The ballot paper has arrived, it’s time to vote. Who is to be the new leader of UKIP? Most of the obvious candidates are not on the ballot paper.
Toss a coin – or abstain? But surely. this is a very important moment for UKIP! For years, the media have been saying that whatever the EU Referendum result, UKIP would be finished after the referendum. If the result was “Remain” – which they confidently expected – UKIP would have failed. If the result was “Leave” Ukip would have succeeded, but it would no longer have any purpose. The referendum went – so they are now saying – the wrong way, but at least there has been one good result. It will mean the end of UKIP. And when Nigel stepped aside, their confidence was greatly increased. The Tory Party are currently breathing a prolonged sigh of relief. UKIP, they reckon, will no longer be a threat to their hegemony. And with the Labour Party in its current state of turmoil, it will be a bright Tory future for them, Brexit or no Brexit.
Nigel has decided that, after Brexit, he is no longer the man to carry UKIP onwards. He will still be there and if Brexit doesn’t look like happening, his voice will be heard again. He does not need to be the official UKIP leader – his voice will be heard with or without that. He is now a national figure, increasingly an international figure, with great prestige. He will do his utmost to make sure that his life’s work has not been wasted. If anyone can do that, he can. And he will always have our full and unqualified support.
In the meantime, what about the party he created? What about its representatives in the EU and the Welsh Assembly? What about the UKIP councillors? What about the organisation in the constituencies? What about the members who have achieved so much? What about the voters who defied the media and voted in the referendum for change? There will not be another referendum – the Establishment won’t risk that again. And there won’t be an election yet either. So our power – the power of the vote and the power to influence votes – may not be the decisive factor in Brexit for the next few years. But UKIP must survive those few years because Brexit is only the beginning. UKIP has a greater aim – to make Britain a better, happier country to live in. We have made a start. We have established a bridgehead on the enemy coast. But the enemy is still as strong as ever. The war is not yet won.
There is a crisis of morale in the party. UKIP members themselves are starting to ask if there is any future for our great collective endeavour. And at this very difficult moment, UKIP has to elect a new Leader. The first requirement of that new leader is that he or she should be fully aware of the full responsibility that falls on his or her shoulders. Failure may mean the end of UKIP. And our great responsibility as members is to choose the man or woman who has the qualities which are needed to give the party new directions and to maintain the momentum which has been achieved.
It’s not an easy choice for us to make. Many would probably have voted for Steven Wolfe or for Suzanne Evans. Many others, particularly in the North, would have voted for Paul Nuttall or Jonathan Arnott. For one reason or another, they’ve all fallen by the wayside. Five candidates are left. They have all produced leaflets and all five leaflets have come with the ballot paper. The five leaflets vary slightly, but none are very persuasive. How many of us have been to the leadership hustings? And although we have been promised a video of the London hustings, it has not appeared and it probably won’t appear.
Two weeks ago, I personally couldn’t see a future for UKIP. But I’ve found one short presentation which has changed my mind. It’s an informal speech by Bill Etheridge, given in the bar of a Worcester pub in July. I’ve listened to it several times and each time I’ve found it more persuasive. I hope other members will listen to it before they decide.
I’ve listened to that speech and I shall now vote for Bill.