Last evening (8th August 2017) I had an opportunity with about 80 other people in Dorchester, Dorset to meet five of the contenders for leadership of UKIP.  They were Dave Allen, Dave Kurten, Aidan Powlesland, Ben Walker, and Peter Whittle. All 11 were invited but Anne Marie Waters and John Rees-Evans and another (whose name I didn’t catch) were at a similar do ‘up north’.

That leaves Henry Bolton, David Coburn, Jane Collins, and Marion Mason, 3 of which did not have the courtesy to reply to the invitation.

Graham Brant, Chairman of Dorset UKIP, opened the session, introducing each of the candidates in turn and then declared they each had 20 minutes in which to talk about their intentions and to answer questions.

Peter Whittle

First up was Peter Whittle, the present Deputy Leader of the Party.  He spoke very well and without notes, being quite animated as he moved around in front of the candidates’ table.  He spoke about pride and patriotism and how the younger generation had not had pride in Britain instilled into them during the education process and how we must sell that message.

He wants us to major on repeating the message about uncontrolled immigration and how we must try to prevent the Tories doing a sort of transition deal that will allow the immigrants to keep coming.  He also wants British Law to be supreme and no other law to be legal in the UK.  

He thinks there are problems with UKIP management and communications with the branches and as leader would set about putting this right but didn’t describe how this would happen. He did point out that the NEC was democratically elected and therefore had an important part to play in the running of the party.

My opinion

Peter is an excellent speaker and able to keep the audience attentive but very much a native of the Newton Abbott clique.  He did not convince me that he could sell a message to the public at large, though he would be able to hold his own in interviews with the media.

As far as the relationship between ordinary members and Head Office, when I spoke to him afterwards he did not acknowledge there was any communication problem. My conclusion is he is part of the problem and with him as leader nothing will change.

Ben Walker

Next up was Ben Walker, a town & District Council and one time Mayor, former member of the Royal Navy.  He also was quite animated and spoke without notes and was easy to listen to as he kept to his side of the Candidates table.

He wants to turn the party on its head with the grassroots actively involved in policy and with regional organisers involved in the NEC.  As leader the first thing he would do is fire the Chairman. He acknowledges there is a massive disconnect between the grassroots and Head Office and it is the main reason members don’t renew membership.

He wants the constitution of UKIP re-written and would like to set up a full time policy unit so there is in effect a rolling manifesto with input invited from members and branches.

He would campaign for British Law as supreme over European Law and that no other religious of cultural law would be legal in the UK. He wants the UK to have a Bill of Rights and for elections to be by Proportional Representation.

He also wants a significant increase in military spending (no surprise there) but didn’t have anything else to say about the economy or where the extra 3% of Gross National Income (about £20b) can come from. He said we must stop sending money to the EU now!  That was received with much enthusiasm by the audience.

My opinion

Enthusiastic and with lots of energy, he might be able to shake up UKIP structure but acknowledged during questions that the NEC has the power to block constitutional changes to prevent autocratic behaviour by the leader. This revealed a major problem within UKIP because no new leader might be able to make required changes to the organisation.

Ben was a good talker, full of grand ideas but quite short on policy detail that would appeal to the electorate at large. My fear is that as a complete outsider from present UKIP management they could block any attempts by him of draining the swamp.

David Kurten

David was till recently a Chemistry Teacher and now the Education Spokesman for UKIP as well as a London Assembly Member. He spoke well without notes and was firm that we must keep pushing for a clean Brexit and try not to let the Tories fudge it so we apparently leave but are still actually still in.

In his push for an independent Britain he wants to champion the idea of national identity again and to make the people want us to be as self sufficient as possible.  He wants to roll back on political correctness and wants us to return to plain speaking and common sense.

He also wants a permanent policy unit in UKIP and realises uniquely that branches also need a funding stream and when they have no new members they are starved of cash flow. He wants to change the system so that branches keep 20% of the annual subscription.

He realises that the present structure of the party does not work and needs a complete overhaul. He also said the party had lost 200 Patrons (formerly contributing £200,000 a year).  He wants to make the party able to attract them again and to increase regular membership by 20,000 bringing in £600,000 a year in subscriptions.

My opinion

I like this man!  He realises that our primary job is still to push for a clean break with the EU.  He realises the party needs to connect with its grassroots who should be able to contribute at all levels and branches need funding as well.  He really wants to put the Great back in Britain and turn back Cultural Marxism.

Aidan Powlesland

A big man who is relatively quietly spoken wants to revolutionise the party but didn’t really say how.  He was more specific on policy, wanting UKIP to push for freedom and wealth creation.  

He was strong on the economy, saying he wanted to reduce maximum benefit to be 70% of the minimum wage so you could never be better off not working.  He wanted to slash the benefits budget by 40%, equivalent to £120b. He pointed out that 80% of British households receive state benefit in one form or another and that cannot be right.  

He said we must slash the Foreign Aid Budget and stop trying to bribe poor nations into liking us.  Like David Kurten he wants Britain to be self-sufficient.  When the economy can afford it he wants military spending increased by a massive 70% over present level.

He wants direct democracy and wants to kerb Sharia Law but is wary about a frontal political attack on Islam in the UK.  He thinks the solution to the problem EU Nationals living in the UK is to offer them dual citizenship.  

My opinion

I like the fact that this man realises that the economy is in dire straits and needs to be tackled.  He talks figures but I am not sure he has worked them out and can justify them, even though he claims he has a fully costed manifesto.  I will believe that when I see it.  

Frankly there is no way to remove the benefits from 80% of the households nor slash the benefits budget by 40%. It is clear that quoting £120b saving in the benefits budget he has no idea that it is presently running at £113b for 2016/2017.

He is a big softy full of big ideas but fluffy on detail.  He does not appear to be well versed on the working of UKIP and only in general terms feels how it should be reformed. I doubt he could argue policy with anyone because he struck me as headline grabbing with no supporting facts.

David Allen

David is an outsider and knows little of the running of UKIP but thinks the Constitution must have a complete overhaul and the NEC members must not be allowed to obstruct this.  He also said that after changing the Constitution we needed a new Rule Book.  He spoke while reading from a laptop making minimal eye contact with the audience.  

After talking about how UKIP was dysfunctional he started talking about how the present representation system using ‘first past the post’ doesn’t work in the interests of the citizens and how ultimately the public will get fed up with the Tories and Labour will get elected again.  

By now being about 10 minutes into his speech the other candidates had strained looks on their faces and shortly afterwards the Chairman closed his eyes for about 5 minutes while David droned on.  The audience gradually became more restless coughing and shuffling on their seats.  The Chairman then gave Dave his 5 minutes times up, so he increased the speed of talking while lowering the volume but eventually stopped before even telling us about his alternative more efficient voting system.

My opinion

Dave actually has a very clever voting system called First 2 Past the Post, which he has described on UKIP Daily.  It does look good and I haven’t yet found the ‘oh but what happens if, special case’.  I doubt though even a more eloquent speaker could sell it or it ever have a chance of being seriously considered by the two major parties in the Commons.

No Dave, although I do like your system, you impressed me the least among the candidates of the evening.

Conclusion

Maybe Dave Kurten would be a good Leader. There is no way I will renew my membership if any of the other four are elected.

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