Today’s letter is by leadership contender and MEP Jane Collins.
You may have heard by now that three other candidates who were standing in this leadership election have stepped down and have joined me as part of a team to unite UKIP and embrace the dynamic, grass roots-focused party that in recent months has disappeared in favour of a more top down approach dominated by an authoritarian policy agenda.
Those policies and that leadership team were roundly rejected by the voters in three elections in 2017 and UKIP slumped to a poll rating I have not seen since my early days as a member of UKIP.
The party I became involved with in 1998 was one where the membership was valued, not taken for granted, where experts in their field were encouraged to participate in policy formation and our manifesto wasn’t left to a small number of staff based in London.
We challenged the received wisdom that our membership of the EU was inexorable, to bring about not only the historic referendum, but win it. On the way we set the agenda on other topics, making it clear we would talk about the effects of uncontrolled immigration on housing, schools, jobs and security despite the establishment telling us it was racist to do so.
We became the party that spoke up for the people against the liberal elite and I was delighted to be part of that surge as the candidate for UKIP in the Barnsley Central by election where we achieved our first ever second place in a Westminster election, and follow it up with 22 percent of the vote in the Rotherham by election, achieving the highest ever recorded for us in any parliamentary by election up to that time. Then, like now, it was my name on the ballot paper representing a fantastic and hard working team: it was never just about me.
I want us to return to the messages and policies which saw us take county and district council seats across the country: the people’s army that spoke up for the working class men and women, for young people struggling to get jobs, for people unable to get on the housing ladder and communities and businesses trying to fight against multinational companies tearing up communities and building over green belt. […]
I have set out my key pledges in Independence News, from fundraising to target seats, which look at the changes I would like to make to the running of the party and how to get it back onto an even keel. My job as leader is not to dictate, it is not to write the manifesto myself. It is to establish that structure which develops a manifesto the media can report on positively and you can sell on the doorsteps to get votes. It’s to provide campaigning tools, training days, research and advice so you can win those elections in your areas.
But here, in this letter to you, I want to outline my top five policy pledges which I would like the political direction of the party to follow.
1. Involve more members in policy making. We have members who are experts in a range of policy fields, whose enthusiasm is not currently harnessed. Let’s change that first.
2. Develop policy for the whole country, not just the London bubble. Let’s hear more about countryside policies, develop our plans for animal welfare reforms and shout about our scheme to take back control of British fishing grounds. […]
3. Pensions. UKIP has never had a fully-researched pension policy, despite many of our members and voters finding their retirement incomes cut back by successive Chancellors. This must be a top priority for us.
4. Address the generational divide. Younger voters may struggle to buy a home, to repay a student loan, or to save for a pension plan. No party has successfully addressed these needs. Let’s give this issue the recognition it deserves.
5. Be different to the other parties. UKIP is rightly known for its championship of Brexit, insistence on controlled immigration and challenging the establishment at all levels. Very few of our other policies have widespread public recognition. […]
But this team, UKIP United, is different from the others in this candidate race because it is a team. I have sat in branch meetings and hustings and heard ideas I support delivered by passionate, talented people and I have been truly honoured to join with them in this new campaign to win back the heart and soul of UKIP.
If you supported Ben Walker, Marion Mason or David Coburn you can still get the ideas and ideals they inspired you with because they will be part of my leadership team. I said from the beginning I would be a leader with a ‘little L’. […]
I understand there will be some disappointed people out there but the people you initially supported have not gone, their name is still on the ballot paper as part of my vision for UKIP. Jane Collins now stands for more than just my name: it represents an exciting opportunity for UKIP to retake our place on the political scene and to once again become part of our communities up and down the country.
I am up for this fight and this team is ready for this challenge. I hope you will join us.
Jane Collins MEP