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The UKIP Leadership Race: A Battle of the Unknowns

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.


Photo by emily.dowdle

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About Comrade K (42 Articles)
Part of the London diaspora, Comrade K. now lives in exile in Cardiff, where he is active in his local UKIP branch. He has come a circuitous political route from enjoying winding-up leftists at school, but then, because he thought the ‘60s seemed really cool even though he wasn’t there, indulging revolutionary socialist fantasies during his student years, even going so extreme as becoming a Labour party activist for several years. K. however eventually came round to sense and, despite being seduced by some green philosophies which he still hasn’t entirely repudiated, realised that free-thinking, intelligence and individuality is something entirely different to mindlessly repeating what all his trendy friends and celebrity icons told him … plus he found that going along with feminism didn’t get him girlfriends after all.

22 Comments on The UKIP Leadership Race: A Battle of the Unknowns


  2. @Rhys. All the candidates have their place in the party, including Carswell and Evans. I suspect members of the public may have heard of Diane, but not of the others. She is a well polished Media performer, very presentable, with views closer to my own than most of the Ex Tory converts. Nuttall was the obvious substitute for Nigel, then Woolfe. Not to be but we are where we are now.

    I’ve met some of the other candidates, none of them inspire me. The only problem is her own late entry, reported reluctance and low visibility just now. IF she wins and gives her best and we all back her, including the other candidates, she could become a very well received new face of UKIP.

  3. We seem to be left with just one viable candidate, who is living in France. I presume she wad detailed for this and did not volunteer but if she starts to issue statements of her intent, perhaps indicate who will be in her team, she could work out just fine. There is also still time for her to attend the biggest hustings.

    It would be great to see Nigel appointed as President, I hope it happens. As others have said, he could escape the day to day work of running the party and still have valuable input. We have a short time to get ourselves together, this is a very simple thing. Unite or die and let down our country. Put aside differences, as the Tories are trying to do, have that pesky EGM, agree constitutional changes, compromise when necessary and let’s get on with the job, there’s a lot to be done.

    • Do you really think that someone who left it till the very last day to submit her candidature, and who subsequently has not attended the first few Hustings up North to present herself, is a serious candidate?
      Do you really and truly think she even actually WANTS to be Leader given these facts ?
      What gives you cause to think she is the ‘one viable candidate’ ?

  4. Postscript to comment – have remembered Clegg is no longer leader, the new chap s so charismatic I can’t even remember his name!

  5. Another insightful view of the Leadership problems.
    I have been wondering whether, because we have lost a leader who was charismatic and was what was needed to deliver a Brexit vote (which I think will only actually happen if UKIP gets it’s act together) we have become too hung up on an actual ‘Leader’ going forward.
    We already have the UKIP brand, people know what we stand for and many like and need us. We have most of the policies too, and we have (had) many ordinary members who will work for their party.
    Surely we just need a leader who wants to carry out our policies. Surrounded by a team with the same aims.
    Is Theresa May charismatic? Far from it. Is Clegg charismatic? Need I ask! The only other person who seems to galvanize people at the moment, sorry to say it, is Corbyn, and he appeals to a totally different electorate.
    No one can replace Nigel, so maybe a solid, head down person who believes in UKIP would be fine going forward, and if Nigel wants to come back as President that would be great.
    Just a thought.

  6. Of course questions are not permitted from the floor, members are wanting to ask why two candidates threatened to sue UKIP if Steven Woolfe was allowed to stand. They need to own up stand down and the remaining candidates asked if they are happy for Steven to be reinstated on the ballot. Who wants to win by default? Steven is the peoples choice and the only choice if we are to win an election

  7. We can end the nightmare right now. Ask the candidates which of them and there at least two who threatened to sue UKIP if Steven Woolfe was allowed to remain on the ballot. If they have the grace to own up and stand down is there not a chance that the remaining decent candidates will allow Steven to stand. The party must come first and Steven is the peoples choice, the only choice if we are to fight an election

