The result of the Party Leadership election is clear and decisive. Never in the history of UKIP has a candidate received such a high share of the vote as Paul Nuttall did today. There will be no arguments over the result, no complaints of unfairness, that could possibly be justified or justifiable. We can immediately and swiftly move on to fighting the enemy rather than fighting ourselves. That’s the traditional way of winning battles.
When Paul says ‘unity’, he means exactly that. His appointments today demonstrate his commitment to it. This isn’t the leadership of a man who professes to believe in unity, then considers that unity is about slavish loyalty to himself; far from it. It’s about creating a collegiate team which brings together talent from across the board.
The appointment of Peter Whittle, a staunch ally of Nigel Farage as Deputy Leader, sends out a clear message that Paul will not in any way, shape or form be detracting from the legacy of Nigel Farage. The second-in-command remains as Faragista as ever
The one appointee to a very senior position from the Suzanne Evans wing of the Party will be Patrick O’Flynn MEP, who has often got quite an unfair press within UKIP. He’s got impeccable credentials and a CV which exudes experience. Paul has appointed someone from that wing of the Party as his Chief Political Advisor, but stopped short of giving one of the top roles to Suzanne Evans. Paul has indicated he intends to keep Paul Oakden on as Party Chairman, to provide a little stability at a time when much is changing. That’s vitally important.
It’s a clever, well-thought-out set of appointments from someone who’s clearly got a keen understanding of politics. If anyone just has no interest in Party unity, they’ll find ways to moan and snipe. But if they want to work together, there’s something for everyone in Paul’s top team.
I think we’ll see more of that in the days to come as the announcements are rolled out for other positions. There will be a reshuffle, and one or two surprises as people are placed into the roles appropriate for them. I’ve long said that Paul wouldn’t appoint Suzanne Evans as Deputy Leader; I’ve been proved correct. But there will, I’m sure, be some role for her.
I anticipate that there will be good roles for a number of people with support across the Party. I’ve long been one of Paul’s key allies and top supporters. He’s a close personal friend going back over a decade. So if anyone doubts Paul’s shrewdness and political savvy, just wait till you see what job he’s going to give me!
A ‘jobs for the boys’ leader would offer me a big promotion, rewarding my personal loyalty to him. Paul instinctively understands though that there is zero benefit to Party unity in giving me a good position. What would it do, but shore up support that he already has? Watch what job I actually get, and then if anyone doubts Paul’s ability to be ruthless when it’s called for, let them doubt no longer.
What will a Paul Nuttall leadership mean for the Party? Here are my top ten predictions for Paul’s leadership:
- Expect constitutional change, including regional representation on the NEC to happen over the next 6-12 months. We’re in the process of the NEC elections, and much will depend on how the new NEC functions. If it works well, we can afford for the process to take a little longer – and to make sure that we do it right.
- Expect Paul to mean what he says about ‘Day Zero’: a tolerant approach to what’s happened in the past, but expect a clampdown on those who continue to breach Party rules under his leadership. He won’t stand for anyone seeking to undermine the Party.
- Expect us to expand our focus so that we’re speaking out more on constitutional issues (English Parliament, Direct Democracy, House of Lords reform), on crime (getting tough on the blight on our working-class communities), and on extremism (ie. not opposition to Muslims or Islam, but for a robust response to issues such as forced marriage and FGM).
- Expect Paul to reconstitute the Political Committee in some form. I don’t know how obvious this will be to the wider membership, but this will be part of a broader team-based approach making sure that everyone works together.
- Expect a ‘reboot’ of the Party so that we’re more elections-focused. Paul is acutely aware that the MEPs are losing our jobs soon, and if we don’t make a significant Westminster breakthrough in 2020 we may never do.
- Expect a different leadership style, with media appearances being shared around much more under Paul’s leadership. We have a lot of talent in the Party, and Paul’s not afraid to use it.
- Expect a focus on picking up Labour votes. This isn’t about changing UKIP policies; the ones we have are easily marketable. Whereas the Conservative voters were the easiest pickings a few years ago, that’s no longer the case today. We need to ensure though that we stay true to our principles; after all, working-class Labour voters certainly prefer our principles to Corbyn’s!
- Expect Paul to spend a lot of time travelling around the country speaking to public meetings and events. He’s got a track record of doing this, having spoken at over 500 events in recent years. That’s his style, and it won’t be changing any time soon.
- Expect Paul to lead a cost-cutting drive to ensure that the central Party is on a sound financial footing, with an income that substantially exceeds necessary expenditure. We want the maximum amount of money possible available for campaigning.
- Expect, presuming Paul’s allowed to do the job he’s just been elected to do, UKIP to head upwards in the opinion polls!
Paul has the mandate, and he intends to use it. I truly hope that you’ll be on board as we write the next chapter of UKIP’s history. There is one thing that could jeopardise UKIP’s future, and that is if too many people snipe from the sidelines rather than accepting the democratic voice of the membership. We’ve seen the Remoaners jeopardise Britain’s future and place the People’s Brexit in great peril; let’s show that – even on internal matters – we’re better than them. Let’s work together, and let’s show what a united UKIP can do!