LOCAL ELECTIONS: Derby: The Jewel In A Shattered Crown
I think it is fair to say that no one really expected last night to be anything other than a difficult night for UKIP and it certainly turned out that way. At the time of writing, only two UKIP councillors have won their elections and they were both in Derby.
After the dust has settled people will be asking what makes Derby different? What is the magic formula? Excluding the awfulness of the Labour-run council locally, a phenomenon hardly unique to Derby, what you find is nothing magical, it’s simple common sense.
Councillor Graves clearly cares about his community and works exceptionally hard to represent and fight for it. He is, in the words of one constituent, “highly visible” and “always around”. UKIP leaflets were plentiful and consistent. Councillor Graves communicates with his constituents on a highly personal level, the product of relationships he has clearly worked hard to nurture over a span of years. This is something that you can’t wave a wand and create, it takes time, patience and hard graft.
This is the bitter pill UKIP will have to swallow; there is no one thing they can do instantly too to build the relationships that Councillor Graves has with his constituents. It will take time, patience and hard graft. All essential ingredients as is the c-word, communication. Communication is the bridge that cements two parties together into a trusting, long-lasting, relationship. UKIP’s communications operation is utterly shambolic on so many different levels. It is run on a deeply unprofessional basis.
This brings me to the second prong to Councillor Graves successful strategy. It has often been said by Nigel Farage that UKIP needs to professionalise and he is, of course, right, however, the means he has chosen to pursue that end have been questionable to say the least. Sweeping the NEC aside, for example, seems more like a plan to institute a dictatorship. I digress. The professionalism of the campaign in Derby is a product of the hard working high energy approach of the man at its centre. For example, there is enough data to run an effective get out the vote operation on the day because canvassing is clearly a year-round activity in Derby. This should be standard practice across the Party but it clearly isn’t.
UKIP as a Party is shot-through with amateurism. People who are high energy and likely to drive change, and are correspondingly more likely to be strong-willed and independent thinkers, are viewed as strange, unsettling and are sidelined in favour of people whose qualification consists solely a Masters in sycophancy. Rather than indulge in another round of blame the leader we need to look much deeper into the darkened heart of the Party. The leader will only become an issue if he refuses to grasp the nettle of change and do what must be done.
Councillor Graves and his colleague from the ward-next-door newly elected Councillor Bettany, who scored a brilliant win against discredited Labour ex-Leader of Derby Council, Ranjit Banwait, are desperately needed by the people they represent, downtrodden, forgotten and mistreated by Labour. If the failings of UKIP had deprived those people of the services of Cllr Graves and Bettany I would have been disconsolate beyond words and angry too. As it is, I am as pleased for those people, if not more so, as I am for Cllr Graves and Cllr Bettany if not more so. How many more people across the country need representatives like these two? I would say many. If we cannot learn from Derby we are disappointing them, letting them down and precluding the possibility of ever making a real difference to their lives, countless in number as they are, so don’t let’s make the change needed for ourselves, let’s make it for them.