  8. Yearning for Nigel to return as leader is futile. Making him Party President, a respected elder statesman with words of wisdom on difficult issues, is a very good idea and a tribute to him for everything he has done for the party and the country.
    I have already eliminated two candidates from my personal consideration because they were not at the Hustings in Gateshead, nor in Wakefield, apparently. Broughton is also out for me because he shouts into the microphone and is too fond of cliches. I like Lisa Duffy for her rapport with grassroots and activists, and she is a very resourceful woman with great skill in organising elections. Pity I don’t like her backer, S Evans, who seems to cause trouble in the party and is in cahoots with Carswell. That leaves Bill Etheridge and Jonathan Arnott.
    Jonathan is based in the North East, he’s a very clever man, and straight as a die with vast amounts of experience working for the party in many roles. He wants to reach out to the 13.6m Leave voters who did not vote UKIP in 2015. Jonathan is also the only candidate so far to set out his stall on ukipdaily. Paul Nuttall is backing his candidacy.
    Bill Etheridge MEP has the common touch, uses humour to good effect, completely rejects sharia law and would not allow anyone to receive benefits for being in a bigamous relationship, even if their religion permits it. And now I read in citizenkain’s comment that Bill wants to move Party HQ to the North. I just wonder why he didn’t say that in Gateshead.
    Jonathan and Bill were the only two at the Gateshead Hustings to leave well-presented leadership statements on our chairs in the room where the Hustings were held. I look forward to their addresses to the membership in the Leadership voting material that will be sent out to members.

  9. I attended the Leader election hustings in Wakefield on Wed 10th August. For a region of more than 5 million I was disappointed with the turnout of 60-70.
    Two candidates neither attended nor sent apologies for absence viz Diane James and Elizabeth Jones. The chairing of the meeting was lacklustre. Time was wasted with a byzantine break in which you could dictate a question to a scribe who if it was pulled out of a hat would be answered by just one of the panel and the others chiming in with a quick comment. For something so important as choosing the next leader open mike questions from the floor was an absolute must!The candidates were all responsible and serious party loyalists. Broughton was too narrow in his response base and dare I say too inexperienced.Arnott was good and a safe pair of hands but could not lead the troops. Duffy is solid but has maybe the wrong backers. Etheridge is the nab for the job and the clincher for me was that he will move party HQ to the North. UKIP has the potential to destroy Labour in Lancashire Yorkshire in a way that the SNP did in Scotland. This is our destiny.

  10. I like this article very much and I think it is very truthful unfortunately for us. Nigel Farage was and will always be controversial but that is what got him noticed, but he also managed to speak in terms the common man understood.

    These are the people that politicians have overlooked for too long and now they have had their voice heard. But now we need to find someone who can continue to carry this torch and control the party at the same time. So this is a big ask but there must be someone out there who seems capable, however, they need a big ego to match and I for one cannot see anyone that fits that description at the moment. I don’t want to pick someone just for the sake of choosing anyone.

  11. This is the most calm, measured article I have read on UKIP’s current predicament, encapsulating the despair that I believe most rank-and-file kippers are feeling right now.
    The big problem is finding a solution. Whoever gets in will upset the ‘other’ side (although I suspect the ‘Faragists’ outnumber the ‘Carswellians’ 90%/10%).
    UKIP should be flying right now. Ye gods, Labour is in crisis, and the Tories ascendant with the signing of Article 50 seemingly nowhere in sight!
    Nigel kept a lid on all this until the referendum and now – BOOM, he’s gone and the bomb’s gone off.
    I have a simple solution. Let’s make Farage life president (put to the vote if we must although it should be a given) and hold the election (it’s likely Diane James will get in). The checks and balances will be mightily improved: effectively a three-way between the President / Leader / NEC, rather than the moribund ineffective Leader/NEC two-way. A tweak to the Constitution will be necessary.
    And then let us all get on with the most pressing task: holding the Tories to account to make sure we sign Article 50 and secure the best deal possible.
    If UKIP gets this right the rest will fall into place.

    • But is ‘Diane James’ ‘ getting it right ?
      Someone who, at the last count, has been unable to attend two, or is it three, of the Hustings ?
      That’s how important it is to her to speak to and interact with the loyal membership who turn out on a summer evening ?
      What are her policies on anything ?
      The whole thing has become a nightmare. Grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.

