A terrible campaign for the Conservatives led by a faltering Prime Minister, combined with the biggest giveaway I can remember from the Labour opposition, has threatened Brexit and sucked the life out of the smaller parties.
Where do we go to now?
UKIP’s organisational flaws are legendary and elitist self-interest at the top of the party hasn’t addressed this, neither is it likely to. A combination of our flaws and its effect upon the election result, along with the country mood, has lost us major party status and the platform we had, because we simply weren’t ready to paint the next scene in our party’s development. Let’s hope we can use the existing system to select the right new leader, or perhaps the interim leadership will redesign and implement a robust system with real scrutiny before it begins. The last thing we need is another beauty contest. Somehow, I do not think this will happen simply because the interim leadership is also part of the problem, devoid of ideas, unwilling to consider the views of us ‘ordinary’ plebs and cognisant of that all-important self-interest.
We will not be ready for some time to come, whomever is selected as leader, so we do need to develop a strategy now for the next election, which may be this year or next. It really doesn’t seem feasible for this weakened government and Prime Minister to carry on for much longer in the face of opportunistic opposition from an unprincipled Labour Party. The next election must return a strong Conservative majority and to do that UKIP must sit it out and recommend to all our supporters that they vote once more to get the Brexit we sorely need. It is unheard of for a party to simply sit back, but in this case, it is what we need to do.
The interim can, therefore, be used to build a better party machine, choose a leader that can connect with all people and not just a single-issue audience. They will immediately re-brand the party with a new-look and a new name, introduce a direct democratic element into the party organisation for policy development and elections to positions of authority as well as to raise the bar on candidate selection. We need structure which targets winning elections as opposed to just contending them. We also need to attract funding to the cause to develop and sustain a functioning organisation.
But, above all that we need a new cause, a new raison d’être, that can attract mass support, so it would seem sensible to begin with an idea that is already halfway there.
As a PPC, without any party support, one of only a handful nationally who saved his deposit, I have first-hand experience of what it’s like when your former supporters simply don’t see you as relevant. We had no help from the party central, virtually none from the local party members, who probably all felt the job had been done, and a distinct lack of availability from former party activists. Nowhere was the collapse in our support more visible than in the disappearance of local help. When we began there was no UKIP manifesto, so I wrote my own. In fact, we did a few things differently and perhaps that helped get over the 5% benchmark.
Were it to be me contesting a new leadership election I would begin by determining that which will bring support back to the party and attempt to combine that same support where it exists in other parties. Naturally, internal organisation will need to be improved, but with a declared intention not to compete in a general election, were that to happen in the next year or so, we would not be side-tracked by an opportunistic establishment.
So, what would I do?
- Whilst electoral reform has been dealt a blow by a return to two party politics it still has universal support. Not only UKIP, but the Greens and the Liberal Democrats as well as every other small party and our electorate are generally supportive of extending democracy and it would be easier to work together to counter the clearly false argument that FPTP makes for strong government. I would seek to present a collective policy across parties on this most fundamental issue, an issue that will forever change the face of our government. Coalitions will be formed, but with the concomitant introduction of direct democracy principles parliamentarians will be bound, more often, to do what the people want as opposed to what they want. Within this reform, postal voting would be severely limited and electronic voting introduced. It goes without saying that firstly we embody the principle of direct democracy into our own organisation.
- I would change the name and look of the party to reflect our future ideals. Brexit is still fundamental but we are so weakened by the 2017 result that we have no influence above high-profile advocates. As a party, we must look elsewhere for support. A re-birth is needed.
- I would dispense with the concept of a last-minute manifesto and instead have a rolling manifesto so everyone at any time can see what we stand for. Imagine how helpful that would be for local elections. If ideas get nicked, so what?
- I would set out a vision to counter globalism and the profiteering that so damages our economy. Infrastructure industries and services must have their ownership domiciled in the UK. A new company structure would be created to allow the best of private enterprise into infrastructure enterprise, but without the most damaging, greed ridden and tax avoiding practices of the multinational corporate. This is by far the best way to run infrastructure industries and not the disastrous former experiment of nationalisation.
Let’s hope someone else also thinks this way.