As so many readers here on UKIP Daily and as so many members across the country, I’ve been following the campaign(s) of the candidates, mostly by reading reports of hustings and by watching the speeches the candidates put up as videos on their facebook pages and websites.
Yesterday, the editors kindly published a letter I wrote, calling for more hustings reports so that those of us who cannot visit these events can learn more about the candidates. After all, I think that personal impressions are important, and I also think that the more we hear of what members, not the candidates’ campaign managers, think of the leadership contestants, the more it helps to form an opinion.
However, I am concerned to observe more and more what can be described as a rise in biliousness and – sorry, but it’s true! – pigheadedness coming to the fore amongst members and, yes, also amongst those who comment on here. It seems that ever since Anne Marie Waters announced her intent to contest for the leadership an attitude has appeared amongst members and indeed the Party ‘elite’ which I’d like to call ‘un-kipperish’.
It started with that article by Bill Etheridge in the Daily Telegraph – that was on June 22nd, and Bill was a candidate himself at that time. It went on with a declaration by UKIP MEPs that they would leave the Party should AMW become leader, and many members, including branch secretaries and UKIP councillors, followed suit. Unsurprisingly, that hardened the attitude of members supporting AMW.
We then had the attack on David Kurten just before the NEC was to decide on the official nomination of candidates for this contest. By that time, Bill Etheridge had already stepped down.
I seem to remember – do correct me if I’m wrong – that candidates were not to attack other candidates in their campaign statements or during hustings. It seems the candidates now still in the running are observing that stricture – at least as far as I can make out from the reports I’ve read on UKIP Daily.
However, what I’ve read in the comments on UKIP Daily shows another picture. More and more, partisanship is coming to the fore, with personal denigration of those comment posters not supporting either the ‘candidate of choice’, AMW, or supporting a different candidate. The comments I read on yesterday’s article by David Allen (himself a leadership contestant who stepped down and now supports Henry Bolton) are a case in point. Yes, they are polite (I assume the moderators are weeding out the posts with more intemperate if not incendiary language), but they read as if everyone who hasn’t yet decided to support AMW needs to be taught that this is the only way to go. Anyone raising their heads above that particular parapet gets knocked down.
What is worse, IMHO, is that the whole debate seems to have boiled down to one single issue: islam. Yes, it is a major issue – but such partisanship not only obfuscates all other issues, it means that other important questions are not even asked – not of the candidates, not amongst members.
What about Brexit? How is it possible that this vital issue has vanished from the agenda? Government Position papers have been published in the last weeks – all reported on UKIP Daily – but that has not informed the leadership debate, or so it would seem to me.
What about the continuing upset regarding the NEC? I cannot find that this has become an issue when I look at the reports up to today of the hustings. Are members, is the prospective new leader, ok with the restructuring of the whole party as announced by Party Management in their last communications? Are these issues, so vital for our Party, now unimportant?
What about the vision of JRE for UKIP should he become leader? He’s not written anything for UKIP Daily that I’m aware of, but surely those who voted for him in last year’s leadership election have not abandoned him now – so where is their input on here?
I appreciate that the candidates are run off their feet, trying to visit as many hustings as they possibly can, but shouldn’t their campaign managers write about their standpoints to the questions I raised? Instead we get press releases about which Party aristocrat supports whom!
One contributor for UKIP Daily sent a questionnaire to all candidates, with questions on islam (see here). I found it illuminating, not just because of the answers but because of who of the candidates didn’t reply. But what did an ordinary member really learn from it? Not a lot, I’d say! And that’s my point: yes, we know all candidates are ‘against’ islam, more or less forcefully. Yes, that’s all the questionnaire asked about. But is that now the one and only criterion for electing the new leader?
It isn’t good enough! And it doesn’t bode well for the future of UKIP if, as is my impression from the last couple of weeks is anything to go by, being anti-islam is seen as the single most important standard for deciding whom to vote for, with the exclusion of all others.
Let’s please hear candidates and members on Brexit and the future of UKIP! Or have candidates and members now had enough of UKIP and are hoping for a new Party?
We should be told!