If Diane James or the Farage team wants us to believe her story of why she resigned, she is entitled to do so, but they will have to do better than this.
Diane James never wanted the leader’s job. Her suggestions that she lacked the support of the party officers and MEP’s rings less than true. She claimed to want to reform the NEC, yet during her campaign failed, even when pressed, to put forward any ideas, suggestions, a plan or even demands. Therefore, how could anyone, supporters or detractors, judge her on this matter?
At Conference she waded into the Carswell controversy, sensibly saying she wanted Carswell inside the tent. She was less than kind about Neil Hamilton, but a week ago she confirmed him as leader in Wales and Nathan Gill accepted this. I am told by one of Farage’s inner circle that this latter decision was met with fury.
Things seemed to be moving slowly but in the right direction, but from last Tuesday (Sept. 27th) onwards, Diane James vanished. It was clear from comments from UKIP Wales and the press that her visit to Cardiff was chaotic: confirmation of this came from both sides.
Let’s be perfectly straight here: she never wanted the job and the only reason she stood was that Nigel Farage and Arron Banks realised their ‘chosen one’ was not even going to get past the starting gate, never mind over the first fence. They never expected Steven Woolfe to be dogged by legal matters which showed he had been complicit in submitting papers in the Police and Crime Commissioner election where he omitted to mention that he had committed an offence. The failure to submit his papers on time was, with respect to all, ‘hogwash’: an easy way to withdraw from the contest.
So what has happened from Diane James’ side of things?
She ran a campaign, which, as even members of her own team admitted, was to ensure she was not viewed or pitted against any of the other candidates. This worked for them but not for the party and this, coupled with her poor performances in public, saw her vote share dwindle from a high of 75% to the 47% she actually received.
That aside, she won, and being fair about her position and despite the Faragist flash of removing the other candidates, even I agreed she deserved a breathing space.
That space produced nothing other than a torrent of tweets and retweets about unimportant matters, virtually nothing about Labour and Liverpool, nothing about taking the fight to Labour, no outline of her promised 100-day plan.
Then, in the middle of an interview on the ‘Daily Politics Show (BBC). the huge gaffe of a flat cap and Geordie accent occurred. I assume that was unscripted, but given the quality of the help not unexpected. This sort of comment would play well in leafy Surrey but not in the area of the country she does not know, has never visited, and saw fit to use a childish stereotype for. These are the people who voted Leave and all Diane James could come up with was ….. Well, social media and the papers told her what they thought of that.
The new leader has to be first appointed by the party and then notified to the Electoral Commission. In the case of Theresa May this took a couple of days. 11 days after Diane’s election, nothing had been done, even after the Welsh debacle, nothing. Now we are told that the decision was made at a dinner with Nigel Farage in Strasbourg …
It was perfectly clear after the incidents in Cardiff that there were problems. For example, Diane James’s social media Twitter and FB presence fell from Twitter/Facebook 4-8 posts/tweets a day to 1 a day only over the last week. Steven Woolfe pushed onto BBC Question Time last Thursday, and a huge flurry of activity occurred, from The Woolfe Pack, Steven4leader and other supportive groups all clamouring for Woolfe to come to the forefront. That was what I took it for at the time, thinking Diane James is about to name him as deputy, place the new people in place and move on. All that, I have always thought, was a precursor to Woolfe seeking the leadership in 6 – 12 months. That reminds me always to go with my gut instinct! Then I was told about the cancelled meetings with the NEC and individual NEC members. That, to me, was the clear indication she was on her way out.
As a final point: the Party was itself breaking electoral law in failing to file the change of leader forms with the Electoral Commission in the 14 days allowed. Why was this allowed to occur? It does seem to reinforce what I have said above, about when the decision to ‘resign’ was taken.
So the ‘never wanted it candidate’ rides into the sunset – and where does this leave UKIP?
The answer to that question depends on whom you ask.
There have been many calls from activists and members for Nigel Farage to return, again. Just as many called for Woolfe and Duffy to become leader as well, with as many calls against. Many people ask: is Paul Nuttall going to run? Nothing has come from the party directly, which is at the minute giving the impression of a headless chicken.
Farage in his own indomitable style chose the Victoria Derbyshire programme to announce that he was therefore still the leader – something which I am prepared to bet 10/- and a sticky bun on as there was no reference to the Party. Given the spin being put on Diane James’ resignation, that she was not resigning but had never confirmed legally she was leader and therefore Nigel Farage was still the leader: that is what they now want, this will allow time, as it did in June, for Woolfe to get his act together.
The party needs unity; it needs leadership; more importantly it needs new direction. Will this come from one or even any of the candidates? We will see.
Few members will agree with this – but how the public see us is vital to maintain UKIP’s vote share. Just look at the preview of the Victoria Derbyshire show: the caricatures of Nigel Farage made us look foolish. Perhaps it is just not the time to give up on Nigel Farage – or is it time Farage really gave up on UKIP? Diane James did not think so – does UKIP?