Eastern Counties Meeting Report 

Too often we have been behind the 8 ball but now we need to be ahead of the game

Bill Pryor, Regional Chair, opened the Eastern Counties Regional Meeting with this remark and it is hard to argue that he is wrong. UKIP as a viable political party really is drinking in the last chance saloon.

So, what is to be done? All three MEPs who attended, Tim Aker, Patrick O Flynn and Stewart Agnew certainly had plenty of suggestions to offer. Tim gave a barnstorming speech, his solution boiled down to hard graft and connecting with people, making the UKIP the Party that looks after the electorate as well as the country. “Offer to help”, “ask what you can do”, certainly two pieces of advice our canvassers should certainly take to heart.

Tim is obviously an exceptionally personable figure and it is not hard to see why he was the parties “best loser” on election night. He is the sort of politician that many would put aside Party loyalty for and just vote for regardless of whether they were blue, red or any other shade of the political rainbow. He included glimmers of policy in his speech but it’s clear that his approach is principally ‘people buy from people’ and the product is important but not the primary focus.

Patrick O Flynn had a more programmatic approach. He urged UKIP to essentially ditch its libertarian lineage, except the state can do good and necessary things and come from the “common sense centre”. However, he knows he is essentially flogging a horse that expired with Paul Nuttall’s defeat in Stoke. This is why he resigned as economics spokesman. It’s a shame because once you move beyond the labels he has, in my eyes, some objectively sensible things to say. Maybe I am betraying my own prejeudices there though; for example, no one has yet convinced me the fiscal space exists for tax cuts; money id rather see spent on reducing the eye-watering levels of household (let alone government) debt.

Stewart Agnew was given a heroes reception as the video of him mullering the BBC over Brexit was played as an introduction. He talked about agricultural policy but inevitably as he is backing Anne Marie Waters for the leadership that came into his speech. Interestingly, he revealed he was going to stand but when he called Anne Marie to ask her to stand aside she said no – this led to him being bowled over by this modern-day “Joan of Arc”. Ms Waters is not a modern-day Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc was deeply religious and motivated by visions from God. Whatever you think of Ms Waters motivations I am sure we can all agree this is not her motivation.

Aggers is obviously a very popular figure within the Party and deployed correctly he could tilt this contest in her favour – providing Party faithful with the reassurance they need that this path is safe in the sense that this issue is one UKIP needs to be in the lead on and damn the consequences as it was with Brexit.

The meat of the meeting was intended to be the new structure but it predictably received the least attention. Paul Oakden spelt out the aim of having the vechile ready for its new driver. However, it appears the driver has little choice over the nature of the vechile and maybe not even the direction of travel. No matter who the new leader is, we were told, the “vechile does not change”. Not only is this a Stalinist straight jacket for the new leader but it is a disenfranchisement of their supporters and is utterly unacceptable democratically.

Bill Pryor, introducing the actual changes, revealed that he had asked Paul to delay the changes until after the new leader has been elected. He was told no. The changes themselves are poor. Organising on a county level isn’t much different to organising on a regional level. Counties are simply vast and diverse. Optimally to win under FPTP your basic level of organisation is at ward level but at a bare minimum you should be organising at constituency not county level so, you know, your organisation bears some relation to th  objective reality of your principal thetre of operations.

However, the smaller the unit the more control members have (but also the closer to voters) and this, of course, is not what a Stalinite Party Bureaucracy would want. So, it’s not even on the table nor is any kind of member involvement in these proposals. They say jump and we are expected to say how high. In the mud sullied sands of these proposals there is not a single grain of pure DD – if you want DD I highly suggest that you accpet no imitations and back a DD candidate in the leadership battle and certainly do not trust the Party machine.

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