      • Rhys, I know what you’re saying. Diane James, like all of the candidates, are all comparatively lightweight and not ideal. But with Nigel invited to become President will at least inject some levity into proceedings and save us from the brink.
        We are where we are. These are the only candidates we have. A “holding” chairman for now will have to do, be it Diane or whoever. Just to have a hand on the tiller whilst UKIP concentrates on making sure Article 50 is signed and we get the best deal for the UK.
        Nigel will keep a beady eye as President, making sure UKIP still has weight and credibility, with certain powers and influence to challenge our discredited NEC.
        Any viable alternative for the moment…?

        • Provided Nigel does not leave UKIP he will always be effectively the Party’s Presidente Por la Vida, whatever title he does or does not bear.
          I think Diane James would be hopeless. Is it true she has been mostly living in France since she became MEP ( easy to commute to Brussels ). If so the Media will ruthlessly find that out and make hay with it.
          I don’t know if it is true but the fact she has been unable for whatever reason to attend the Hustings is just utterly extraordinary for a supposedly serious Candidate.
          I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect that a total abandonment of the current proceedings ( which would leave Nigel or his current Deputy, Paul Nuttall as UKIP’s main spokesperson ) would be a lot better than carrying on the way we are going.
          Have you noticed how much Labour’s Leadership election is in the news, and how little UKIP’s is ?
          We are going down the plughole fast.
          RE OPEN NOMINATIONS !!! ( and not just for Steven W’s benefit, either. I am not sure he even wanted to be Leader.)

          • I think with Nigel as President, retaining certain executive powers, would put a massive sticking plaster on UKIP’s current predicament. It’ll boot this particular can way down the road. I think it’s a win-win; Nigel’s workload reduces substantially, he becomes the party’s elder statesman (with clout) and he (deservedly) still gets his life back.
            It doesn’t matter, in my view, that the underlying problems haven’t been sorted because with the current schism, they’re unlikely to. However, with enough time, they’ll dissipate as momentum recedes, and hopefully we can quickly get back to business; Lets turn our substantial firepower to helping to ensure Article 50 gets signed.

  12. Very reasonable and sensible article. UKIP without Nigel is like a body without a head. The body seems very unlikely to grow a new head. Nigel has his faults, but if UKIP is to have any future, it can only be under Nigel’s renewed leadership.

    Nigel has withdrawn to Colombey in disgust. He is a national figure, increasingly an international figure. And yet his name is hardly being mentioned in this discussion at a time when UKIP is desperately in need of him. Like De Gaulle, he will come back – but only when the party begs him to come back. It’s just a matter of how bad things will have to become before things reach that point. My vote will go to the candidate who explicitly acknowledges the true situation and does not pretend that he can solve UKIP’s problems him or herself.

    • I almost agree with you ( and I like the ‘Colombey’ touch 🙂 )
      HOWEVER, I think an even better solution would be for Paul Nuttall to offer himself ( following a postponement of the current electoral proceedings ).
      Have you ever heard that man SPEAK ??? If anything even more passion than Nigel, and would be the best person to help us make the further inroads necessary to the Labour heartlands of the North.
      And he is the Deputy Leader after all.

      • Yes, Paul Nuttall is great, I agree with you. But have you asked yourself why he isn’t standing? Perhaps if Nigel had been struck by lightening, he would have stood. But Nigel has not been struck by lightening.

    • De Gaulle didn’t lob a hand grenade in on the way out.

  13. PS: Any chance of a PanUkip Movement to ‘write in ‘ Paul Nuttall on the ballot paper ?
    Would he agree to lead if DRAFTED ??

  14. Good luck with hearing from all the Candidates at the Hustings you attend : at the first two not all were there.
    And even those that were in the NorthEast had precious little to say on concrete policy issues ( you know – the sort of thing the eventual Leader is going to be cross examined on mercilessly ).
    Education / Housing ( and the likely necessary incursion into the Green Belt ) / Immigration / Taxation ????
    Good luck with putting questions to the Candidates from the floor as well – this was not permitted in the NorthEast, not in a freeforall manner anyway.

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