Politics isn’t just about getting people elected – though that’s part of it. It’s about fighting on all fronts – PR, social media, networks, letter-writing, petitions, consumer pressure, etc. – rather than just one, and achieving change.
Politicians want to get elected, to keep their jobs and advance in their careers. Think of the major parties as policy supermarkets. If they think a policy will sell, they’ll stock it. This way we move the whole political centre of gravity to the right. We’ve already done it with Brexit. We did it with grammar schools. We can get more of our policies adopted without being in government – or even having any MPs.
There’s a lot of political communication going out there, especially online, which UKIP barely seems to be a part of. YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson is getting up to 2.4 million hits per video. The Infowars news site in the US gets more traffic than mainstream media sites like CNN (hence the panic about ‘fake news’). Britain First (dare I mention them) have been very effective spreading their message on Facebook. We may be reticent about being associated with some of these people, but we can learn a thing or two from their communications strategies.
We can all think of ways that UKIP has failed. It’s easy for people like me to carp from sidelines. Building, planning and organising applies equally at the branch level. I have pulled together list of areas we need to think about. Other branches and regions may be far more advanced than South Wales in these areas so apologies if I’m teaching you to suck eggs. Indeed I welcome you experience and advice.
It’s neither a small nor an overnight job but we need to get started. Tony Robbins said most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in five. We have three years until the next general election. Hopefully there’ll be no more Euro elections. In Wales we have no elections planned between this May and 2020. We therefore have three years to build support and candidate reputations.
What skills do we have within our membership and supporters? Let’s ask them and build a database and utilise those skills. Examples of the skills and experience which may be useful include:
- Elected political office
- Election agent
- Social media
- Graphic design
- Running a business
- Senior public sector
- Pressure groups/think tanks/campaigns
- Organising events
- Members of like-minded campaigns
- Who are our willing volunteers?
Candidate support & PR
What support do candidates need? What support is available from Head Office? Here are some examples of support that we can look at providing:
- PR/media – advice/message/avoiding ambush or embarrassment/research/resources/opportunities for publicity/press releases & briefings;
- Videos/leaflets – professionally produced by volunteers with applicable skills/standardised;
- Social media – tweets & retweets/Facebook/YouTube – articles/statements/videos/graphics;
- How to spin/minimise damage of ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ if they come up;
- Campaigns between elections – specific issues/co-operation with like-minded groups/campaigners;
- Counter-campaigns – countering hostile propaganda/narratives;
- Use sympathetic & alternative media e.g. Breitbart/Westmonster/Express/RT/Infowars/YouTubers.
- Targets – Membership/social media/network of like-minded people/campaigners;
- Website – consider national branch website template – must be good/clear – easy access to policies/candidates/councillors, MEPs & AMs/news & campaigns/feedback/membership & volunteering;
- Leafleting volunteers/areas – Who in the membership is willing to leaflet? Are they willing to regularly leaflet a specific area?;
- Newsletter / social media;
- Networking/co-operating with like-minded groups/campaigns.
Campaigns & Fundraising
- Membership drives – Street stalls/leaflets/social media/sympathetic media/like-minded campaign groups;
- Speakers/public events – Party figures/other sympathetic campaigns/debates/film screenings;
- Crowd-funding for specific campaigns;
- Letter-writing – Amnesty-style;
- Consumer campaigns/boycotts;
- Petitions – easy-to-do at home online or promote someone else’s;
- Horses for courses – some people may not be UKIP supporters or willing to be members, but may share some of aims – work with them/involve them in campaigns.
- Sharing skills, experience & contacts;
- Candidate selection – organise hustings – wider source of candidates where suitable ones not available within branches;
- Co-ordinated election campaigns – policy ideas/common; messages/shared skills/targeting seats/campaign assistance/media;
- Feedback to Head Office/leadership.
We also need to consider resilience. UKIP may not survive as a powerful political force. In that case we don’t want to lose the work we’ve done or the skills and experience we’ve built up. We should be able to lift and shift it to a new organisation, or for the network to exist outside any particular party, helping like-minded campaigns.
Online platforms such as Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Google are increasingly censoring what they brand ‘hate speech’ and ‘fake news’. We need to be able to circumvent them by building an email list and communications network which is not reliant on these. Do we need a legal support/defence fund if the authorities start getting heavier-handed? Leftists have developed a number of techniques over the years which we can borrow. A telephone or email tree enables fast communications and avoids the whole membership/contacts list being held in one place. We can publish online information and advice so that people know their rights and encourage its copying and wide dissemination.
… And now for my radical 25-point populist manifesto … That’ll have to wait till the next part.