The Beginning of the Future for UKIP or the Beginning of the End?
Most thinking members of UKIP have viewed recent events with a combination of shock, horror and despair. It is hard to cling to any hope for the future of the party. The nature of the leadership campaign has been appalling. It has been a disgrace and it has brought UKIP into disrepute. The rules are clearly not fit for purpose and this opened the way for abuse of the process.
Two Chores and a Conflict
At the end of this the new leader will have two principle chores. First is the need to rebuild the party. Second is to win public support. While that may sound simple it is not.
The Corbyn Model
To see how the two jobs have the potential to conflict, one with the other, we have only to look at the Labour Party’s recent history. I was one of those who predicted that Jeremy Corbyn, whatever you thought of him, had the potential to restore Labour’s heart. I never saw him as an election winner. In politics sometimes it is the longer game that matters.
Exactly as I predicted he did indeed restore Labour’s heart. He remains, in my view, unelectable but he has delivered a Labour Party of immense strength and therefore capable of electing its next, more electable, leader.
By speaking from his heart and making passionate and inspiring speeches in which he restated some of the founding principles of the Labour Party he created a surge of sentiment and reversed the trend of a declining Labour vote. Indeed Labour polled only 8% less than it did in its all-time highs of 1966 and 1945.
Still they were not elected because, at the same time, the Conservatives experienced a surge. The surge in support for both parties can, I believe, be attributed to uncertainty. In uncertain circumstances people tend to cling to their tribal loyalties. The uncertainty was deliberately created by the Establishment in an attempt to undermine the BREXIT process and it succeeded only in a catastrophic decline in the UKIP vote.
The Real Motive, Behind the Latest General Election
Mrs May is reputed to have said “Right! That’s seen off UKIP then!” Perhaps this was the deliberate tactic behind her election campaign. Again I suspect she was more than happy to have her own party put in a minority situation. It means less likelihood of rebellion in her own ranks and the DUP can be relied on to ensure BREXIT is pursued vigorously. There is nothing an MP likes more than a touch of security for their salary.
The Differences in UKIP
There is no reason, necessarily, to compare UKIP’s plight with that of the Labour Party but, like Labour, we have the capacity and a vocal lunatic fringe quite capable of sinking the ship. The big difference is that we do not have a stated, agreed, underlying philosophy.
The Party is a limited company and its Articles were clearly drawn up on the back of a fag packet a very long time ago. Whoever is elected leader needs to convene an inclusive conference to design and set out the ethics and principles on which UKIP will base its outlook. Vague terms, like “libertarian” do not clarify the issue. Everyone living is, in their own eyes, a “libertarian”. A socialist believes that poverty cripples the ability of people to have liberty. That is true. A capitalist may believe the accrual of unnecessary wealth is essential to his or her liberty. I define myself as an altruistic libertarian.
For a leadership candidate to say “we must ensure policies do not depart from the core principles of the party” is an authoritarian statement which effectively says “policy will be determined by the leadership and handed down to the members”. Half-baked ill-thought out rigid statements are not helpful at this formative stage of a political party. A willingness to listen is a primary quality of a good leader.
Yes! This is indeed a formative stage. UKIP has no clear statement of its ethics and since one of its major objectives is in the process of being achieved it is at a point in its history where its core principles need to be re-examined and refined. That means by its entire membership and not simply by those who have found themselves a nice little niche in the hierarchy.
Which Way for UKIP?
I believe UKIP should be a political force for the good. If it is not then I want no part of it. As Nigel Farage said “Not right. Not left. Right rather than wrong!” or words to that effect. UKIP needs not to embrace rigid dogma but it does need to encourage intelligent debate on issues. Stifling debate by reference to a rigid and out of date list of objectives is anti-democratic.
Realistically and inevitably we live in a mixed economy. Society and the economy are out of equilibrium. For us all to prosper equilibrium has to be restored. Fighting and squabbling over selfish short term personal gain will not achieve that.
If you are in politics then you believe in society. If you believe in society then it must be ITS survival that you strive for. Once that is assured individual liberties can be addressed.
Calls for the abolition of the NEC are silly. It is the board of directors of the company. UKIP is a Company limited by guarantee. It is subject to the provisions of the Companies Act. The rules that have been handed down to us appear, to me, to contravene the terms of the Companies Act. There is need for reform.
The election of the board (the NEC) needs to be based on a sounder basis so that we know who we are voting for and mechanisms for those elected members of the board to be accountable to the membership need to be installed. The board (NEC) works for you. It is not the other way round!
The Companies Act
The rules on convening extraordinary general meetings, for example, are defined in the Companies Act and it seems UKIP’s rules have not been revised to keep it in line with the present state of that legislation. The complex rules it stipulates for convening an extraordinary meeting are way outside the terms of the present day Companies Act. My understanding is that where a Company’s rules contravene the Companies Act then the underlying conditions specified in the act apply.
I am not calling for an uprising. What I am describing is the administrative chaos that has resulted from the amateurism that Nigel Farage described. Whatever his faults I believe the present chairman has been attempting to address those deficiencies. I know from personal experience that implementing essential reform does not make you popular.
Where to from here?
UKIP is fast losing members. A bad choice of leader will see a catastrophic decline in the numbers. This is why everyone should not blindly follow their nose or the crowd. Each member of UKIP has a responsibility to examine, very closely, what the promises the candidates offer suggest. There is a need to examine whether the proposals are workable and at what cost. Is this within the means of the party? Are there alternative more viable options? Each member has a duty to themselves, the party and the nation to vote for the best offer after properly considering the ins and outs.
If the party has 30,000 members then it has an annual income of £900,000 from membership subs. That is not taxable. For a company of that size to pay its chief executive £100,000 per annum is ludicrous. Only a figure of half that or less should be countenanced. On the other hand the party should pay its leader. It should certainly cover the leader’s expenses. If the numbers fall significantly below that then the Chairman’s post should be unpaid until such time as the membership numbers have recovered.
Every member should be aware that, under the Companies Act, they have certain rights and privileges and they should exercise those rights if they are unhappy with the way the company is operating. The party’s future depends on that happening.
© PJW Holland MMXVII