The Practical Case for John Rees-Evans
The night of May the fourth 2017 was a traumatic one for UKIP, all 134 of our County councillors, many of them excellent representatives lost their seats with only one new seat being gained. I spent that night celebrating with a few colleagues from my local branch. We hadn’t turned traitor nor had we just found a winning lottery ticket, we were celebrating because we were the team behind that one new seat and much as we commiserated with our counterparts in Kent, Norfolk and other areas the joy and relief of getting Alan Hosker over the line as the first ever UKIP member of Lancashire County Council had to be expressed.
I’m not bringing this up to boast, my own part in the campaign consisted largely of exhausting but unexceptional leafleting work, but because I want any readers who are undecided on the leadership to consider something which has been oddly absent from the debate so far, elections. I don’t mean which potential leader is personally more ‘electable’ or who we think might have come up with that ‘killer policy’ to enthuse the voters, I mean the actual nuts and bolts of electoral politics, the practicalities of getting UKIP members, including some of you into office.
It’s absolutely crucial that we consider this because on May the third next year many of our two hundred odd local councillors will be up for re-election and as things stand, with current polling they will all lose their seats. If this happens it will be a third consecutive electoral disaster for our party and it’s difficult to see how we’d come back from that; a new chairman won’t save us, direct democracy won’t save us and a hard line on militant Islam won’t either. What we need is a plan that will enable us to save as many as possible of those sitting councillors and win new seats too.
This was in the forefront of my mind when deciding where my vote should go and it was a conversation with John Rees-Evans after his appearance in Bolton that made up my mind. I listened to John’s passionate exposition of his ideas on Direct Democracy, was impressed with the courtesy and frankness with which he answered questions and the patience with which he endured the various bees from various members’ bonnets. But I had my own bee of course and I managed to corner John in the bar after the Q and A had finished and put my concerns to him. I spoke about how we’d backed Alan Hosker with well designed leaflets and newsletters and professional quality Facebook videos so residents knew of his good work at Borough level (he also sits on Burnley Borough Council). I said it was a shame that other good councillors didn’t have access to this kind of backup, it’s only good fortune that we happen to have both a graphic designer and a videographer in our branch.
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I expected a sympathetic, politician’s response; a pat on the back for the good work and a few platitudes about how the party needed to support us grassroots members more. What I got was a coherent, considered and, crucially a ready to implement plan to make use of the talent within our party at branch level and to build for next May. At the heart of this is UKIP Connect essentially a database into which members can input all the skills and knowledge that they’re willing to share with other members. So for example, our branch’s videographer might be willing to produce promos for a neighbouring branch. A member in your branch might have experience with lodging planning appeals that could help a UKIP councillor at the other end of the country to help his constituents. UKIP Connect has already been developed by John’s team and is ready to go. He has also created a Road Map to the 2018 elections which you can view here:http://bethegovernment.uk/locals2018/.
I haven’t talked about John Rees-Evans’ chief campaign element of Direct Democracy, naturally I agree with it but it has been explained and championed by others, not least John himself, far more eloquently than I could, but I wanted to give a slightly different perspective on what is at stake here, namely the electoral future of UKIP. Direct democracy will enthuse a new generation of kippers bringing youth and vitality into the party, but it’s UKIP Connect and John’s plans for local support that will win us elections.
There are now seven candidates vying the position once ably filled by Nigel Farage, they’ve all travelled the country and put up the £5,000 deposit, they all deserve respect for that. But our next leader will not match Nigel’s oratorical skill nor his media presence and savvy. Our next leader must succeed by transforming the party into an enthusiastic election winning machine. John Rees-Evans has ability to do that, he has my vote and I ask you to vote for him too.