Noel Matthews: What Now for UKIP?
I have been with UKIP for most of the last 10 years and it is fair to say that it has come to dominate my life. I am a national official, seen by some as a UKIP establishment crony, however I do not simply spend my time trying to hob-nob with the management. My base is a UKIP Community Action Team office which I fund myself and which is busily engaged in solving real local problems for residents.
Over the past 12 months or so we have endured endless leadership turmoil in the wake of Nigel Farage’s resignation. What I have seen during that time is a slow, creeping trend for certain individuals to see UKIP as a potential vehicle for their own special area of interest and this trend, if you believe social media, appears to have become a battle for the very soul of the party.
I have news. It was never up for grabs. To change anything fundamental about UKIP requires the assent of two thirds of our membership and a good start for anyone seeking the leadership of UKIP would be two thirds of the votes in the contest. I would argue that none of the candidates are expecting to achieve that. Only Paul Nuttall managed that in all of UKIP’s history. Sweeping reform is rarely achieved in any area of politics and it will certainly present an enormous challenge to our next leader if that is their intention.
What UKIP needs is political leadership including a vision for both the party and the country. Our figurehead needs a laser focus on national issues. Not just the things we own like Brexit and immigration control but the NHS, Education, Law and Order, Defence, Trade and Electoral Reform.
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UKIP gained a great deal from electoral success in Europe. It gave us a platform, a voice. OUR MEPs took the devil’s money to do god’s work some might say (indeed some preferred the company of the devil and abandoned us). That avenue is now closed and as the one party unanimously urging the British public to turn away from the EU we have no choice but to shun any advantage it may offer to us going forward.
Our future platform can only be found in regional assemblies and Westminster. We know how to get there. It means campaigning in wards where it can do the most good, year round, and gaining councillors who get results. Only then can we expect electors to give their vote to our parliamentary candidates.
Those candidates, the teams around them, the councillors, the supporters and the activists need one thing from the party leader. A coherent national message on the issues people care about and an adherence to the principles that UKIP are proudly populist and unabashedly “none of the above”.
Our party does not need a new broom to come in and sweep clean. It needs a determined politician who will build on all of the good work done so far by so many. A figure who can attract new membership and inspire generous donation. An individual who enthusiastically writes the next chapter of the UKIP story in their own hand.
When Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless and others turned their backs on UKIP and declared “job done” I took it to mean something other than Brexit being achieved. They had also successfully infiltrated UKIP on behalf of the Tory establishment to undermine, divide and collapse us from within. That was their “job”. They have now slithered back from whence they came leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces.
In my experience almost all of the problems UKIP has ever faced have been created by individuals who did not have a solid UKIP pedigree. If, like me, you have been pounding the streets for UKIP since the previous decade or earlier then it is your legacy that needs preserving and protecting in this leadership election.
So, a political and national vision to support our local campaigning. A proud populist who will fight for our voice to be heard. A proven and demonstrable history of standing for and promoting UKIP first. My vote goes to the candidate who ticks all of these boxes.