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The crossroads continued…

This article began as an observation on Paul Smyth’s article ‘UKIP – At A Crossroads’ which makes an important contribution to resolving the question ‘who are we?’.

I joined UKIP because I believed it could (and still can) satisfy the need for a truly national party free of the low level corruption endemic within the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. For me, UKIP’s real purpose is to become and to remain a potent political force and to do that the party has to develop its internal structures and procedures as well as discard a command and communications mechanism which relies upon two, almost unconnected, entities; the party central on the one side and constituency associations, members and supporters on the other.

We have been both helped and constrained by a leader with great debating skills and a prominent celebrity status. Everyone, including those who don’t even know who the prime minster is will know who Nigel is. His particular ability to connect with people and raise issues that the politically correct will not dare to mention has been the principle factor in an amazing rise in the popularity of UKIP over the last two years. However, such reliance cannot and will not fuel the next stage of growth because rhetoric and style always become stale and unfashionable without new impetus and it is always necessary to re-brand from time to time to engender that feel of freshness and a sense of moving on.

We, perhaps, don’t need a new leader but we do need a new party (structure). Labour did this re-branding exercise with spectacular success with the New Labour concept and a leader with an extraordinary ability to connect and sound sincere, despite the fact that in 1997 we were in a period of strong economic growth largely due to the former Tory years. The Tory brand had simply gone sour and it appeared that they had nothing more to offer.

The constraints that have been unwittingly borne by the party are paradoxically due to the phenomenal success that Nigel has personally created. Essentially, we have ignored structural development of the party as a whole simply because our fairy godmother’s wand seemed to be achieving everything we could have possibly hoped for. However that phase of our development may be coming to an end.

The EU referendum will come and go. Whatever the result there remains a need and desire in the UK for a party with a broader support base, that isn’t reliant on funding from polarised groups and therefore not beholden to any extreme factions. Our current political system is defined by such opposites and the shallowness of political discourse is now the norm when the long term well-being of all our citizens should be the centre of any argument. There is no reason that leaving the EU could not remain a principle policy commitment should the referendum vote be to remain. After all, a general election outranks a referendum.

At the moment I’m not sure which party we are. I know there are those for whom the referendum is the entire purpose of UKIP and for them it can hold no meaning after. However if the majority of the current party also see a clear need for a party to be as well supported in Oldham as it is in Tunbridge Wells then only UKIP can achieve that.

Perhaps, many years ago, it would have been more difficult, it certainly was for a failed SDP that attempted the same disruption of the two party state and eventually joined with the Liberals just to survive but, now the political landscape is different. The opportunities for a real third force are as pronounced as they will ever be. With Jeremy Corbyn marching his Labour Party away from the electorate at ever increasing speed UKIP could be the force to replace them, but it will not do that on the basis of celebrity only. Having seen the SDP try that with a quartet of high profile and experienced parliamentarians we should be in no doubt that such a strategy simply doesn’t work.

It is the membership that makes parties work, often against unintentional opposition from their leaders. We can still see effective grass roots groups of Liberal Democrats despite their former disastrous leader and being currently encumbered with a hopelessly inadequate one. A successful party needs both.

Well, it’s fine to criticise but what we really need is direction. The party has to change, become more open and take a close look at some of our appointed spokespeople who consistently underperform when the spotlight is at its brightest.

For me, the party has a structure which is dysfunctional. This is principally responsible for the tenuous connection between those who march through the constituency’s streets and those who direct the party’s agenda. Even the very foundation of our organisation, the constitution, is wanting. We have an executive whose members are largely unknown but even that anonymity pales into insignificance when compared to the mystery of what they actually do and how effective they are. We are still operating on a structure that might have worked for a few mates starting a party to get us out of the EU but will fail us in creating a party capable of government.

The real test for any political party is policy. An area in which, historically, we (UKIP) have been spectacularly inconsistent. If we have the ideas and vision for today’s many issues the support will follow but unless the organisational structure, processes and communications lines are functioning we can never be in a position to create that wide ranging policy platform to deliver to the populace. All the time policy is handed to someone to dream up we’ll continually miss opportunities and fall down holes. I will not need to remind you of the counter-productive policy emissions that have spewed forth in previous elections.

So, what to do? Well, perhaps we can begin with some fundamental principles?

1.       The party governance must be representative and transparent. This means the executive should be comprised of regional representatives, (not necessarily the geographic areas we currently refer to as ‘regions’) they should be a part of regional organisation structures and report back regularly on their meetings, views, contributions and voting records. A member with an issue, or an idea, then has a formal structure and a person to go through.

2.       We need a robust process for policy determination and that should be operating permanently. It should include the concept of a ‘red team’ which is a group of people completely unconnected with the formulation of the policy being reviewed with the remit to challenge it. Red teams can be drawn from the membership as and when needed (we really do have the skills). Policy creation and publication should be ongoing to promote honesty and transparency to the electorate. We should not be concerned with the slightly paranoid view that other parties will steal our ideas. That way we will be fully ready for a general election long before the other parties and the publication of our manifesto will no longer be the surprise ‘toy’ but simply a confirmation of something everybody already knows well.

