In Ancient Rome, like all the best stories are, it’s a mild distortion of history to suggest that defeated gladiators in the arena would live if the Emperor or amphitheatre crowd gave the thumbs-up and die if the thumbs-down were given. The meaning is true; the precise hand gestures used – the meaning of the Latin phrase pollice verso – may have been slightly different.
Given the nastiness and viciousness which I’ve seen in politics, mainly external to UKIP but sadly creeping into our Party of late, it seems almost appropriate to use the analogy of a gladiatorial contest. I imagine that UKIP is the gladiator; we have tripped ourselves up and are on the point of handing victory to our opponents. We desperately need the ‘thumbs up’, for if we get it, we’ll live to fight another day and can learn from the experience.
We can either be dishonest, not admit the state that UKIP is presently in, burying our ostrich heads in the sand whilst covering our eyes, putting our fingers in our ears, and shamelessly mixing our metaphors, or we can be honest about it – and do what it takes to turn the corner. We need unity and a sense of purpose to ensure a successful Brexit followed by Britain-friendly policies afterwards. We need to remain true to our core principles, whilst also recognising that there is a need to broaden our appeal.
You, me, the Party members, must give either the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down to the Party. The resignation of a Leader after just 18 days, the altercation in Strasbourg, and the drip-drip-drip of infighting have all conspired to put us in this position.
A thumbs-up to the Party means electing someone who actually understands the Party. Someone who’s been there and done it, who gets what needs to be done from the inside and who understands how to change the Party Constitution to actually achieve what we want.
Over the coming days we’ll see a coalescing of support amongst UKIP’s MEPs for Paul Nuttall as the next leader. He’s been a member of the Party since, I think, 2004. His blood runs purple, and to him the survival of UKIP matters personally. When he took over as Party Chairman in 2008, the Party was in an even worse state than it is in today – I remember being utterly horrified by what happened in September 2008. Under Paul’s chairmanship, the Party was back on track by the European elections in 2009, where we had a huge breakthrough. In his six years as UKIP Deputy Leader of the Party following that, he made precisely one mistake. That’s not a bad error rate for a future Leader of the Party; many have had car crash interviews and the like. Paul has not. He made just one mistake, for understandable reasons which I won’t go into, and learned from it.
Self-awareness is an incredibly rare quality in politics. Everyone thinks they’re more popular than they actually are, see their own strengths but not their own weaknesses, and fall into the trap of acting based upon those beliefs. Of all my MEP colleagues, Paul is the one who is the most self-aware, constantly striving to improve, analysing things he could do better. It’s a quality that’s as rare as gold dust in politicians, and it’s that quality which leads him to make the right decisions.
We want a candidate for leader who will unite the Party and get us moving forward again. We have precisely one candidate for Party Leader who has actually succeeded in turning the Party around before, and that’s Paul Nuttall. Do we, at this time of tension within the Party, elect an untried and untested candidate for Party Leader and risk the future of the Party in their hands?
Many in UKIP have used the Albert Einstein quote: “The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In this leadership election, we have the reverse: we have one proven candidate who has the ability to do the job, and others that were untried and untested. How about: “The definition of common sense is repeating good decisions.”?
Another way of looking at it is to ask the question: “What do our opponents least want us to do?” I note the words of Labour’s Brendan Chilton (General Secretary of Labour Leave – and one of the Labour people to truly understand the Brexit vote) this morning: “If Paul Nuttall wins the UKIP leadership, my party, Labour, will be fighting for its life in the heartlands.” If the thought of the Labour Party on a life-support machine appeals to you in any way, you may just have found your candidate.
If you care about the future of UKIP, if want to join with me in showing a massive ‘thumbs up’ to the future of our Party and a massive ‘thumbs down’ to Labour, I hope that you will join with me in proudly voting for Paul Nuttall to be the next leader of the UK Independence Party.