We find ourselves in the middle of another leadership campaign. It certainly has been a rollercoaster for us, as a party, since that momentous day last year when the country voted to leave the EU:
- A referendum which would not have happened without us.
- A victory which would not have happened without us.
We did indeed make history. But history did not stop at that point, and neither does our party. Britain has entered a new era, and so will our party. This was always going to be a challenging time for us, but I believe that we can more than meet that challenge.
Yes, our morale has been battered, but we are strong, we are resilient, we are principled, we are fighters. Above all, we are patriots.
I joined UKIP five years ago because it was the only truly patriotic party in the UK. That is the case now more than ever. As a patriot, I believe this country needs UKIP. We have made the political weather. We have set the agenda, and I believe we can have a remarkable and exciting future ahead of us. As we rebuild, as we prepare ourselves for this new era in Britain’s history, it would be my honour and privilege to be your leader.
Since joining our party, right up to now being Deputy Leader, I have devoted myself to what has been the most exciting and ground-breaking movement in modern British politics. We have done this often seemingly on a wing and a prayer. That has indeed been our happy hallmark as an organisation – but all too often it has led to frustration. Now, as we make the transition to a domestic party which, once again, breaks new ground on those issues the other parties ignore, our first priority is to make sure we as an organisation are fit for purpose.
First, under my leadership, we will fight every single parliamentary seat, and make it a rule that we do not endorse or stand aside for any other party or candidate. The days when we help prop up the two-party system will be over. Standing aside at the last election led not just to inconsistencies and a loss of morale but indeed wiped away even the possibility of 1.9 million votes before we had even started. If we are to be a proper political party, we must act like one.
Secondly, I will ensure that we conduct direct democracy with members, by carrying out weekly face-to-face meetings with branches and/or groups of branches. We need to institute regular webinars and podcasts to increase engagement in policy decisions by grassroots members. The connection between local parties and the central organisation has worn very thin and in some cases is broken. I would make sure it is restored!
It is not acceptable that members feel ignored, unsupported or locked out of the decision making process. We must also ensure that every region has a training centre for candidates, and establish a ‘fighting fund’ to help candidates with their deposits. Furthermore, we will develop a completely new interactive website and a smartphone based app to further engage with supporters and potential members.
We must professionalise our Party and establish a strong sense of collective responsibility amongst our spokespeople and elected representatives.
We shouldn’t air our internal arguments in public, but instead have the professional levels of discipline that voters’ rightly expect.
We must support and resource tomorrow’s generation of Brexiteer patriots in Young Independents by providing coaching, job networking and mentoring opportunities, and we must develop and support UKIP Students, a vital new branch of our Party, at a time of increasing restrictions on freedom of speech on University campuses.
All too often, the party has under-utilised the enormous talent and specialist expertise that has been there right at its fingertips. I would make it a priority to bring forward fresh faces, and create a more streamlined team.
Finally, our party must look afresh at how it gets its message across to the public.
I am one of the party’s most experienced media spokespeople, appearing on everything from Andrew Marr to Question Time to Any Questions. But I don’t need to tell you that as a party we have to deal with a broadcast media which is hostile to our ideas and our party. I believe the time has come to emulate the success of parties in other countries – in the USA and Europe – and develop our own platforms.
I cannot emphasise how important this is. I would make it a priority as leader that we in UKIP study and develop sophisticated ways in which to bypass an increasingly distrusted and irrelevant media. Of course, all of these things require money. You can’t do anything without proper resources. I built my own business, a high-profile and influential think tank, and am an experienced and successful fundraiser. It would be a priority for me to build on our existing donor base and go out and find new backers so that our future remains secure. I believe that I have what it takes to convince donors of my vision for the party, and to take them along with me.
So what is my vision? What must UKIP’s purpose be?
It must be about putting the people of this great country of ours first.
It must be about securing our democracy, and ensuring that the anti-democratic efforts of the liberal elites do not derail the Brexit people voted for.
It must be about protecting our culture.
It must be about fighting back against those who care nothing for our country and whose actions and ideas have done nothing but damage it for decades.
It is about speaking up for the patriotic, hardworking majority.
The vote to leave the undemocratic EU and once again control our destiny was a landmark of historic proportions for our country. But it was profound in another sense: it marked a return to the prominence of the nation state.
(To be continued on Tuesday in Part II)