016 EU Referendum. Not a day has gone past on social networking sites in which Carswell hasn’t been verbally abused by a hot-headed UKIP supporter, and not told to resign from the party.
This conflict also seemed to envelop the Party’s Economic Spokesperson, at the time, Patrick O’Flynn, who had noted that Nigel Farage had taken on a more aggressive tone during the run-up to the General Election which had seemed to be concentrated on immigration. Noting one occasion where Farage shocked all, by bringing up the cost of HIV treatment in terms of ‘Health Tourism’ to the UK, and how it hit the NHS budget. Farage also took the unusual tactic of attacking a debate audience live on TV, seemingly showing somewhat what Patrick O’Flynn had been talking about.
Patrick O’Flynn’s Economic Spokesperson position was swiftly pulled from under him, and he continued on as one of UKIP’s MEP’s. I do wonder if Patrick would have survived as MEP had UKIP not already lost 2 MEPs?
Following the poor showing in the 2015 General Election, UKIP’s council election results undoubtedly suffered. Not holding seats that were being defended by the party, making 4%-40% losses and a large number of defections to the Conservatives.
I held my tongue (for the large part) at this time, as I knew the Referendum was coming, and the party needed to be as united as it possibly could, to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity. But even during the Referendum, the largely single-message issue about mass migration was pushed. The message needed to be broader, and I do wonder what the result would have been had the UKIP backed Leave.EU or Grassroots Out had won the designation over Vote Leave.
With the Referendum won, Nigel Farage decided that his job as the leader was complete, and it was time to move on. Similarly, others declared that they would be stepping down. Paul Nuttall had no intention of standing as UKIP leader in the forthcoming leadership contest. Chairman Steve Crowther had decided to stand down following 6 years in the role. This for me presented an opportunity to draw a line under all the negative things that had happened up until that point.
All the above wouldn’t have happened in a professional and organised party. One thing is for certain, for UKIP to survive, they need to evolve and develop a completely new leadership team. FAST.
What does UKIP need to do now? They need a top down reorganisation whoever takes over as leader of the party.
We need a Chairman who knows how to organise the party regionally. I would actually create a new position within the party. “Head of Regional affairs”, who would have a team that assists with council candidates in regions. I would reorganise the party makeup into regions/counties which would make it easier to coordinate the support structure for those standing for the party.
We need a team setup to properly look into candidates. Check to make sure they have a) no criminal record b) haven’t been a member of a party previous and hidden it c) look through social networking sites to make sure they haven’t expressed anything unpleasant to reflect their character.
Look at the regional heads of the party and their ability and success at running the parties in those regions. Personally, I think Nathan Gill has been doing a good job in Wales, and the only strife that seems to have been had, seems to have commenced with Neil Hamilton’s arrival in the Welsh Assembly and Assembly Election contest. As far as Scotland UKIP is concerned, I think it is a mess quite frankly. The leader of UKIP Scotland David Coburn is not liked. The people of Scotland aren’t even willing to listen to him in their majority. Whilst many might say that the more left-wing success in Scotland is the reason for this. The Conservatives have made some pretty big gains in Scotland under Ruth Davidson, and so gaining support is not impossible. UKIP aren’t breaking the 3%-4% mark under Coburn, and as such, would think it best to bring in someone new, and preferably young. As for Northern Ireland UKIP, it seems to be in almost the same mess as UKIP Scotland. In part, it would seem to be a problem of numbers. Which is why I think in both instances the party in those regions should be taken back to the bones, and try to appeal to the grassroots of Scotland and Northern Ireland in an attempt to bring in some fresh blood.
We need to review those already in charge of branches in UKIP. Off the top of my head, I can think of 2 who have a poor relation with their Councillors and branch members which have resulted in defections and resignations.
Appealing to people. UKIP need to do a comprehensive appeal to the General public. We should put out a large-scale campaign to appeal to what people want from their Parliament. What policies they want, where they want money saved and gained, what they want from global efforts and National development efforts. What policies are they looking for? It is all well and good putting policies forward we think might appeal to people, but we need to ask not only the UKIP membership but the wider public, what would appeal to them to their majority.
Second-party affiliation. UKIP need to look at some of the friends they have made the last few years and ask themselves whether a) they can be trusted b) whether they have UKIP’s best interests at heart and c) whether they represent the interests of the general public in their majority. Organisations such as ‘Christian Soldiers’ immediately come to mind
Nigel Farage.The party needs to decide what kind of role Farage has. It worries me that regardless of Farage stepping down, he and his team will continue to pull the strings behind-scenes. A leader needs to be his own man or women, and as such cannot be effected by the former leader. I would suggest making him an Ambassador of the party.
Promoting spokespeople. Under Nigel Farage, the party has seen a limited number of representatives coming forward to represent UKIP in the media. It is time to start developing and assisting representatives who can go out and speak for UKIP in the media. There are plenty of people out there who are clever and knowledgeable who can make UKIP proud.
UKIP’s image. Whether we like to admit it or not. UKIP does have an image problem. Whether that be a poorly developed logo, and merchandising scheme or the image that has been painted to portray UKIP in the media. UKIP need to update their image. For a start, I would suggest hiring a consultant, somebody who can take a look at UKIP’s logo and colour schemes in an attempt to bring the image of UKIP into the 2000’s. UKIP also need to affirm their zero tolerance policy and work with organisations to route out racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. ALL parties are afflicted by this problem. Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, actively fight and work with others to let it be known that this kind of behaviour is not welcome in politics, let alone in UKIP.
UKIP evolution. UKIP have spent so long talking about immigration, that I fear many people within the party have forgotten the other things that UKIP have pledged, and what UKIP could do. Closing those gaps on social mobility, protecting the environment (green belt) whilst not destroying our manufacturing and housing sector, building new affordable housing (brown-field revolution), developing a range of energy sources (both green and other forms of sensible energy), bringing back grammar schools for all and not just the privileged few, encouraging integration in our communities and protecting the worse off such as elderly poor and disabled. All of these areas have been beaten down and punished under Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem rule the last 20 years. It is time to show people what UKIP can do and that we truly can appeal to all. We need to shake off the old and tired bog-standard right-wing image. Show we can appeal to those on the left and the right. There are people within UKIP who won’t bring this along. The party should think very hard if these elements will help develop UKIP into a proper ‘peoples party’. Last but not least and possibly most importantly. Once we have won back control of our borders. We need to talk about immigration as a POSITIVE thing. Something people can be proud of and look forward to. Encourage global skilled immigration, and develop this country into the heart of a truly global market.
The sky is the limit. The question is, do UKIP want to put their hand out and grab it, or continue the pathetic infighting that reflects on us as just being the same as the other non-progressive parties?