The Stoke Central by-election was a disappointment but predictable. We may have been able to scrape a win had it not been for the immensely damaging focus on Paul Nuttall himself and his rather too many self-inflicted wounds. However, I’m not sure UKIP would have won even if the campaign had run more smoothly, although, had that win happened, perhaps it would only have served to further conceal the real issues facing the party.
The cry that ‘we’ll replace Labour’ goes down well with activists but is a vacuous and arrogant approach which has proved not to be effective.
UKIP has an existential crisis of its own – and that isn’t Paul Nuttall, though he is a contributory factor by being both a leader who isn’t leading and a candidate who offers his opposition endless streams of ammunition with which to neutralise him.
That crisis is relevance.
Our ongoing, almost exclusive, attention upon Brexit simply reinforces a view that UKIP has done its job in a political environment that sees the process moving forward. I suspect that most people believe the Prime Minister is getting on with the job and, whilst that may not quite materialise in the way we would like, for UKIP to maintain the political focus on Brexit is simply not working. Brexit is the reason why UKIP was born and why it has grown so influentially over the last few years, but it is now won and should no longer dominate our agenda. Making sure we get a clean Brexit is a fight that must take second stage to a new, exciting and radical agenda.
When asked ‘what now for UKIP’ answer comes there none.
Whilst we don’t get fair attention from the MSM, we do not seem to take the opportunities that are presented. I’ve seen Paul Nuttall on national television being asked the ‘relevance’ question and being unable to reply to that directly or to exploit that opening to announce what UKIP stands for, will campaign for and will do, given the opportunity. Even the post by-election opportunity on the Daily Politics was sidestepped in favour of ‘Diane James’?
One thing is certain, if we aren’t different, if we do not take on vested interests, if we do not deliver a radical message clearly and unequivocally, we will not survive. Our message to the electorate at large must resonate with them as Brexit did.
Another, perhaps more fundamental, question than ‘what’s the point of UKIP now’ might be ‘is there any need for another political party’? Assuming that the Labour party will eventually realise their leader is a liability, the brand will probably prove strong enough to recover, albeit likely to be built upon the sand of rhetoric and unaffordable spending. If the Tories are working their way down the UKIP agenda, and sounding good with our ideas, why do we need another party?
Until we have a sound and robust answer to that latter question we will not be able to garner the levels of support needed to make the kind of impact that forced a referendum – then went and won it.
Let me take a stab at the answer:
UKIP is needed now even more than before. The Labour party is in disarray but will recover. When that happens, their policy foundations will, regardless of their leadership, remain wedded to higher spending and higher taxes as they have always done because they remain opposed to new ways of doing things. The Labour party is entrenched in the past where they seek many of their solutions.
The Conservatives are likely to be financially more competent but their solutions to modern day issues rests with the hope that globalisation and massive corporations will provide the jobs and wellbeing for all. Conservative policy naturally favours the rich and powerful and they must be dragged, kicking and screaming, to mitigate the effects of this imbalance of allegiance. It is not the people who come first with the Tories but their paymasters.
Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party will do some things that are good and many within these parties are well intentioned, but neither party is capable of radical change and radical change is needed. The Conservatives cannot alienate their corporate donors and Labour are beholden to a few powerful unions. Both parties are therefore directed by their own special interest groups and cannot adopt any approaches that may disaffect them.
Having one’s government limited this way simply inhibits their ability to do what is necessary.
The ‘Independence’ part of our name applies also to thought and ideas. Only a party independent from strong vested interests can challenge them.
High on our priorities should be electoral reform. We need to create an electoral system that enhances participation, establishes a functional second chamber and limits the ability of vested interests to fund and direct party policy. With a much more representative government, difficult concepts, perhaps initially unappealing, can be pursued with the confidence that a strong mandate can provide. Re-framing our electoral processes would create the solid foundation that better government can be built upon.
This will be necessary to re-shape healthcare for our future needs; as it is, the system will continue to crumble.
Then we need to say clearly how we will restrict the effects of an out of control globalisation agenda so that we retain control over industries that underpin our national infrastructure. Energy for the UK first and profits second, and a new kind of company to run transportation networks with a profit incentive but also with restrictions to ownership and rewards.
It is high time we spelt out the society we want to see and tell people what we would do to achieve that. UKIP must continue to be politically unafraid and call to the people for those changes that the political establishment are unable to enact.