When I wrote my previous article on the UKIP leadership race, I was concerned for the future for the party. Our charismatic leader had stood down and, wracked with infighting and some of our most promising lieutenants out of the race, we seemed to be showing ourselves as an amateur party in the worse sense of that word. Given the opportunity of a date with history, we had chosen to stay in and wash our hair.
I was coming round to the expectation that we would probably end up spending a couple of years in the wilderness with a lame-duck leader until Nigel Farage came back to rescue us again, but by then the momentum would have been lost. Perhaps this was the end of the road for UKIP as a force in British politics and we would have to look to another party to be the UK spearhead of the alternative right wave of change which is sweeping the Western world.
Reading the comments was interesting. Some were talking of begging Farage to come back or making him lifetime President (I recall something about the NUM and Arthur Scargill) – surely a temptation to controlling vanity for all but the most magnanimous individual, while conceding to the world that UKIP is a party built around just one man after all. What then happens if Farage is murdered by crazed leftists or crashes in another plane? Do we all pack up and go home?
I didn’t know much about the candidates standing, so I resolved to go to the hustings to find out. As I was on holiday during the Welsh hustings, I went to the south-east ones in Frimely instead, since they were close to where I work. In the meantime Jonathan Arnott had dropped-out for again unconvincing reasons, leaving 5 in the race. With about 150 people, the hall was disappointingly half-full.
Lisa Duffy was up first. She’s OK as a public speaker and emphasised her considerable organisational achievements within UKIP, along with the importance of the grassroots. She insisted the NEC must stay, but she will reform it with regional representative and a party chair who is elected, rather than appointed by the leader. Along with this, she will appoint 15 shadow spokesmen, a talent bank and an elections team. I had been concerned about Duffy’s backers, but nothing she said suggested she would move the party to a bland centrist position. Indeed, she takes the toughest line on Islam, seeking to challenge the Muslim community on integration and equality, to the point that even Bill Etheridge felt the need to express his opinion that it’s only the extremists who are a problem, not a whole section of society. Overall I get the impression that Lisa Duffy is a capable manager, but not the best potential leader.
Elizabeth Jones is the one candidate who I have to say is a weak public speaker. Her voice is not confident and I doubt her old-fashioned sounding received pronunciation will win over many in Britain’s working class former industrial heartlands. She hurries off flustered when the chair sounds the 10-second chime to wrap up her opening speech, on occasions she doesn’t hold the mic to her mouth properly for us to hear her, she is unprepared, rambles and has to be cut short in most of her answers. She tells us she’s good with the media but I don’t see it. I know public speaking can be nerve-racking though, so full marks for having the guts to stand up. To her credit she is the only one to attack Britain’s disastrous hawkish foreign policy – a subject close to my heart. She wants to publish NEC minutes (but only in redacted form.) Jones uses her entire closing summary to emphasise that UKIP needs funding and she’s good at schmoozing potential donors, while making a side-swipe at other candidates’ “Trumpsville dreamland policies”. I have heard rumors before that UKIP is short of cash. This however would be a reason to appoint her as Fundraising Officer rather than leader.
I had already been warming to Bill Etheridge – the no nonsense Brummie who’s not afraid to offend political correctness by posing with golliwogs, calling for a referendum to bring back hanging and proposing to privatise the BBC. Bill shines. His speaking style is deliberate, carefully-paced and inspiring, while injecting an element of humour. He advocates radical tax cuts while paying down the national debt. (Just how? I’d have to see the figures.) He wants to revive UK manufacturing, slash nanny state sin taxes and ban the burkha and sharia law. Etheridge had spent the day visiting the Calais Jungle camp. He regards it as a shame on the French government, which must be removed. His view of UKIP is one which challenges the establishment and threatens the political class electorally. He also intends to reform the UKIP organisation with new political and professional structures. I like him.
Phillip Broughton arrived late, delayed by a minor car accident. I have to confess that, after reading about this young guy who works at his local Tesco, I had low expectations. Others warned of him not being able to shake-off a couple of embarrassing YouTube videos. Completely unflustered, Brougton turns out to be an awesome orator. Every word and empahasis of his message was meticulously planned and rehearsed for maximum impact. His points were concise, punchy and packed to the point that I struggled to keep up taking notes. He sold himself as young, northern and passionate (though, as well as being in the south-east of England, the “young” bit may not have gone down too well with the audience, many of whom were old enough to be his grandparents.) His slogan is ‘freedom, fairness & opportunity’. He proposes to turn UKIP into a mass party with a £5 membership fee and to start the next election campaign now.
Sadly the only reason – but it’s a fundamental reason – why this article isn’t entitled “It’s Got To Be Phillip” and why I won’t be voting for him, is his mantra that UKIP must “change its tone”, which he repeated several times in both his speech and his leaflet.
No. Wrong. This is the same language the Remaniacs used to try to blame the Leave campaign for the murder of Jo Cox, for daring to try to have a debate about the massive level of immigration and the strain a net population increase of half-a-million a year is putting on services and communities. So much for a guy who says he understands the issues facing ordinary working class people! While I accept his point that the electorate needs to know UKIP has a whole range of policies, we need to keep challenging taboos and empower people with the message that there’s nothing that cannot be discussed. There’s no point trying to play the PC game because the left will always find a way to demonise us and we’ll end up changing nothing. Broughton’s repeated emphasis on free markets and small government though suggests that he’s more of a Thatcherite Tory and perhaps that’s where he belongs.
The one no-show of the night was Diane James. I can’t comment on what she’s like because I’ve no idea. I didn’t get to see her. I spoke to some people afterwards, who seem to be James supporters, who tell me that she announced at the start of the campaign that she wouldn’t be attending any of the hustings but doing her own speaking tour instead. They were going to Eastbourne to hear her speak. I made the effort to travel to the hustings and paid for a hotel so I could hear all the candidates together. I won’t be making a special trip to see Diane James just bacuse she doesn’t see why she should debate head-to-head with the other candidates. Who does she think she is? David Cameron? This is enough to guarantee I will not be voting for Diane James.
So I’ll be voting for Bill Etheridge and I hope most other UKIPpers do too. At least Breitbart London seems to be on my side. That said, I came away from the evening in the knowledge that there are three candidates – Etheridge, Broughton & Duffy – who I would be reasonably comfortable with.
There is life after Nigel. Daddy may be gone now, but we’ll work it out. It’s gonna be OK.