Many of us joined UKIP for two reasons. We believed very strongly in the independent traditions of our country, and we greatly admired the one man who was determined to get Britain out of the EU. We almost certainly would not have joined UKIP if the leader had been anyone other than Nigel Farage. We now find ourselves somewhat reluctant members of a UKIP which seems determined to prove that it can manage without him.
A new leader has been elected. He is a talented man. He has put himself at the head of those in the party who see a real political opportunity in replacing Labour, particularly in the North and Midlands, perhaps in due course in Scotland. Such an opportunity does indeed beckon. If our object in UKIP is to replace Labour as one of the two main British political parties, then perhaps Paul Nuttall is leading UKIP in the right direction.
But we should ask ourselves two questions. Firstly, do we sufficiently understand why the “Out” vote did so well in the Midlands and North and why UKIP is garnering some old Labour votes there? It is easy to see that Labour has cut itself off completely from its roots. There are plenty of good reasons for Labour voters to be disillusioned with their old loyalty. But do they show any real signs of developing a new loyalty to UKIP? Why should they? In its heyday, the Labour Party built up loyalties by policies which appealed to working class voters. It was a Labour Government which gave us the National Health Service. Given that the Government comes up with an acceptable immigration policy, has UKIP actually got any other real policies which, once implemented, will offer – or even appear to offer – a brighter future to those whose votes it seeks to attract? Or is UKIP really simply a one-issue party, which owes its current position to the political genius of one man and his success in appealing to the patriotic spirit of ordinary English people? That patriotic spirit which in 1968 brought the Smithfield meat-porters out in support of the very un-working-class Enoch Powell. That patriotic spirit which in 1984 enabled the Tory Margaret Thatcher, once she had won the Falklands War, to use her political strength to break the power of the Trade Unions.
And even if UKIP does need to see its future in terms of appealing to the working-class voters of the Midlands and North, have we really got the leadership to make a success of it? Is there really anybody at the head of UKIP who can remotely compare with Nigel Farage as an inspired and inspiring leader?
Why has this great and successful leader fallen out with the party he built up and which which until recently worked so hard to support him? And even more important, why has his party fallen out with him? We have all read, in UKIP Daily and elsewhere, a great deal of criticism of the way things were run under his leadership. Some of it sounds quite justified. He had his faults. But we need him.
The Referendum is won, there has been a change of Government, the new Government intends (so it says) to take Britain out of the EU. Considering that to take Britain out of the EU involves winning the co-operation of a mainly hostile House of Commons and an entirely hostile Civil Service, perhaps we should not expect to see things happen very quickly. A great ship takes a long time to turn round and reverse its course. And especially when the crew are mutinous and the course is a new and uncharted one. Many of those who wanted desperately to win the Referendum have, since it was won, been content, at least for the time being, to give the new Government a little time and perhaps the benefit of any doubt.
After the Referendum, our attention actually wandered away from Britain entirely. US government foreign and defence policy was raising the nightmare possibility of war with Russia. One of the candidates in the presidential election, supported by the entirety of the media, seemed quite likely to make that actually happen. Far more was at stake (even for us here) in the US election than was at stake in our Referendum. Quite simply life and death. And our respect for Nigel Farage was further increased when we saw him actively supporting the candidature of Donald Trump. When it turned out that Trump had a Scottish mother, was a lover of this country and going to be the President of the United States, our whole perception of our political future became quite different. Until now, ever since Suez, the Anglo-American relationship had been one of bullying on the one side and fawning dependence on the other. It was the US, to a very large extent, which herded us into the EU and kept us there. All this now looks like changing. The future is more unpredictable than ever, but the Trump presidency and the good relationship that Nigel has established with the President Elect gives new hope for our future. And in the mean time, the EU looks like falling apart anyway.
Nigel Farage has led us to where we are now and he is now showing us a new way forward. We in UKIP should recognise that his political instinct is right again. Perhaps he still prefers not to be our leader. But UKIP should follow his lead and urge the British government to cooperate in every way with the new US administration.