It has been just two weeks since Henry was crowned. The culmination of three months of umbilicus inspection saw a unique Conference for a rebranded UKIP. A lion was revealed.
The leadership election, the third in my time as a UKIP member, started way back on the 9th of June on the resignation of Paul Nuttall after the disastrous general election campaign. Some would argue it started after the Stoke debacle, but I don’t wish to argue that point.
June the 9th gave UKIP activists and members a stark hit of political reality. From gaining the votes of nearly four million voters in 2015, UKIP garnered the votes of less than 600,000 electors in a post Referendum Britain. Hard to bear political reality. Leave voters returned to their political homes, motivated either by the fear of Corbyn’s Labour, or hatred of the ‘nasty’ Tories. The most negative of elections.
The political miscalculations by the UKIP leadership were gargantuan. A party which did not know its voters. A party unclear as to whether to stand candidates. A party incapable of selecting candidates. A party incapable of providing deposits. A party unable to understand where its target seats were or where to focus resources. A party unclear as to its purpose.
Meanwhile, down in the mysterious environment of the UKIP ‘grassroots’, stoic work was ongoing in spite of the rudderless meanderings of the UKIP hierarchy. Organised and committed candidates and activists were working against the usual barriers and obstacles on behalf of our cause – to ensure the United Kingdom leaves the EU and regains its independence. Theresa May announced a snap general election on 18th April 2017.
On the 19th April 2017 I was in the local photographer’s studio with another UKIP candidate getting portraits done and by 26th April our literature was designed and ordered, funding having been sourced locally with minimum assistance from region and none from the central Party. Further literature was ordered for the ‘Postal address’ through the UKIP system. Some, though not all, reached letter boxes in the constituency. The national campaign was a disaster. The Party even failed to publish a manifesto in time for the postal vote drop – you literally could not make this level of incompetence up.
During the general election campaign I received direct assistance from John Rees Evans who gave of his time and skills to make a promotional video. I received moral support from communication with Anne Marie Waters, the only representative of the Party who said what needed to be said after the Manchester bombing on 23rd May. No other Party representative or officer provided either assistance or encouragement during the campaign. On the 9th of June 2017 reality crystallised and Paul Nuttall resigned.
The resignation of Paul Nuttall clearly re-energised many in the Party. Perspective can be distorting, but a renewed and enthused effort seemed to come forth from many UKIPers that had not been apparent from them during the General Election.
In the preceding three months I have witnessed, from some UKIP members, more effort going into attacking the character and person of fellow UKIP members than in attacking the policies of our political opponents. I have seen the selfish underbelly of the Party. I have seen an MEP and branch Chairman support the attempts of left wing thug groups and the Police ‘Service’ to silence Anne Marie Waters in Rotherham on 1st July 2017. I have read the words credited to Bill Etheridge in the Telegraph and the Mirror labelling members of the Party with the familiar tropes ‘far right’, ‘neo-fascists’, and ‘infiltrators’. I have seen the Party elite attempt to have Anne Marie Waters removed from the ballot. I have seen the new Party leader attempt to remove Anne Marie Waters from the ballot through use of solicitor threats.
During the leadership hustings, several of the candidates took an approach to Anne Marie Waters of ‘playing the (wo)man not the ball’. Henry Bolton argued that the tone and the language used by Anne Marie Waters were unhelpful.
Four months after the general election and UKIP has a new leader who has now been in post for less than two weeks. The political errors from earlier in the leadership campaign have now manifested themselves in the creation of a new party ‘For Britain’. Did those who supported Henry Bolton during the leadership campaign understand this inevitable consequence, or had they not been paying attention?
Divided? Ruled? UKIP as a party claims ownership of the Brexit issue, but the public and the voters just do not see it the same way. UKIP has failed to move on from the Party that spent years fighting the just fight: to ensure a future for Britain outside the EU and return sovereignty and self-determination to the people. The UKIP message, whatever that may be – for the voters don’t know – has failed to move out of the campaigning past and failed to project a vision for the future of the nation and national politics in a post EU era.
Divided the former party now is, with John Rees Evans also leaving UKIP to join a different new party ‘Affinity’. Politics is changing, the voters are discontent and the Labour/Conservative stranglehold on politics is currently tightening due to the divisions in UKIP that have manifested themselves since the 2016 referendum and the resignation of Nigel Farage. Yet the stranglehold relies on the wafer thin confidence of a disgruntled public.
There remains a political opportunity for a Party that gets its pitch right and engages the widespread interest of the general public. I will leave you with a thought, one to reflect on, often over the coming weeks and months: Which Party can realistically do this?