On Monday evening my wife came home telling me she had been interviewed in the street by BBC Wales about the situation in UKIP and the leadership election and was on TV. Not sharing my degree of interest in politics, she was unable to comment on the power struggles within UKIP and had no idea who’s standing – in common with most voters, I suspect.
If only they had asked me … On second thoughts, it’s probably a good job they didn’t. As for who’s standing, I’m almost as much in the dark as she is.
Up until this point I thought UKIP had managed to avoid its internal squabbles being trumpeted in the press, the media being far more interested in Tory backstabbing and the chaos around Jeremy Corbyn – along with perhaps not having the inside track on UKIP, because they don’t want to mix with the likes of us. The triumphalist spin on Nigel Farage’s resignation seemed to have been reported without question and I had read mercifully little in the mainstream media about the messy contest to succeed him.
The leadership election does appear to have degenerated into a sad spectacle of destructive factionalism though, and I expect we won’t be able to keep this fact from becoming common knowledge among the great British public for much longer.
Seven weeks ago things had been so different. Then we were making history. Now we run the risk of becoming history. It’s like almost achieving climax, then your partner getting up and turning on the TV to watch golf.
I had dared to believe UKIP was a different kind of politics – a people’s army asserting the right of the ordinary voter to decide, compared to business-as-usual back-room deal-making among the entrenched metropolitan elite. The reaction of the major parties to the referendum result demonstrated they either didn’t get the new reality or were determined to thwart it. The Tories denied their members a vote, forcing Andrea Leadsom out with a smear campaign, and crowned Theresa May. Labour MPs declared they had no confidence in the leader chosen by the overwhelming majority of their supporters less than a year ago and even tried to keep his name off the ballot paper to thereby deprive their membership of the right to vote.
And what of UKIP? Would we show the country we were different? A truly democratic people’s party? Fat chance!
UKIP desperately needs a settled democratic constitution. We can’t have the NEC changing the rules serveral times during each selection cycle to either block or favour particular candidates at the instigation of one faction or another. This is all to reminiscent of the attempts from on high to manipulate the Welsh regional list candidate selection earlier this year. I’ve never even been given the chance to elect the leader in Wales!
One of the most frustrating things for me personally about UKIP’s rampant factionalism is that, although I have opinions, I don’t find myself in full alignment with one faction or another. I just wish we could all work together towards our common goal. One of the things I enjoyed about the referendum was campaging alongside people from various different political backgrounds, burying our differences because there was something we all agreed on – but no … wait … now it’s all coming back to me … we couldn’t even all join the same campaign beacuse there was so much infighting.
That said, I have to admit at this point that I would have liked Nigel Farage to have stayed on or, possibly better, to be standing in the election – in which case I would be voting for him. This is despite the fact that I’m aware of some of the flaws in his genius. I’m wary of UKIP becoming a personality cult built around one man; I’ve heard about some on the machinations behind the scenes which have provoked some sections of the party, and it’s unseemly when he makes public tirades against the NEC when he doesn’t get his way. However Farage is a formidable orator, a household name who commands media interest and is fearless in speaking common sense no matter what vitriol he is the target of as a result. Farage has taken UKIP this far and, in my opinion, would have been best-placed to seize the opportunity history now presents us with.
Paul Nuttal was widely touted as a possible successor to Nigel, but for reasons unclear he decided not to stand.
Personally I was relieved that Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans were deemed ineligible. Talk of moving UKIP to a more centrist position fills me with dread that we will backpedal away from challeging the PC consensus to become a me-too mirror of Tory party blandness. We already have one Tory party – we don’t need another one. That said, in the interests of democracy, maybe the membership should have been given the choice.
At one point Raheem Kassam was making noises about standing. I dared to dream. I am avid reader of Breitbart London and find his outspoken, pull-no-punches ,withering challenges to the leftist pro-migrant mainstream media narrative awesome and highly motivating. As a fierce Farage loyalist though, Kassam was always going to step aside for his anointed successor. Perhaps he might just have been a bit too provocative – and who would be there to edit my news source of choice?
That moves us to Steven Woolfe. He seemed like a good choice though I was somewhat concerned that all UKIP sources seemed to promote him to the exclusion of other candidates. How he couldn’t get his nomination papers in on time though baffles me. I can sympathise with those NEC members who didn’t want to bend the rules so as not be at risk of being sued.
We are now left with a situation in which none of the heavy-hitters in UKIP will be on the ballot – either having been prevented from standing, persuaded to rule themselves out or simply cocking-up – so rank and file UKIP members’ ability to choose has been severely limited.
It may be unkind for me to refer to the candidate list we are left with as ‘UKIP’s second eleven’, but my problem is I really have no idea who they are, what they stand for and whether they might be any good. I haven’t had any information about them through UKIP, and web searches just keep pulling up the same handful of articles. It’s a battle of the unknowns.
From my research so far I have gleaned the following:
- Jonathan Arnott – a guy who took his exams 3 years early and went to university at 15 must be quite switched-on.
- Philip Broughton – thinks UKIP should change its “tone”. Nope. Let’s not give in to the language of our enemies. Let’s take that tone and turn it up. It’s what’s connecting with the Great British public.
- Bill Etheridge – anyone who has themselves pictured with golliwogs to campaign against political correctness and is active in CAMRA must be pretty sound.
- Lisa Duffy – if Suzanne Evans is backing her, then I won’t be.
- Diane James – sounds capable but I haven’t read anything about her which particularly excites me.
- Elizabeth Jones – screaming at lefties to shut up in a radio debate may be tempting but just doesn’t look good, and you’ll have to stay calm in the face of a lot more than that if you’re going to put yourself out there as UKIP leader. Oh, and she’s from London – we need to get politics out of that particular bubble and have someone from the provinces.
I still don’t feel anywhere near informed enough to make a choice. Nor have I seen any of these people in action to judge whether they cut the mustard in debate. And … wouldn’t you just know it … the Welsh hustings are being held when I’m away on holiday. But look … the South East hustings are the following week and are not far from where I work. I will make an excuse to be in the office that day and get myself along.
Expect a report back.