The latest Electoral Commission report of donations and loans to UK political parties for the quarter to 30 June 2107 (including the General Election period) was released earlier this week. In addition, UKIP’s accounts for the year to 31 December 2016 were released a couple of weeks ago. What do these documents tell us about the health of our party?
Donations were staggeringly low. Whilst it should be borne in mind that these figures only include funds donated to the central party and not the branches (or individuals losing their deposits!) the figures are still shocking. In a general election quarter UKIP only raised £156,000. For a party of 25,000 members this is £6 per member. This is lower than the Women’s Equality Party (£282,000) and the Greens (£176,000) with even the BNP (£100,000) not that far behind. The three main parties were far ahead; roughly speaking the Libdems raised £5million, Labour £10million and the Tories £25million.
The gap between UKIP and the Libdems is staggering. For two parties who had been in the same vote share bracket for the previous two to three years, for them to raise over 30 times what we can raise is incredible. On the other hand, they gave a very low return on investment to their donors!
The list of Tory donors is galling as the biggest were the leading Eurosceptics. The Bamford family of JCB fame, who have spoken out many times against the EU, were the biggest single donors giving at least £2.25million (to remainer Theresa May!). The founder of Addison Lee (London taxi company) gave £900,000 (he can’t be a big fan of Uber!) and John Gore (a theatre producer, who said all luvvies are Labour?). Labour, of course, depend on the unions.
As for UKIP? Occasionally, you will receive an email from head office asking for money. The arrival of such messages is easy to ignore, there is no follow-up and seemingly no consequences. I used to respond to messages sent by Nigel, but apart from providing £1,000 to fund our branch’s GE17 campaign I have not responded to HQ.
Looking at the accounts, the most noticeable thing is the reduction in staff, down from 83 in 2015 to 31 in 2016. I have always viewed cutting cloth to fit as being a necessary Plan B; but it should not detract from Plan A, which is to raise more funds.
And this is where we have failed the most as a party. Our commercial activities are negligible; the Sovereign Draw contributes around £16,000 a year. We have not found new donors, just relied on the ‘big three’ of Stuart Wheeler, Alan Bown and Chris Mills. We have not been successful in raising funds from members, or using new ideas like crowdfunding, or selling merchandise in the same way as Infowars, or even publishing books or online media. Without a mass member recruitment program we have not built a large base of small donors. Without clear policies and leadership, our membership base has been shrinking. Even though the Libdems have been through a similar crisis of confidence, somehow they have managed to maintain a healthy income by having branches actively raising funds for the centre. In UKIP’s list of donations, the lack of contributions by branches to the centre is very clear.
So what to do? Well, not much will happen until the leadership contest is over (again, benchmark to Libdems, process started same time as us but they were done and dusted within four weeks). But it is clear that the current Chairman and Treasurer are not the right people to help us raise funds. Totally new ideas are needed to expand membership, get members excited and get members contributing. If the current leaders have been unable to come up with any new ideas thus far, the chances of them doing so in the future are negligible. It’s time to step aside and give someone new a chance to remake how the party ‘goes to market’ and commercialises its activities.
Here is one simple idea to form part of a wider package – under a ‘TrueBrit’ brand, to have a retail platform where we market British products and services to our members. I was horrified to read an article on ukip.org praising Amazon opening a warehouse in Bristol. Not only will it be staffed with immigrants on minimum wage, and will not pay any rates or profits tax, whatever profit it makes will be sent back to its owner Jeff Bezos to spend on the Washington Post and further globalist brainwashing. We need to let our members know what to buy and what not to buy based on whether the companies manufacturing them conform to British values. A kind of kite mark for patriots. We can create a loyalty and retail platform for these products and introduce them to our members. We should be letting our members know, for example, that Wetherspoons is the preferred pub partner and we should get special offers for our members. We have to raise the consciousness of patriots that how they spend their money really matters.
Not only can we make more money, we can become more relevant and exciting again, a part of our members’ lives. Cutting the cloth is normally a death spiral. The only way out is growth.