3.       We should actively encourage the registration of supporters as well as members. Many do not want to ‘join’ a political party but will support one. We had 3.8 million of those in May 2015.

4.       We must revolutionise fund raising by donation. The typical political demand ‘give us your money’ has limited effect. The simple principles should be to a) connect b) inform c) tell people what we need to buy d) ask them for money then e) tell them what we spent it on.

I could go on but space is limited.

To attain governance we need to up our game considerably and there will never be a better opportunity to step into the void that Labour is creating. Sadly I see no signs that the fundamental party structures and purpose will change but, fingers crossed?

 

 

 

Photo by amyjane1

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About David Allen (89 Articles)
Author and political innovator. UKIP Borough Council candidate 2016, KCC candidate 2017, Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood 2017 in which he saved his deposit.

6 Comments on The crossroads continued…

  1. If UKIP is as bad as people have been saying here then after the referendum it could be pretty much finished. Perhaps a coup is needed….?

  2. I don’t know enough about this stuff to really comment but item 2) where UKIP is to be transparent such that other parties can nick their policies seems too open to me…..?

  3. David, you wrote an excellent road map and your proposals are indeed necessary to take the Party beyond the BREXIT campaign.
    Especially the question of communication and transparency must urgently be addressed, with communication perhaps the most important one. It’s ridiculous that during the GE candidates weren’t able to print their own leaflets because the agreed template couldn’t be downloaded from HQ and made to work, in spite of tech savvy members willing to fiddle.

    There’s however one even more important point. We’ve lived through the slime and smears of both the 2014 EU campaign and the GE last year. It never was that bad before because we weren’t perceived as dangerous to the establishment.
    We ought to stop shaking in our boots whenever a lefty hack throws dirt at us, and above all we must take up as a matter of urgency the righteous complaints and anger coming from members, supporters and the general public in regard to that Fifth Column in our midst. The time for that is – now! On the background of the “refugee crisis”, the helpless performance of the EU and the plain anger expressed by so many people in so many European countries we surely don’t have to be so feeble and walk on eggshells when it’s a question of those migrants! If the Germans are now demanding that hacks and politicians call them ‘nazis’ when they point out what is happening, then we surely are strong enough to shrug off the useless epithet ‘racist’ by now?
    We’ve often talked on these pages that this nettle must be grasped. The various frauds, the ‘client’ policies by Labour, surely if we don’t address them and point out why they happen, we cannot ever say that we’ll be truly independent.

  4. Roger,
    I’m sure you are right and I have no insider information either.
    My approach to resolving this issue was to stand unsuccessfully for the Executive, which I did recently. Unfortunately, the rather stagnant nature of UKIP means that the principle body that could drive the kind of change the party needs is itself entrenched and difficult to change.
    A voting system that disallows campaigning, provides no information on the performance of existing executive members and allows only the briefest of information to be presented to the voting member is firmly biased toward a) the status quo and b) anyone whose name one might have heard.
    In essence it is an election of the anonymous by the uninformed. Most organisations that use this method do so to ensure that nothing really changes.
    However, I’ll stand again next year.
    As to your innovative reclamation idea I rather prefer a system of immigration control and subsequent integration as opposed to the creation of immigrant only ghettos, offshore or not. I think we have enough of those already.

    • Thank you for your comments David and also taking into account Colliemum`s subsequent posting with which I agree, my “suggestion” was made in the sense of your original posting i.e. identifying the problem and providing a solution .
      Ghettoisation might eventually prove to be a problem, but look at the overall gain.
      Not least of which is the rolling back of the seas to the original boundaries “nature intended”

  5. David,
    Please forgive me if I am talking “without the book.”
    ………… all your ideas are, in my view, sound, however, this particular medium has no chance of carrying them forward, as we have learned on other threads the chance of their onward transmission to HO and any reaction from that quarter is Zilch.
    ………..and as for the massed ranks of the ordinary footsloggers ever having an avenue on a regional basis, that is remote.
    ……….as far as I can see while the NEC remains the tool of certain members of the upper management (you will notice I do not say Nigel) which, since the demise of the old Forum no change is possible.
    ……………..David, I hope you know different!
    Now for my cunning plan……..
    In the spirit of not criticising a plan, without having a solution to put in place.
    UKIP have endlessly cavilled against Cross Border Migration and the costly and ineffective measures taken against so called climate change, particularly the failure to dredge waterways.
    Primarily, we say population density for the land available is too high. Why not follow the Dutch method, create a “New Britain”, by pushing outward from the coast in shallow/ish areas, reclaiming the land, allowing in Immigrants prepared to work on and settle on the new land they have proved their patriotism by input into the actual soil of the country This would also help to aid our defences of low lying coastal land and provide a spur to industry involved in the work and eventually soil on which to grow crops to feed this population increase

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