A few days ago John Rees-Evans was invited by Daily Brexit Producer Olly Connelly to be interviewed on his facebook broadcast.
The interview lasted close on an hour and a half and JRE spoke at length about UKIP and his reasons for leaving the party, and also about the aims and future plans of Affinity, the party that he has joined. Many of their core principles are similar to UKIP’s but based of course on a system of Direct Democracy. I recommend a listen.
The innovation and ambition of those plans and ideas is quite breathtaking. But that’s hardly surprising I suppose when John’s aspirations and campaigns for the future of UKIP were always demonstrably groundbreaking and visionary.
The programme of the practical steps for achieving revolutionary changes in the entire political system of the country is impressively outlined. The scale of the envisaged infrastructure needed is vast; and the magnitude of the resources that will be invested in the project is simply immense.
Indeed, how could it be anything else when JRE is talking about a party with intentions of employing 41,000 staff, having 650 permanent constituency offices, producing their own radio and TV content, and the creation of a ‘parallel Parliament’? JRE believes, that at that level, the estimated staffing costs alone will be upwards of £950 million per annum.
Writing as a supporter of JRE, I must emphasise that the purpose of this article is not to re-hash the UKIP leadership election.
JRE recognises that his Direct Democracy platform was the central pillar of his campaign. He had a perfectly fair crack at presenting his ideas to the UKIP membership, for the second time in fact, and that membership chose not to embrace that concept, chose a different leader, and a different path. No complaints at all; that’s straightforward democracy. Good luck to the new leader.
My question is whether that perfectly fair decision now appears to translate into a major missed opportunity for UKIP?
Please bear with me for a moment while I hypothesise on what may have occurred if JRE had won the election:
Apparently, JRE was initially approached with the idea of the Affinity party in late 2016 but those behind Affinity agreed to withhold launching the party in the hope of a potential cooperation with UKIP with JRE as leader. When UKIP rejected the Direct Democracy approach then of course that agreement lapsed and Affinity immediately registered as a new party.
So it seems to me that, had JRE been elected, then what will now become Affinity Direct, Affinity Connect, Affinity Media, Affinity Local, Affinity Affiliate and even Affinity Legal would all have borne the UKIP name.
Also, I assume, the 650 constituency offices, the envisaged ‘parallel surgeries’, would similarly have borne the UKIP name, and would have benefited fully from the radio, TV and other media facilities etc.
Then, in my view, the support of a collaborative Affinity would have been bound to have heralded the birth of a new golden era of opportunity for UKIP.
During his campaign, JRE did mention that he was in discussion with donors, some very substantial. But he was very concerned that money should not be a motivating factor in members voting for him. He was careful therefore to concentrate on his political arguments for becoming leader rather than any financial benefits that might, or might not, become available should he be elected.
Similarly JRE warned that, if the UKIP members chose to reject the Direct Democracy concept, as they subsequently did, then he believed another party, or parties, would soon embrace it and use it to their advantage. Obviously, Affinity will be doing that.
One last thought on ‘what might have been’: I believe that JRE was the only candidate that didn’t criticise any of his opponents during the campaign. In fact he said that he thought that he could work with any of them provided “that they were happy to work with him”.
And I think JRE meant what he said; which could have seen him working with Anne Marie Waters, David Kurten and Henry Bolton in a stronger and more unified UKIP if perhaps, a few people, who should have known better, had been less vocal with their ill-informed opinions.
But back to reality. We are where we are.
The dust is still settling and tempers are certainly still frayed.
Alarm, relief, frustration, satisfaction, suspicion, anger and apathy, all still mingle freely amongst the articles and comments on UKIP Daily. So everything’s normal there then. And life goes on.
Mistakes have been made within UKIP in the past, are no doubt being made now, and will surely continue to be made in the future. But I believe the UKIP membership continues to be a force for good. UKIP continues to stand firmly for national sovereignty and sound, traditional, British core principles. Long may it continue to do so.
As JRE says in his interview with Olly Connelly, any and all mistakes that UKIP make should be forgiven because “UKIP got us the referendum”.
But perhaps a golden opportunity has been missed.