I’ve been having a word with ‘er-indoors (aka “the management”) about Brexit and stuff. Since shaking off youthful flights of fancy, she has always voted for the Tory party. After the referendum she even joined it, full of enthusiasm, and remains a paid-up member. However, she’s now totally disillusioned with Mrs May’s capitulation to the Eurocrats.
Tory voters like Mrs Scott, given the Prime Minister’s Brexit debacle, represent an unprecedented opportunity for UKIP. To justify our name, we are uniquely duty-bound to engage with the public outcry on the vacillation – even treachery – of the last 28 months. But, instead, we have all-but disappeared from the debate. As the debacle of the government’s mishandling of Brexit negotiations approaches its climax, the one British party united in the aim of restoring the sovereignty of our nation is dismissed as irrelevant in the struggle.
What has gone wrong? Gerard Batten is now half way through his interim leadership, which rescued the party from the legacy of shambolic failure of his three democratically-elected predecessors. The internal conflict that led to embarrassing headlines in the media was quickly muted. Our relief, however, soon turned to a realisation that the general public is barely conscious of our existence, let alone our relevance. In the past we have been widely dismissed as a single-issue pressure-group. But the noise we emitted ensured that no one could ignore us.
How has this happened? At grassroots level, we continue to campaign and stand candidates for local government. But since the battle of the referendum was won and our then leader, miscalculating that so was the war, opted to embark on an extended sabbatical, none of his replacements has been either competent or able to capture the public imagination.
Our criticism of Mrs May’s craven surrender to each and every demand from our EU opponents in the negotiations has been feeble. We have left that task to Tory backbenchers – some of whom historically failed to prevent previous governments from submitting to the ratchet of EU supremacy over our once-proud nation. Why are we trusting them to put principle before party and personal prospects this time?
The explanation for this sorry state of affairs must inevitably include a failure of leadership. Gerard Batten is a strong performer at conference – less so to the wider public. A Brexpert, he speaks with quiet authority on the subject. Unfortunately, he lacks that rare quality of gravitas that attracts coverage in the media. And he doesn’t do populist video-rants on the ‘net like Pat Condell or Paul Joseph Watson.
More worrying than a lack of charisma is that the few pronouncements Mr Batten has managed to propagate nationally have concerned the sensitive and controversial subject of Islam, on which issue he has flirted with Tommy Robinson and fallen out with the few MSM reporters that have covered his events.
I’ve marched in protest against the speed, manner and legality of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s incarceration last spring. But we should be keeping him at arm’s length; not least to demonstrate that UKIP is not occupying the extreme right of popular, legal UK politics, and that we are certainly not anti-Muslim (as opposed to anti-Islamist). Let the Democratic Football Lads and others fit that label in the media. By all means condemn female genital mutilation, Muslim rape gangs and the overwhelming of our Judaeo-Christian culture, but leave out the ideological attack on Islam – at least for the time being.
In the future, if it is to be a serious contender for government, UKIP will have to agree a manifesto – like we offered in 2015 – to cover the spectrum of issues facing the UK in its post-Brexit freedom. But any aspirations on this multitude of matters are no more than that if the government fails to extract us from the EU and its diktats. And Brexit is an issue on which – unlike Islam and most of the others – our party can speak in complete unison.
Instead, our party leader is distracted by justifying his well-argued statement – currently an anathema to virtually all commentators in mainstream media – that Islam is a death-cult.
The resulting fallout has hindered him from projecting UKIP to the nation as a viable alternative for Tory and Labour voters. His presence as a popular guest-speaker on the subjects of freedom of speech, Brexit and Islam at several events organised by right-wing groups, such as Robinson’s aforementioned football lads, would be fine, except that – so far – he has not appeared at any pro-Brexit rally frequented by mainstream politicians of the kind with whom we campaigned during the referendum. One has to wonder if he has been invited to such events and – if not – why not?
[To be continued with Part II, published here in UKIP Daily tomorrow.]