This week got off to a good start, didn’t it!
The nominations for the leadership, the rules and the timetables for submissions, the hustings and the date of the election were set out by the NEC on Monday Oct 17th – but before we ordinary members even had that information sent to us by the Chairman Paul Oakden, Steven Woolfe’s resignation from UKIP was splashed across the MSM, dominating the news and the members’ discourse.
We’ve had our say about that – see the UKIP Daily article and this letter. One thing however struck me, reading the comments which came flooding in: while there were some choice words for Woolfe’s behaviour, most members and readers were concerned with what should happen next.
We still don’t know who all the candidates are at the time of this writing. We do know that Bill Etheridge is standing again, and so is Raheem Kassam, who had started his bid even before the NEC meeting, with a campaign website and by using his position at Breitbart London, placing articles on his campaign.
The one point raised again and again by readers – in comments and in e-mails to the Editor – is that what UKIP needs now is a clear sense of direction, a clear sense of what we stand for, a clear sense of the policies we must adopt.
In comments on other blogs members and even non-members are saying openly that UKIP has been missing chances, that it is a shame how UKIP is apparently losing its way.
Take, for example, the most recent scandal of ‘children’ from the Calais Jungle being generously taken in by our government, in co-operation with the French government. This scandal may eventually turn out to be the final straw for the generous, helpful and tolerant British people.
So: where is UKIP? Nowhere to be seen!
And what about Brexit? Who is holding Ms May’s and the government’s feet to the fire?
It is futile to start yet another blame game about Nigel leaving, about the NEC, about in-fighting, about the witch hunts, about the, forgive me, imbecilic conspiracy theories being bandied about according to which Carswell, Evans and Hamilton have planned all this debacle for a long time.
However – and this has also become clear in the comments: members have kept on and on telling those who are running the Party that we ought to be told, that they must keep us informed. Still nothing has happened!
We’ve published an article on membership dues by Rob MCWhirter which has raised interesting questions about UKIP’s online presence which should be addressed. The comments show that there is a huge reservoir of expertise amongst members – a reservoir which has not even been touched by the Party leaders.
Numerous articles on UKIP Daily show the depth of knowledge amongst members which is available, but which the Party leaders are not making use of. Take for example the 2015 Manifesto. It was not written by one single person – it made use of the expertise of our MEPS. Fair enough – but isn’t it time that members, that is us grassroots, were asked to contribute to formulating our, UKIP’s, policies?
No, UKIP is not rotten! But there is the impression that the ‘leaders’, the ‘prominence’, whose work we all recognise with gratitude and which we don’t want to denigrate in the slightest, might have become rather separated from us, who have got them where they are by our hard work. Have they perhaps become a separate ‘class’, perhaps a bit like generals whom we foot soldiers must follow without question?
If we want to get back to what has made UKIP unique, then members’ voices must be heard and their expertise must be used. That is what the new leader ought to recognise and address.
Take our online presence, for example: some in the Party’s hierarchy tell us that optimising this – for example just to keep members better informed – costs money which we don’t have while others tell us that some things simply must be kept secret. These problems can be resolved. The best way would be to actually involve members in coming up with solutions rather than just talk about ‘professionalism’ – as if members with lifelong experience in business, IT, industry, trade, research weren’t ‘professionals’!
Anyone who has looked at the current websites of our Party cannot but be astounded that this is supposed to reform UKIP into a ‘Five Star’ movement.
Anyone who has been fighting by-elections in the last weeks (and fingers crossed today for one of our UKIP Daily editors, Debbie LeMay!) knows full well that it is not online presence, or address lists of supporters which wins elections. Read again Jonathan Arnott’s report on the fantastic Hartlepool by-election: it is members, foot soldiers, who win it. That is another and most vital issue which we ask our next Leader to address.
Acquiring new members is hugely important – but what do they do if UKIP becomes an ‘online party’ only? Just press buttons on their PC? Why should they even be interested when there’s no clear pathway for input from the grassroots to a leadership, perceived as disengaged from the grassroots because reply there is none?
The new leader, the new Party leadership, must have a clear concept of involving members in the formulation of policies, must have a clear concept of making use of the huge amount of talent, expertise, experience and enthusiasm members possess, and must stop what sometimes feels like a UKIP version of Upstairs-Downstairs.
The members’ sheer enthusiasm and willingness to work has made UKIP what it is and has won us Brexit. Even a Nigel Farage – on his own, without us – would not have been able to do that.
We’ve been patient, very patient, but the new leader ought to remember the last line of Kipling’s Poem “Tommy”:
”An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please; An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!”
We’ve seen, we’ve taken note – and now we’re telling you:
Don’t fail us!