Now living in the soggy North-West, I was privileged to attend Diane’s superb presentation and question/answer session in Manchester city centre on the evening of 22nd August. Having just sat for a long time at 0 mph on the dreadful M6 in the roadworks south of Junction 19, her opening remark was “What Northern Powerhouse?” which was well received!

Diane started by saying she felt the whole country was open electorally to UKIP’s advances, not just North, South, East and West England, but also Wales and even Scotland and Northern Ireland, mainly thanks to the opportunities created by Jeremy Corbyn, as the Labour Party tears itself apart.

In terms of her own potential role as leader, she pledged it would be to:

…lead UKIP to ensure that we have a laser focus on how the Government is implementing its ‘Brexit means Brexit’ promises, so that we can control both our own borders and negotiate quality Bi-lateral trade deals with the dozens of countries around the world that want to increase prosperity with an enterprising Brexit Britain

She then focused on what needs to be done within UKIP, but she believes in the old axiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, while branches didn’t need fixing, she did feel that much was broke in UKIP at the top and did need fixing in the areas of its systems, processes, infrastructure, financing and governance. At the heart of what was broken a major part of the problem is people who do not support UKIP’s aims, creating a handbrake on our progress. This had manifested itself during the last weekend with some particularly unpleasant in-fighting, which is one reason Diane had chosen to hold her own hustings.

Diane then outlined the key areas of policy development she wanted to see:

  • The NHS is on its knees, and the government is covering up many of the facts. UKIP needs to propose policies that will get to the root of problem. She had worked in medical research all her life, some of the time within the NHS and did understand those problems herself.
  • Defence and Security is also compromised with our hobbled armed forces. In particular she cited the 10,000 migrants in Calais now, and the impossible task of stopping the clever and resourceful people smugglers from getting past the Royal Navy’s three home water patrol vessels. Our armed forces must be given the chance to deliver
  • On Social Housing she felt that far too many council houses had been sold off, and all the government does now is to prime private developers to make large profits on high-priced detached homes.
  • And she was totally committed to Proportional Representation, having been a founder member of the PR Alliance. While the current leadership election was also under a “first past the post” system because of the constitution, she also believed that bore reconsideration.

She also reminded us of how excellent the 2015 manifesto had been, how Breitbart had applauded it, but how the mainstream ignored it by focusing on what they saw as a few negative aspects of the party – Diane aimed to change that as well, to take the fight to them,

And change was needed. The grassroots of the party did an excellent job, she said, producing the stars of the future, the next generation. She believed Young Independence needed more support and nurturing. But the whole machine was held back by an outdated constitution: by an NEC that blocked progress more often than it supported it, let alone initiate progress. She felt the NEC was not fit for purpose or value for money. Her vision was for a governing body that had the necessary skills in areas such as finance, legal and creating electoral success: she wanted to see it have regional representation and make that body’s members accountable… and sack-able. Once elected leader, one her first steps would be to seek an EGM to discuss those very matters. Most in the room agreed with her on this.

Diane had a contingency plan though. She had immense admiration for what Nigel had achieved. And, if she couldn’t push through constitutional and NEC reforms, she would work with her fellow MEPs to fight for Brexit to really happen, to ensure the government delivered on it, and for UKIP to take the credit.

And we had to focus on winning more often: more councillors and more MEPs. Diane was also convinced that the early circulation of voter registration reminders was a clear hint that the government was considering an early election to exploit the division in Labour’s ranks: UKIP had to be ready for that.

I have notes for the question and answer session that followed, and have just decided, as the word count passes 800 and my stomach rumbles, to take a break from writing this and later write a Part 2.

However, right now, I am nailing my colours to the mast. I am voting for Diane James for Leader. I urge all our readers to do the same. And if you don’t agree with me, why not tell us all why in the comments below?

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