Finally, after months of electioneering and campaigning, it is now upon us: the AGM 2017! 

The first intrepid members started to arrive yesterday afternoon and in the evening we had the Chairman’s Barbeque. Since it was raining – what a surprise! -, the eating took place indoors, although we did have to queue outside to pick up the plates with our choice of food. The queues were long, as were those inside for the drinks. Rain on hot food: that made me think of camping holidays of times past …

I went into ‘prominence spotting’ straightaway on arrival. Well, how could I not – the first ‘big beast’ was right there at reception when I checked in: Peter Jewell. I wasn’t wearing my UKIP Daily badge (that’s for today) so thankfully I passed unnoticed.

Readers, I’m staying in the same Grand Hotel Agatha Christie used to stay in! It’s grand, and I have a proper single room, with one single bed only. The window looks out to the sea, so sitting on the bed resting form travelling I watched big and small sailing boats sailing back and forth, motor yachts, the lot. And seagulls. Lovely!

Later in the coffee lounge more big beasts were spotted by yours truly, roaming free: Steve Crowther, Peter Whittle, Gawain Towler (UKIP PR), David Rowlands AM and the ubiquitous Mr Jewell.

I didn’t approach any of them, but did have a brief chat with Mike Hookem MEP who had just arrived from Brussels, driving! He was flat-out tired and would not later attend the Chairman’s “Do”.

Since the weather was still nice, and since I had time on my hands, I decided to walk around a bit, trying to see if one really could walk to the Riviera International where everything is taking place: yes one can indeed! It was a lovely walk through open public spaces with lots of enclosures for sports, a tiny golf course included, and of course the sea on the other side. And dogs. A pity the wind picked up, freezing me to the bone.

So – to the event. Members started to trickle in early, and as always on such occasions, it was a joy to greet friends whom one hadn’t seen for some time, sometimes since the last AGM. It was even more joyful to mingle with those who share the rather critical outlook about the Party Management team which has been running like a red thread through articles and comment posts here on UKIP Daily. I regret to say that some of us, me included, did not behave in a thoroughly lady-like fashion: we warned each other of who was behind us so we could turn our backs. Not that the ‘prominence’ took a blind bit of notice …!

So: who was there? Mr Paul Oakden, of course, as the genial host. He did greet all he recognised. Mr Jewell and Mr Bickley from the management team (no, I did not speak to them). Roger Helmer MEP was there, so was Stuart Agnew MEP. Of the candidates: Peter Whittle, Ben Walker representing Jane Collins’ Team ‘UKIP United’, a beaming David Kurten and a relaxed, smiling Henry Bolton who was accosted everywhere he went. AMW and JRE were absent.

Closer to home, UKIP Daily’s contributor and candidate David Allen was there, as was Ted Wildey who sadly is not too well and thus hasn’t been able to send us his thoughts. Last and by no stretch of the imagination least: Stout Yeoman, whom you all know from his articles and comment posts!

The main topic on everybody’s lips naturally was who’d win the leadership contest, and did anybody have some sneak insider knowledge? No, no-one did – all must’ve come from Barcelona …

The unanimous verdict was: we don’t know – too close to call – unpredictable. All were agreed that they’d never seen anything like this campaign, and regretted the polarisation of members which we’ve also seen here on UKIP Daily.

So – we all have to exercise our patience and keep waiting until later today, until the official announcement at either 4.15 pm or 5.15 pm.

Talking to members, there’s been a bit of satisfying news: UKIP Daily has gained more readers during these months of campaigning, the comments being read and enjoyed as well as the articles.

Soon it’ll be time for the real fun-and-games to kick off. Your intrepid newshound (that’s me!) will try and report on the atmosphere of the meeting, the members’ opinions, and like you I’ll be chewing my fingernails up to my elbows from 4 p.m. onwards.

As soon as I know who “it” is, you’ll get to read it here on UKIP Daily, in the live blog.

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