Well, there’s nothing quite as democratic as sparking a fine debate, and my Part 1 certainly achieved that. I will not attempt to reply to each and every comment, but will say the following.
I am not on Diane James campaign team. Frankly, of late, my involvement in UKIP has been minimal because of both personal circumstances and my disgust at all the squabbling. I went to Diane’s presentation because it was at a convenient date/time, in a convenient location and I had always been impressed by Diane’s performances before when I had seen her “live” and in shows like Question Time. She is not a personal friend but I have met and talked with her several times, and have always found her polite, courteous, well-informed and persuasive. That’s my personal opinion, and no longer being the Editor-in-Chief of UKIP Daily, I have the freedom to express those opinions, right or wrong.
My report was written from a combination of memory, a few scrawled notes and it was my record of what I heard – I cannot guarantee absolutely that the words Diane spoke I reported precisely. And, yes, I’m biased in support of her, I said so. Any complaints anyone has about Diane or her website, I would suggest you address them to her, not me, but I do agree that something needs to be done about the sound quality of the Eastleigh event video and to erase the music.
Before my report on the Q+A session I will say it was unscripted, the questions were random from the floor, none seemed to be primed, and my own question certainly wasn’t! To avoid being too long, I will not report on ALL the questions, but I believe I have captured over 80% of them.
Q – A gentleman from the Oldham branch raised the question of postal vote rigging.
A – Diane felt that the whole establishment had tried to suppress the issue of postal vote fraud, even some people within UKIP. One of her plans was to form a Shadow Cabinet and one member would be responsible for Elections – taking the fight on postal vote fraud to the government, ensuring that we had a candidate standing for every election at every level, and thereby scrutinising every single count. She wanted UKIP to have many more MPs to raise the issue of voting reform in the House of Commons.
Q – How do you plan to target Corbyn’s Labour?
A – Many of Corbyn’s close supporters, such as those who have joined for £3, are young. But there are many people who vote Labour who have not woken up to the fact that Labour no longer represents them. Addressing the youth vote was important as well, younger people tended towards Labour and she wanted to see Young Independence strengthened and developed.
Q – One gentleman did accuse Diane of being “part of the problem” of the infighting, a point made by some of the commenters on Part 1. (My feeling on the night was that a majority in the room were hostile to the question. There was another question on the infighting from someone else too.)
A – Her answer was short, that to gain electoral success one could not have factions within the party publicly feuding with each other. She did not want to be part of that: she wanted to unify the party. She also was appalled that behaviour of some senior members which would get grassroots members suspended was tolerated.
Q – There was a question on regional administration.
A – While some regions are better run than others, Diane wants to see best practice shared and some more responsibility given to the regions to lessen the pressure on the governing body (that, I know from what NEC members have said to me, spends far too much time discussing purely local matters and not addressing the strategic issues). She also said she wanted to see more support to branches, more grassroots people having opportunities in the party. On seeing Jack Duffin (all the way from Thurrock) in the audience she drew reference to the superb work carried out in Thurrock, led by Tim Aker as an example of good Branch practice.
Q – One chap complimented Diane on her TV appearances under interview, but felt she was always on the defensive and asked when she was going onto the attack against hostile interviewers?
A – Her response was simply “See my last interview with Andrew Neil”
Q – My question (as an IS/IT Professional) was about how important effective Information Systems were nowadays to manage the party internally, to help win elections and project it externally.
A – Her answer was that one of her Shadow Cabinet members would be responsible for Information Systems. And each Cabinet member would be encouraged to have professional people supporting them in their portfolio and I received an invitation to submit my CV to that person when (there’s confidence for you!) they are appointed.
Q – Would Diane do anything about UKIP Brand Management?
A – Her answer was based on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. She had no evidence of any pressing need to retain the current party name and logo or change them, so it would need be a matter for further evidence-based consideration.
Q – One gentleman asked if there would be a Christian manifesto. There was another question on Sharia Law and FGM.
A – Diane’s answer was that religion is a difficult topic. She would not support any divisive measures to restrain any one particular faith, although she would expect all faiths to abide by the law of land. While she was not a practising Christian, she believed in Christian values and accepted the Queen’s role as Head of the Church of England.
Q – There was a question on the environment.
A – She observed that the Green Party had tried to grab the initiative here, but felt UKIP should have a well-rounded manifesto that would include environmental issues like energy policy, replacing (or not) EU environmental grants, water supplies and minimising the building on greenfield sites.
Q – Someone asked about financing
A – Her view was that people back winners. She wanted to create an attractive party that did not repel large donors and to reach a point where all members could wear their UKIP badge with pride. She also wanted to see a Finance Director with professional qualifications whose approach would be beyond reproach.
Q – There was a question on her proposal for an EGM and another on why she felt the party organisation needed changing.
A – She said the primary objective would be to consider the problems of the outdated party constitution, and consequently the structure of the governing body and roles. In terms of why, she said that compared to other parties, she wanted to see the shackles on the leader loosened, as there had been too many examples of the NEC holding up the party’s progress. She wanted to have an examination of the way the whole system worked; to redraft the constitution; to avoid the NEC deliberating on branch disputes, and to have a governing body that held the party to account. Coupled with that, a system that provided the infrastructure and appropriately skilled individuals to gain electoral success; 1st places not 2nd places.