For the past two or three weeks I have been subscribing to the Brexit Central newsletter, edited by Jonathan Isaby, former Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Generally it is an interesting and informative digest of conservative mainstream media articles putting a positive spin on Brexit.
What I have also come to notice is its apparent determination not to mention, or give any credit whatsoever to, UKIP. As far as Jonathan Isaby and his friends at Brexit Central are concerned, UKIP doesn’t exist, and certainly made no contribution to winning the Brexit referendum. That, along with our ultimate divorce from the EU, is purely an achievement of the Eurosceptic Conservatives.
This came to a head one morning when I read the following excerpt in the newsletter:
Daniel Hannan MEP – “The man who brought you Brexit”:
“It was Hannan, in 2012, who asked Matthew Elliott, the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, to set up the embryonic campaign group that later became Vote Leave. Elliott, who is 38, describes Hannan as the pamphleteer who made Brexit seem like a reasonable proposition for millions of people. “I can’t think of anybody who has done more on this,” he told me. Others laboured too, of course, and Elliott cited veteran Tory MPs Bill Cash and John Redwood, who spent decades attacking the constitutional and economic aspects of the EU – “but Dan is the only person who has successfully created a whole worldview,” he said. “And also has done better than anyone else to be the propagandist for it.”
OK, the above is a quote from a Guardian article, but it is consistent with the attempt to totally airbrush UKIP from the Brexit story.
One person immediately springs to mind who certainly did more to promote Brexit and win the referendum than Daniel Whatshisname – along with a whole party, with its elected MEPs and thousands of grassroots activists up and down the country.
This avoidance of crediting Nigel Farage and UKIP for their contribution to delivering Brexit is not just a tedious perpetuation on the Vote Leave/Leave.EU feud. It’s a surreal re-writing of history. If it hadn’t been for UKIP winning 4 million votes in the 2015 General Election, forcing Cameron to hold a referendum, and Farage’s ability to communicate with ordinary voters, Euroscepticism would still be inhabiting the eccentric fringes of the Tory party, as it had done for 25 years.
Oh, now I notice that Brexit Central does acknowledge one UKIPper – it has a link to Douglas Carswell’s blog further down the page. That in itself is somewhat telling.
Personally, though I would have preferred Grassroots Out to have got the nomination, I readily got involved in Vote Leave and was happy to work with a range of like-minded people to achieve our common goal.
I find it depressing that UKIP, and the wider Brexit movement, continues to be riven by feuding between factions and the egos of leading figures and donors.
UKIP itself has a long way to go before these divisions are behind us. For my part I will put my profound disappointment that the party elected Diane James as leader aside, to give her a chance to heal the wounds in the party, which Paul Nuttall so eloquently and passionately articulated at Conference was necessary. I have to say she did not get off to an auspicious start. Her leadership campaign was a two-finger gesture to the NEC, refusing to take part in the hustings process, and one of her first acts as leader was to change the conference running order to prevent the other leadership candidates addressing conference from the podium and to replace Neil Hamilton with Nathan Gill – the man the other Welsh UKIP AMs have rejected to the point that he now sits as an independent. They don’t even mention him in their communications.
The one person James made a very public show of building bridges with was Douglas Carswell.
I would find this easier to accept if factional differences were clearly driven by differences in policy or focus, and I could identify with one or other in particular. Unfortunately these divisions seem to be driven by egos and cronyism. While I regard Nigel Farage as a hero and genius orator who has done more than anyone to achieve Brexit and change the course of this country’s history, from those I have spoken with, I know how his behaviour behind the scenes has been divisive. While I am embarrassed to be in the same party as Neil “Cash-for-Questions” Hamilton, I understand how some AMs find themselves unable to work with Nathan Gill in the wake of how the Welsh selection process was conducted earlier this year.
Sadly, the egos and feuds of key individuals getting in the way of the cause we are supposed to be working towards is par for the course in politics, It has ever been thus. That’s why the word “politics” is used a euphemism for unconstructive office infighting. UKIP is not a new kind of politics in that respect!
I just hope we can all focus on holding the government’s feet to the fire to honour the democratic mandate to deliver “clean Brexit” (as Jonathan Isaby calls it) and take back control of our borders, rather than fighting among ourselves.
That, however, is a two-year job.
Brexit we can all agree on. What after that? Does UKIP even have a role? That is perhaps when these divisions really do become relevant.
The Eurosceptic Tories don’t want UKIP threatening the status quo. To them (and some UKIPpers) Brexit is purely about free markets and freeing business from regulation which stands in the way of them making more money. To win the referendum however (and though many in Vote Leave resisted it) they had to appeal to the provincial working class by raising the subject of immigration. That particular genie is now out of the bottle. Those voters will no longer be satisfied by government policies being pursued in the sole interest of the metropolitan moneyed elite.
And that, dear reader, is the subject of another article…