Doesn’t it seem as if months have gone by since Conference? A week ago some of us were on their way back home, others were going through their notes, everybody was looking forward to news from our new leader and how she was going to tackle the issues we had been talking about in the weeks of campaigning.
Today, it feels as if a big blanket has descended over UKIP, covering up everything. We have a new leader, acknowledged by the MSM with an interview on the Sunday Politics Show exactly a week ago – and: that was it?
You might say that the events taking place at Labour were of far more importance – after all, they also have a new leader, who is the old leader, and surely their internal turmoil is more important. True enough, but doesn’t that turmoil, gleefully spread across the MSM, provide one of the great chances for UKIP? Or is it perhaps the case that we ourselves have been doing so much damage to ourselves, internally, that, new leader or not, we are incapable of grasping it? Events don’t wait for reorganisations …
Instead, we see how the Big Beasts in UKIP have gone to ground, nowhere to be seen or heard. We watch how that line from a song by ‘The Who’ (”Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”) is made real: members again don’t need to be told about what is going on – we must wait until someone from ‘On High’ deems it necessary to inform us.
It’s not as if the Big Beasts were incapable – after all, members did get a letter about the very sad news of Dr Raj Chandran’s death during Conference, and rightly so. Many of us have known or met this lovely man. But if it’s possible to pay a well-deserved tribute to one of our prominent members, then surely it is possible to inform members that Suzanne Evans has been reinstated? Or is that deemed to be an unimportant administrative procedure which doesn’t concern members?
How strange – given the passions at conference, especially in regard to UKIP Wales, where the speech of the leader of the UKIP Group in the Welsh Assembly, Neil Hamilton, was cancelled and the former leader of UKIP Wales, Nathan Gill, was given his slot!
Since so many members had expressed their anger and fury about Mr Hamilton’s election that some even went so far as to deface his and Christine Hamilton’s signature on that ‘wall’ next to the exhibition hall one would have thought that the new leader would at least have made reassuring noises about Suzanne Evans’ re-instatement, so that members would know and not have to find out through the usual denigrating remarks about UKIP in online comments!
It seems as if the one issue which has concerned members the most – being kept in the dark by Officialdom – is not going to be tackled in the near future. This is a huge mistake, which UKIP will pay for.
Take the situation in Wales:
To an outsider, it looks as if the Group Leader in the Assembly is only being tolerated by the new leadership and that party rules can be disregarded for the sake of presenting a united front when everybody, especially inside UKIP Wales, knows that this ain’t the case.
This a highly dangerous attitude to adopt. It may play well inside London Head Office, but the consequences for UKIP Wales may be very costly indeed, as the results of a YouGov Poll shows, where UKIP apparently loses voters to the Tories. Before anybody says that it’s because we have an ex-Tory as Group leader, let’s be clear about a few things:
Neil Hamilton has been a member of UKIP for years. UKIP Wales members had the opportunity to vote him off the assembly candidates list earlier this year, and Welsh voters had the opportunity not to vote for him. He did get the votes both to stand and to become Assembly member. If, as Diane James made clear at Conference, the work of the former Tory MP Douglas Carswell – who is a far more recent UKIP member than Neil Hamilton, btw – is so important for UKIP that she gives him her full support, then the same surely applies to Neil Hamilton. On that evidence, members are entitled to ask: ‘if not – why not?”, aren’t they!
Doesn’t it look as if the leadership campaign promises, the informal talks at Conference, the reassurances about valuing us grassroot members were really only reassuring noises, now that there’s no big campaign to be fought – no EU Parliamentary elections, no General election, no EU Referendum. We members can all go home, put away our boots, talk amongst ourselves, but mustn’t disturb Officialdom.
We no longer need to know, don’t deserve to be told, and don’t need to concern ourselves with the direction UKIP should take under our new leader. Head Office will do it all for us, from personal decisions as to who the new Chairman will be, to Finances – which are in such excellent state that the ‘Thank-You’ letter sent to all members by our new leader had yet another ‘please donate’ request attached (bad form, that!) – to the new NEC … or will there be something else?
We’re again not being told!
Obviously we cannot expect our new leader to have formulated a shiny new ‘cabinet’, swinging her new broom, dealing with everything we members have criticised during that one week. That would indeed be asking for the impossible.
But as ordinary members we can ask: what are all those meejah people and support staff at Head Quarters doing now? Is there nobody who can send an electronic newsletter to members to keep them up-to-date? After all, it was done every single day during the EU Referendum campaign, and very welcome that was!
Let me tell Head Quarters this:
We are UKIP.
We are not like the other parties, with those ‘Up There’ telling us what to do, how to think, but otherwise keep quiet until needed to spend our enthusiasm in the hard work of leafletting, canvassing, manning street stalls and defending UKIP for things which the ones ‘Up There’ do without us being involved, never mind being told.
If some big donors in UKIP want us to become more modern, more ‘online’ – then let them take the first step by informing us members! Let them take the first step by being above-board in all they do – no secrecy, no spurious ‘confidentiality’! Let them address the fact that there are so many members with huge expertise, who come up with valuable proposals on policies or with practical suggestions.
There’s no transmission from us to those above, as there’s none from those above to us. That may well turn out to be our downfall as party which is different from all others.
A week is indeed a long time in politics. Are we going to squander all our successes of the last years, are we going to squander that which makes us unique by failing to grasp this new opportunity we have got thanks to a new leadership?
Is it really going to be ‘meet the new boss – same as the old boss’?
That would be a shame …