UKIP: To Rebrand or not to Rebrand?
I recently attended a meeting with Peter Whittle (non-leadership event) and one issue that kept coming up from the floor was the upcoming/ongoing rebrand. I have to say it struck me that alot of the angst regarding this issue, aside from the logistical issues around expenditure on potentially redundant merchandise, actually relates to the existential crisis of identity UKIP is having. Leaving that aside, there is a legitimate question to answer here regarding whether we need a rebrand or not.
Firstly, lets deal with the name. Unquestionably to my mind that should stay. One thing you notice about the major parties is they dont change their names that often and there is a good reason for that, as was said from the floor, there is a brand recognition issue with changing the name of our Party. Our voters would be confused and it would therefore damage us; our name signifies that we stand for freedom and independence, be that from the bureaucratic tyranny in Brussels or from the Westminster elite so the name is every bit as relevant now as it was then.
Secondly, the logo is less of a clear cut issue because it can be and is used frequently to express a shift in identity. The Conservatives have had their tree replacing the more abrasive torch and the era of New Labour saw the sudden prominence of a somewhat imperial purple. I accept that issues of branded merchandise do need to be addressed and that the financial pain of recompense will probably have to be borne by the Party as a duty of moral respect for its hard-pressed membership. In the meantime we simply shouldn’t be selling our branded material until we have a new leader and this process is complete.
A word has to be said on whether this process should be going ahead at all and I have to conclude that, to be brutally honest, common sense suggests it should not. We are in the middle of a bruising leadership contest. Who knows will come out ontop and how that will effect the issues talked about above. Steve Crowther is ultimately there only to keep the seat warm for someone else who will have their own ideas about all these issues. I understand that wheels were set in motion beforehand but, again brutally, that was then and this is now – if we dont have the common sense to say that this process, no matter how worthy, should be stopped then, frankly, heaven help us all.
I and I am sure many others have been invited to a Regional Meeting on July 29th for the Eastern Counties during which we will be updateded on “structural changes”, my question would be what structural changes can be mandateded to go ahead now – the previous leadership is defunct and the members are yet to express their view on a new one and our new direction – does not democracy demand that the process of the Party bureaucracy reorganising itself be stopped by now until democracy can take its proper course.
One thing that struck me during the debate was the profound sense of alienation expressed by many members. This made for painful listening. However, it does speak to massive structural weaknesses and particularly deficiencies in the operation of the NEC. Properly speaking, the NEC is there to sit in-between the leadership and members and be a conduit of communication between the two poles. It should be most where members feel listened too, represented and understood but equally the leadership should feel it can communicate its needs to the members through the NEC. It should also take the burden of some of the more onerous aspects of governance of the Party off the shoulders of the leadership. It is blatantly obvious to me that this is not currently the case. Indeed, UKIP to my memory is the only Party that has a Facebook page for both loving and hating the NEC.
To effect this, whether they like it or not, the new leader, whomever they maybe, is going to have to shoulder the burden of reform. Bringing in regional representation of the membership would be a good start. In this regard, we have to remember that the label on the glass is secondary to the liquid in it, so, we can rebrand all we like, until we have an answer to that question, we can rebrand all we like, it simply will not matter.