Do we want to turn UKIP into a minor, fringe political party again, one that loses deposits in most seats nationwide? Or are we prepared as a Party to wake up before it’s too late?
The recent opinion poll showing UKIP down to 6%, and incredibly behind the Lib Dems, may well be a rogue poll and it may very well prove to be a statistical outlier. It may overestimate the amount of support that UKIP has already lost, but it does show something – the trajectory on which we are headed.
I’ll be charitable here: I suspect that some of our people aren’t actually setting out to destroy UKIP or to take us back to the margins of political irrelevance. It’s far more likely to be born out of political naïveté and blinkered rage than true malice against the Party. But if anyone truly wanted to destroy UKIP, this is what they would do:
Appeal only to UKIP’s core vote
We would focus on issues which are only going to appeal to people who already vote UKIP. We might focus our leadership campaign on issues such as wearing the burkha in public places (my office is in a UKIP target constituency, and in two years I’ve never once seen anyone in a burkha in that town), the death penalty, becoming a clone of the Conservative Party, or many others.
If we wanted to destroy the Party we would ignore the polling evidence that shows the UKIP brand to be fairly toxic to the wider public. Amongst Remain voters, the latest polls show UKIP’s net popularity at -85%. Fair enough, they’re not exactly our target market. But amongst Leave voters, you might expect UKIP to be just as popular as we are unpopular with Remainians. We’re not. Our net popularity is a miserly +12%. This should be a wake-up call that we’ve been ignoring many Brexit voters.
That same poll shows that overall, UKIP is even less popular than the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. The Conservatives are -19% overall, Liberal Democrats -24%, Labour -28%, and UKIP way out behind at -38%. The two polls I’ve quoted in this article are from different companies; the one showing our net popularity is awful was from an online polling company; that traditionally overstates our support rather than understates it.
Now, who is the person in all of politics with the least favourable rating? More unpopular even than Vladimir Putin’s -64%? Why yes, that’d be Donald Trump at a whopping -75%! The only two individuals with lower ratings than UKIP are Putin and Trump. One good way of annoying the general public would be for us to publicly praise Putin or Trump or both. That would do a good job of losing us support.
A Party which wanted to drift into political obscurity would now be saying ‘steady as she goes’ and proposing more of the same. In case anyone thinks I’m picking on Lisa regarding the burkha, I also think she’s spot on in what she’s said about the NHS and mental health.
Sell out to the highest bidder
We need money, like any other Party does. Of course we must solicit donations, both large and small, and we must look after our donors. We mustn’t ever give the perception that we’re sellouts though, or that money can influence the Party’s policies or inner workings. A Party that wants to head southwards in the opinion polls is a Party which will allow the direction of travel to be determined by the size of the cheque being written. The heart and soul of UKIP would only be for sale in a Party determined to reach the doldrums.
Act first, think later
Good Alice-in-Wonderland stuff is a great way to lose votes. Let’s call an EGM first, then think about what it will accomplish! An EGM to change the names on the ballot paper for the leadership election? Great idea, small problem: a Party EGM couldn’t be called in that timescale.
Let’s use it to abolish the NEC altogether then! Oops, an EGM doesn’t have the power to do that. Let’s use it to force an NEC election! No, wait, there’s one of those taking place anyway. Nominations will have closed by the time an EGM happens.
We all agree that the Party requires internal reform. It would be nice to have a credible, sensible plan for reform first, and then work out a roadmap for achieving it, preferably with the least fuss possible.
Act first, think later is a recipe for division and loss of votes.
Pick a side, any side
A leader wanting to destroy UKIP will chose a side in the internal debates. Rather than wanting to heal the rifts and bring everyone around the table, she (I’m using the female pronoun as it’s rather unlikely that we’ll end up with a male leader) will pick one side and alienate the other, leading to further infighting and mass resignations.
Such a leader would either bulldoze a plan through the Party, probably for fundamental sweeping change, misunderstanding her electorate and creating massive animosity. Or she would go to the other extreme, ignore the mood in the Party for reform and make change little more than window-dressing.
We all know that political parties can’t possibly survive if they contain a broad spectrum of political opinion, so let’s take a leaf out of McCarthy’s book and conduct a good old-fashioned purge. Douglas Carswell? He fell out with Nigel, he’s got to go. Suzanne Evans, let’s see the back of her too. Whilst we’re at it, Patrick O’Flynn was involved with the Vote Leave campaign so he needs his marching orders too. Now on to Wales. Here we can choose our poison. Will we purge Neil Hamilton or Nathan Gill? Perhaps we could get rid of them both. Shall we go for David Coburn in Scotland too whilst we’re at it? Next, let’s remove every NEC member from the Party too, and then we can pause for breath before we work out who’s the next target.
The best way of holding a witch-hunt is to soften the membership up with horror stories about the people you want to purge. Brief against them to the newspapers, leak about them, embellish stories so that they can become the new figures of hate. I’m not a particular fan of everything Douglas Carswell says, but I was so enraged at one senior meeting when I literally heard every problem in the Party being blamed on him. After an hour of being told that every problem was attributable to him, to the point that he was the reason we couldn’t analyse ways to improve election results, it became clear. We were just one step removed from needing the Orwellian daily Two Minutes’ Hate, with Carswell playing the Emmanuel Goldstein role.
If we can get rid of enough people from our own top talent, many more will leave voluntarily and then we can truly be a minor party once more.
Fight in public not in private
Let’s all run to the tabloids every time someone does something we don’t like. Let’s all leak what Steven Woolfe’s had for breakfast this morning in case they can manufacture another scandal about him. Let’s inspire hate-pieces against Lisa Duffy and tell the press what medicine might or might not be concealed in Bill Etheridge’s car. If we can conduct an internal civil war in the newspapers, everyone will see us falling out. Nobody could possibly miss it. Supporters of the leadership candidates should set up anonymous venomous Twitter accounts to drip poison at every one of their opponents. There’s nothing like an American-style negative campaign to really turn the general public in Britain off.
I got out of the leadership election campaign, mainly for the reasons set out in my statement but also because I don’t want to take part in a mud-slinging contest. As a wise man once said, the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. Rats desert sinking ships.
Let’s all take a good, long, hard look in the mirror and work to keep the UKIP ship afloat.