I am a complete newcomer to UKIP, having joined the party after the Referendum. I know vanishingly little about the internals of the party, having been attracted to it only by its purpose, and by its public face, predominantly Mr Farage but with some other notable speakers. I am nervous that I have joined something that is about to crash to the floor at a crucial moment in its history. I don’t know how many of its members believe that Brexit has now been ‘won’, but I don’t. Accordingly, I think there are three major aspects of the party’s future which need to be approached urgently. The apparent confusion is inevitable, and cannot be papered over in an attempt to simply ‘carry on’.
I think the way out of the current crisis is to separate out three strands of UKIP’s raison d’être and give each of them a separate but intertwined life now, instead of allowing them to tangle and trip the party up. They can form a trident, if you like – Britannia’s Trident.
The first strand is a movement, a campaign, a lobby, a pressure group – call it what you like. It is the vital successor to what has been the most vibrant aspect of UKIP up to the present time. Given that there are plainly very powerful forces now assembling to defeat or water down Brexit to a positively homeopathic degree, it is vitally important to re-energise and re-focus a new campaign – call it a “Campaign for the Assurance of Brexit”. This should indeed be the direct successor of the Leave campaign, and should be focussed without distraction on holding our government and parliament strictly to account in asserting our exit from the EU. Like the Leave campaign, it could only be beneficial for it to be cross-party, and possibly even broader in its base than the Leave campaign was.
Secondly, there is a need for a political party as such: a party which can develop policy, and the skill and expertise to (a) become elected and (b) to effectively occupy the seat of government. There is, as everyone is aware, an enormous obstacle in the way of this, but one which may possibly be overcome. It is simply that the values which bind a movement together are essentially, under the cover, abreactive. The movement for independence is a movement against foreign, or imperial, tyranny. Once you actually win independence, sovereignty, you then have to agree on what that means in the realm of national politics.
Independence is all about self-governance – it says nothing directly about what kind of government you want at the end of the day. The common ground between UKIP and the Lexit movement dissolves entirely post-independence, and so it should. What has been fought for is the right to debate and legislate from within a chamber of democratic dissent, unshackled by a supposedly ‘higher power’ represented by some ‘superior’ assembly elsewhere.
So the best that UKIP itself can hope to achieve here is to become an exemplar of a political party operating under, and dedicated to, a regime of true national autonomy. What it can hope to do is to dig down to the culture which underlies the yearning for sovereignty, for independence, and to form a political programme from authentic elements of that culture. I have some notion of what those elements are, but it will take quite an effort to turn them into a coherent set of principles which can work together to power a potential government in office. I am not sure that this is something that can be achieved rapidly.
The third prong to Britannia’s Trident should, I believe, be in the form of an Institution of British Sovereignty. We have an Office for Budget Responsibility, we have a partisan Institute of Fiscal Studies, we have several Green lobby groups masquerading as learned or authoritative bodies. We need to embed into British political life a long-term and irrevocable commitment to the maintenance of our sovereignty in the face of future government policy, legislation, acts of jurisprudence, trade and other international agreements, notably on security and international ‘lawfulness’, and all the myriad other activities that our nation undertakes.
Why British Sovereignty? Because sovereignty, nationhood, quite properly means different things to different nations. The notion is embedded in every case in the distinct, perhaps unique, heritage and culture of every true nation – and ours is indeed unique!
We need to ensure that never again will the British people willingly or unknowingly sell, barter or simply give away their birthright of sovereignty. This is a principle which must be applied assiduously, relentlessly, and perpetually in examining and auditing the life of our nation. It cannot be entrusted to government or the civil legislation – we have seen ample proof of this over the last seventy years.
An Institution of British Sovereignty should be the independent, authoritative source of considered opinion on all matters of national autonomy and independence. It would be a mighty undertaking, and would require considerable funding, and even more dedication and support, hopefully from right across the political spectrum. It is important enough and universal enough that it would be entirely appropriate for it to be awarded letter patent and become, eventually, the Royal Institute of British Sovereignty.
This last prospect of an Institution excites me – it would be a perpetual legacy of the Brexit Referendum, beyond the current situation, and it would be an appropriate way of underpinning our commitment to our national life and culture, the fount of our past greatness and an example to other nations.
I hope this is of some help in resolving an inevitable but potentially fatal confusion which seems to be engulfing UKIP at the moment. This confusion is not only of consequence to the current party, but to what it stands for – which is far more important, isn’t it?