A contest, not a coronation
We are all on the edge of our seats and holding our breath. The brave and entirely correct resignation of Paul Nuttall following the General Election has left a vacancy for the position of UKIP leader, one that a certain Nigel Farage has indicated he may stand to fill.
Nigel’s analysis of a Brexit in peril is certainly correct in my eyes and it is only natural that he would not to see his life’s work scupperred by an ascendant establishment and an increasingly inept and totally lame-duck Prime Minister. Furthermore, as a relatively new member of UKIP I find the prospect of being a part of a Farage-led and resurgent UKIP tantalising and exciting.
However, no matter how strong the demand for Nigel’s return and the desire to make this a coronation for a returning king we must avoid that temptation and ensure we still have a leadership contest. Let me explain. Part of the point of having a leadership contest, especially after a set of bruising election results, is catharsis, it allows members to vent their frustrations, to tell their stories and get space for their point of view to be heard. It allows for viewpoints that feel marginalised to express themselves and for those that support them to show that through their vote and campaigning. If you have a point of view you want represented you are going to feel better if you vote for a candidate that ultimately loses as opposed to not voting at all.
I am thinking here about the candidacy of Anne Marie Waters – whatever you think of her views of Islam, and I largely agree with them, they represent a substantial constituency both within UKIP and the wider country and as such they deserve to be heard. This is especially true since she was excluded from being a UKIP candidate. So, I would say she should continue to run even if Nigel does. Once again I’ll say I’m not asking you to agree with her, I’m asking you to accept the principle she should be heard and, frankly, if that cannot be agreed then I think we need to have a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror because it would mean we are not the Party we think we are.
Leadership contests are also good for the contenders because it allows them to gauge the mood of the Party and make sure they are in tune with it. Theresa May and Gordon Brown are two good examples of how leadership coronations tend to lead to abysmal beyond words leadership. At least now we know that Theresa May knifed Andrea Leadsome because she was justifiably worried that if the contest had gone to the membership it would have soon become clear that she has as much personal charisma as a whitewashed wall. Similarly, Gordon Brown would have been seriously handicapped in a contest that is partially about personality by actually having none.
Obviously, the same cannot be said of Nigel who has a jumbo-sized personality with a side-order of fries but the point basically holds true that leadership coronations are good for no-one, the leader elect or the Party they lead. So, while I am sure those candidates who have said they will withdraw are very well-intentioned they are in my eyes only correct if they truly have nothing distinctive to say. Pressure should not be applied to those candidates that do have something to say to stand down if Nigel does return. Ultimately we will gain more from a contest than a coronation.