UKIP Leadership Hustings – a personal view by Gerald Gravett
Since then, I have been involved with the UKIP Surrey Committee’s organisation of the Official South-East Region’s Hustings which were held on Thursday 31st August in Dorking. All 10 candidates were present although three withdrew on the night, leaving seven (watch the whole event here).
I then went to the ‘Official UKIP Hustings’ in London at the Emmanuel Hall on the 4th September. All the ‘Magnificent 7’ were present. There was a significantly smaller audience of about 100 or so than at the Dorking hustings, which attracted 160 plus. One of the candidates – Peter Whittle I think – commented on numbers at hustings and mentioned Dorking as the biggest.
I have also seen some clips on Youtube, which tend to be rather selective in their subjects. This was one of the reasons why we in Surrey decided that we would video the whole of our event and upload it in its entirety as one file. We wanted to be scrupulously fair to all the candidates and not be selective nor unilaterally leave anything or anyone out.
I have since reflected on the candidates and their performance over the whole cycle and in particular their showing at the Emmanuel Hall on the 4th September. These then are my views on their performances – which are not necessarily my preferences regarding who I would personally support.
John Rees Evans looked and superficially sounded the part in London. He is a charismatic character but increasingly seems lacking in two areas. It is not good enough to keep stating that it is up to the electorate to decide policy – that is surely not good leadership. Firstly, John is quite one dimensional, seemingly short on all policy issues except for ‘Direct Democracy’. Secondly, he places so much focus on ‘Direct Democracy’ but on every occasion that I have seen him speak, he has failed to explain how it would actually work in practice. He has effectively said far too often that he does not have time to explain in the short time given him at hustings and does not seem to realise that this is not acceptable. If it cannot be explained briefly to members, then what chance does he have of explaining it to the general public. To me, sadly, unless and until he overcomes this issue, it makes him unelectable at both levels – leadership and public elections. I say sadly, as I believe that he is an honest and committed man with a high-minded vision. He has apparently posted a 40-page personal manifesto on his web site.
Jane Collins MEP made much issue in her London speech as to her being a figurehead and team player, with former candidates supporting her. A little arrogant and confrontational, she seems lacking somewhat in personality. Realistically though, she started as a rank outsider and now has the support of a couple of other rank outsiders, so that as a group they remain as outsiders likely to gain maybe five to ten percent of the vote at best.
Aidan Powlesland MA cantab has a very dry humour but is viewed by most as a very lightweight candidate, a nice man, but no chance whatsoever of winning.
Henry Bolton OBE has an outstanding curriculum vitae – as he repeatedly keeps telling us. Henry is a former Army cavalry soldier, infantry officer, police officer and diplomat and an award winner whilst at Sandhurst Military Academy. He was awarded an OBE for services to international security and stabilisation in 2013. Henry has been an advisor to many foreign governments and has spent three years working in a senior position in the EU. A very ‘punchy’ speaker, Henry is viewed by some as a little arrogant. Comes over as probably the most typical politician type of all the candidates and one of the three most likely to be acceptable to the mainstream voter whilst exposing ‘traditional’ UKIP values. Says he has Nigel as a supporter for the leadership and is probably the most ‘Nigel like’ in his persona. A successful candidate needs two qualities –views that satisfy the membership and, vitally, the presence or preferably charisma that well appeal to the electorate at large. Henry has these qualities whilst maybe coming across as a little bit too ‘me’ and egotistical.
Anne Marie Waters is a driven person. She is passionate and almost frantic in her delivery of a rather one-dimensional agenda. That she genuinely believes in the truth of her cause is in no doubt and many members would agree with her. In London, she did cover rather more ground than the usual Muslim issue and spoke much sense. She has a very committed following but there is also a significant opposition to her, many of whom may agree with her views, but feel that she would be unelectable and likely to bring unwanted media scorn on to the party. Marmite.
Peter Whittle AM is deputy leader of the party, a member of the London Assembly and spokesman on cultural affairs. Whilst having strong views on the EU, migration/immigration and the terrorist threat, he is pragmatic and well-grounded in his ideas. He possesses a very robust set of values and has the ability to express them in a calm, considered and well delivered manner. He is very much a defender of British culture and traditions. A much improved public speaker over the last couple of years, he now comes across well in television interviews and there is little doubt that he would put up a good front for the party in public. Peter has media savvy, strength, fairness, persuasiveness, politeness, and looks the part.
David Kurten AM is a member of the London Assembly and spokesman on education. As would be expected of a teacher of over twenty years standing, he has a certain charm, sense of humour and communication skills. His agenda is wide ranging and his public speaking improves by the day. David is a ‘Dark Horse’ – no pun intended – coming up on the rails. He is the person most likely to appeal to the wider voter although would need to be careful not to let one of his witticisms to be taken out of context by the media. Supported by Arron Banks.
Strongest speaker on the day:
These are not my views on who I would support, but my view of how they performed on the day at the Emmanuel Hall Hustings.
Anne Marie Waters was passionate but contorted and frantic in her delivery – is this good or bad? Would it come over well on television to the average voter?
Henry Bolton was powerful if a little arrogant. Of all the candidates, perhaps he is the most typical politician type – is this good or bad?
Peter Whittle – solid, calm, considered and organised in his approach. A safe pair of experienced hands.
David Kurten – very natural delivery with a touch of humour. My view is that Peter and David came out equally best.
My view- again not necessarily my preferences – of the likely final result. Not very scientific, but……….
1 Peter 27%
2 Anne Marie 23%
3 David 17%
4 Henry 16%
5 John 12%
6 Jane 4%
7 Aidan 1%
Peter seems to be in a strong pole position, as does Anne Marie in second. Interestingly, I believe that had there been a leader/deputy Leader pact between David and Henry – who appear to be extremely compatible – with one of them withdrawing and pledging support to the other – then Peter may have been put under some pressure.
Gerald Gravett, Secretary UKIP Surrey Committee