The failed gamble of Paul Nuttall’s candidature in Stoke-on-Trent represents the end of his prospects as a successful UKIP leader and he must resign before the party lapses into terminal decline and disrepair.
Throughout his short leadership, Nuttall has advanced few ideas on how UKIP can thrive and prosper as a political heavyweight in a post-referendum, and post-Brexit, United Kingdom, thus meaning UKIP are not making gains and not taking full advantage of the obvious open goal that awaits.
During the early hours of Friday morning, our leader indulged in tedious banality and dangerously open complacency. “Our time will come,” he claimed, as though we merely have to wait patiently, as one does for a train, for the inevitable cascade of new UKIP voters to arrive.
“We’re a unified party,” was the next refrain. Ah yes, in the criminal absence of ideas, this appears to be the sole ambition of Nuttall’s leadership. I know, and you know, that UKIP is not a united party. Besides, even if it were a beautifully united party, with no fracture or rift, it would not necessarily be conducive to success.
The Green Party is a united one. The Conservative party is not. Which of those is successful?
Worst of all, though, was the horrendous and diabolical excuse that Stoke-on-Trent Central is 72nd on the target list for UKIP. This constituency voted around 70% for ‘Leave’; the Labour candidate originally backed ‘Remain’; Labour’s vote share has been on a consistent decline for the last two decades; the city itself has immensely suffered from the slow decay of post-industrialisation; the Conservative party were greatly distracted by events further north; and the element of tactical voting was at an absolute minimum because this was a by-election.
In short, this was a dream opportunity for UKIP to gain a second Member of Parliament, but it was scuppered by employing an establishment tactic of parachuting in a candidate – an incredibly poor and careless candidate, it has to be noted. A local candidate would have fared far better.
The election result was so demonstrably woeful for Nuttall that he could have easily finished in an embarrassing third place; and had it not been for the efforts of an intrepid and stoic band of UKIP activists who campaigned in adverse weather, he would have done.
It is fair to say the events of the last few weeks have annihilated Nuttall’s credibility with the wider electorate, by which I mean the floating voters, and revealed him to be a political lightweight.
The debacle over the Hillsborough comments, as well as other false claims, means that voters will struggle to take Nuttall seriously during a General Election campaign. It also gifts the iniquitous mainstream media and the tired ‘LibLabCon’ parties an endless stream of ammunition.
We must also anticipate an arduous set of local elections in May of this year. UKIP will be defending 149 seats; seats that were gained during the bountiful harvest of 2013, when our party recorded an average share of around 20% of the vote.
It is reasonable to conclude from the evidence of isolated local by-elections over the course of the last seven months that we should be expectant of some rather de-moralising and damaging defeats in May, as well as a dip in vote share.
This will happen as a direct result of Nuttall’s poverty of ideas. The wider electorate simply do not grasp the point and purpose of UKIP in a post-referendum United Kingdom, even though there is a great need for Britain’s third biggest political party to still exist, because our leader has failed to evolve the party.
Furthermore, there appears to be no strategy from the new leader to expand the membership of the party. This is sorely needed as UKIP simply does not have enough activists – whereas Labour (the party UKIP are hoping to supplant) were able to battle adequately on two fronts, UKIP were severely under-resourced by comparison in Copeland – or, indeed, candidates for local elections.
Added to this, UKIP’s presence and activity on social media and the Internet is still rather second-rate compared to the smoother operations of the Conservatives and Labour. Again, there appears to be no recommendations or targets in place from the leadership to rectify this.
For all of those aforementioned reasons – a lack of ability and nous, a famine of ideas, an absence of credibility, and an array of lamentable excuses in defeat – Nuttall must resign for the sake of the very life of the party. Otherwise UKIP faces looming extinction.
Yes, it will be damaging for UKIP to have to go through yet another leadership contest, but the alternative to this is plain: Continuing under the leadership of Nuttall and enduring, over the course of the next three years, a growing reduction of influence in local government, successive by-election defeats, and a steady evaporation of our four million voters.