To make an impact again, UKIP needs a new reason for being – of that there can be no doubt. It needs to move beyond leaving the EU and embrace something equally as big – if not bigger – to be taken seriously again. By announcing that re-industrialisation will be its flagship policy, it will genuinely make UKIP the party of the working class.
Political Party Flagship Policies
Today, our main parties all have flagship ideals that are nationally recognised. Prior to the EU referendum, UKIP’s was of course to leave the EU, but what of the others?
- Conservatives – free market economy.
- Labour – the NHS.
- Liberal Democrats – rejoining the EU.
- Greens – climate change.
- SNP – an independent Scotland.
But ever since the EU referendum, UKIP has struggled because it no longer has a flagship policy to stand on. We need to drop this ‘guard dogs of Brexit’ idea as we have no say whatsoever in how the Brexit process is going. Whether we like it or not, only the Conservatives can deliver Brexit and we all need to accept that. We need to set ourselves up for the next big political fight which will be about the UK’s future post Brexit.
People need a ‘cause’ to rally behind and this is why UKIP was so successful when leaving the EU was its cause. But now, there is no flagship ideal that will unite people up and down the country. So now is the time to get behind a new cause, a new flagship policy, one that pushes UKIP right to the forefront again of British politics post Brexit – UKIP must be four-square behind re-industrialisation.
Re-industrialisation and the North
UKIP has always talked about replacing Labour in the ex industrial areas of the North, but has never produced a ‘road map’ to achieving this. The North is ‘manufacturing country’ and that is what it still wants to be. So pursuing a flagship policy of re-industrialisation is the key to achieving taking much of the existing ‘traditional’ Labour support and turning those areas purple. We need to take the same passion put into trying to revitalise the fishing industry but multiply this a hundredfold and apply it to returning large scale manufacturing.
It is often said about UKIP that we want to ‘bring back the 1950s’ and returning large scale manufacturing or ‘heavy industry’ is the prime example of that to many laughing detractors. My reply to people who say this to me is that I want to reinstate something that we never should have lost in the first place. Because up and down this land, the loss of manufacturing is wholly lamented – we all know it, yet we do nothing.
Many in the North voted ‘leave’ because they wanted to see prosperity returned to their communities – prosperity that existed when they had good, manufacturing jobs. It is precisely this which is an open goal to UKIP.
Is The Desire Really There?
Yes, it’s there alright – I have spent four years researching it and putting everything together to create a policy paper. Most political journalists worth their salt accept that rebalancing the economy is now required – an economy where 80% of the country’s GDP is from the services industry is only going to benefit the main cities. Numerous times I’ve heard this from sources such as Andrew Marr – if he’s saying it, then you know there’s something in it.
I regularly comment in the ‘Guardian’ (no boos please) when they do a piece on manufacturing and my interaction with people on there has in some instances gone on for pages. If you sift out all the genetically outraged, anti working class people on there, there is surprisingly a lot of support for seeing manufacturing in all its sizes return to these shores.
Another area where I met huge support – but also critique – was a Sunderland message board. Three years ago, I wrote an article for UKIP Daily that somehow found its way onto this message board and all hell broke loose. But what was undeniable, was that a significant majority of people supported this idea.
But the above aside, we all know the loss of manufacturing and the desire to see it return is a shared national belief. Leaving the EU but keeping everything the same is utterly pointless – but a post Brexit future that sees a resurgent manufacturing base, made possible by the weaker pound, is hugely popular. This must be UKIP’s new raison d’etre.
So, What Next?
This article is not about how it can be done or what needs to happen to start the process – because I’ve already done the work. No, the next step is for Mr. Batten and the NEC to decide that this is to be UKIP’s next big push and this is an open request to ask for that debate to be heard.
What is it that we in UKIP all want? Why are we all supporting the party if not to bring about a change? But in today’s political world, only something really big and far reaching makes waves. A collection of smaller issues will never be enough to change the country and bring the majority onto our side.
But a truly meaningful cause will – a cause that gives genuine hope for a better future. If UKIP could be bold and decide that its new flagship policy is to see the re-industrialisation of the UK, it would catapult the party onto the main stage again and would be a policy that none of the other parties would even see coming. The Conservatives are scared to death of homegrown industry and Labour only toy with the idea, so this could fundamentally change the landscape of the North – financially and politically.
This is UKIP’s gaping open goal – if the party says it supports the working class, nothing says this more than returning the industries and the jobs they clearly want. Anything less and UKIP will never make the breakthrough it desperately seeks.