[Ed: Mike Hookem MEP is Bill Etheridge’s running mate. During the past weeks we’ve published articles by the leadership contestants as well as the personal views on these candidates by readers and contributors of UKIP Daily so that the members who could not attend hustings have the opportunity to inform themselves. The write-up of an interview with Mike Hookem MEP below has an important place in this debate.]
“UKIP is the only political party representing the working men and women of this country today,” says Mike Hookem MEP as he sits down for this interview. “But I am seriously concerned for the party’s future if we don’t get the right party leader,” continues the former army commando in a quiet, Hull accented voice.
Mike Hookem has been a member of UKIP for a decade and the party’s defence spokesman since his election as an MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire in 2014..
Since becoming defence spokesman, Mike has become a regular media commentator on defence matters, and a passionate campaigner for the clearance of the Calais “Jungle”, after being threatened with a gun in a French migrant camp last year.
In this leadership election, Mike is the running mate to libertarian campaigner and West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridgee, who has fought his way to be among the front-runners to take on the huge job of UKIP leader.
But what are Mike’s concerns for UKIP moving forward? He explains:
“For me, there is only one candidate who has the ready ability and voter appeal to carry UKIP forward, especially in the north of England. That is Bill Etheridge,” says Mike. “The other frontrunners either have flaws such as an aversion to debate, or are supported by people some party members find totally unacceptable. UKIP is at a critical time in its development, but just when we are on the cusp of becoming the only true opposition party in British politics, we are in danger of being ripped apart by various factions and political power games.”
“On the one hand, we have what’s been described as ‘Red’ UKIP, pushing a series of authoritarian and to me, disturbing policy proposals, championed by figures such as Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans. Douglas Carswell has become a Marmite figure within UKIP. You either love him or hate him and from speaking to many local members, my suspicion is the latter applies. As for Suzanne Evans, her fall from grace has been rapid. My opinion is that her political ambition overcame her loyalty to the party and the will of its members. I also have serious concerns that with Lisa and her team leading UKIP, the party would be pushed in a direction that is not representative of the members’ interests and could head for the extremes.”
“Then there is the frontrunner, Diane James, who has the backing of multimillionaire donors like Arron Banks. While I respect Diane James as a person, I have serious doubts that she is capable of leading our party or attracting the working class voters who are UKIP’s core support today. For me, Diane’s biggest failing is her unwillingness to debate even the other candidates, which in a potential political party leader is a serious flaw. Just look at the way she snubbed the membership in the leadership hustings and turned down national television debates during the campaign. The party spent thousands of pounds holding hustings in every one of the UK’s twelve regions, not one of which Diane attended.
“But what has annoyed me, and what I think the membership should be aware of, is her refusal to take part in two BBC debates – one national and one regional, which has meant both events were cancelled, and the whole party lost out on a great promotional opportunity. This is not only damaging to the membership; it is damaging to the wider party image! It also denies the membership the opportunity to see what the leadership candidates are made of and is frankly undemocratic.
“Another concern is that the new leader will have to campaign hard in northern towns and cities to continue the party’s progression; knocking on doors and pounding the pavements in the former Labour heartlands. While Diane may go down a storm at a luncheon in Hampstead, I don’t see her having the same attraction on the doorstep in Oldham or Rotherham. For me, she is just ‘too Surrey’ to appeal in the north.”
“Outside the current leadership campaign, UKIP also has members who are very upset that Steven Woolfe has not been included on the ballot paper and who are now pushing forward an agenda that could see the membership left without a voice on the NEC. While I understand these members’ frustrations, their wish to banish cronyism from UKIP and seriously reform the NEC, I would like to see a system of regional representation implemented, rather than places on the NEC to be in the leader’s or the party chair’s gift.”
“We simply cannot be in a position where the membership does not have a say in the governance of this party, as not only is it totally against the grassroots principles the party was founded upon; it also concentrates too much power in the hands of too few people. And then there is Bill and me, offering what I hope grassroots members will recognise as a return to the original libertarian principles of the party.”
“Bill is simply the best all-rounder of any of the candidates! A brilliant speaker and steeped in a background of policy development, Bill has both the manner and personality that can appeal to people from all parts of the electorate. Bill is not afraid to get his hands dirty and experiencing issues for himself. You only have to look at his recent trip to the Calais “Jungle” to see that. It is only through leading from the front, experiencing issues first-hand, and clearly communicating our values and policies to an increasingly politically disinterested public, that we will see UKIP continue to grow as a force in British politics.
For me, the only person capable of delivering all these things is Bill Etheridge.”