I saw an article on UKIP Daily last week entitled ‘Saving UKIP’. I don’t know if the author has noticed but UKIP has already been saved. I have been responsible for that with the help of the vast majority of our loyal members.
On 17th February 2018 the EGM in Birmingham appointed me as the Interim Leader, and on 14th April I was elected unopposed as Leader for a twelve-month term. That term ends on 13th April 2019.
I took on the role for one reason only – because I could not stand idly by and watch the Party disappear. UKIP had been brought to the edge of destruction by the previous collective leadership. We were about four to six weeks away from insolvency and forced closure. No one else wanted the job of Interim Leader, and I felt I had no option but to volunteer.
Remember where we were just ten months ago. Membership and income were falling through the floor. We inherited massive debts dating back to the time of Nigel Farage’s leadership. We faced a massive legal bill because of serious errors of judgement by a previous chairman and treasurer. We had a complete lack of credibility with the public and the media. I was shocked at how Party structures had been allowed to decay over the previous two years.
When I took over as Leader I did not know if the Party could be saved or not. The first few weeks were extremely stressful as I worked with the new Chairman and Treasurer to address priority number one, which was to raise money. I have said before how the ordinary members responded to my request for £100,000 by donating £300,000. Their generosity gave us the breathing space we needed to survive.
Ten months later, where are we? I must be doing something right because membership has risen from a low point of about 18,000 to 26,500 as of yesterday, and it is rising daily. This level of membership gives us an income sufficient to pay for the Party’s current administration needs with a moderate surplus.
A couple of weeks ago, on my instructions, we accomplished something that every previous leader had failed to do: we introduced the option of a direct debit low cost monthly membership fee of £4 – less than the price of a point of beer. That is bringing in many more members.
In addition, I revitalised the Patrons Club, which had more or less ceased to exist. It now produces an income which is can be spent on special projects. I have now raised enough money to pay the salaries of a full-time Chairman, Treasurer, and Press Officer. My next priority is to raise money to pay for a full-time Elections Campaign Manager.
I worked relentlessly during August and early September to ensure that we had a new Interim Manifesto ready for the Party Conference on 21st September. That conference was perhaps the most successful UKIP has ever had and the new manifesto received overwhelming approval of the members.
Why then in recent days am I coming under attack from outside, and from a few inside, the Party? The reason being used is that it is because I have appointed Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) as personal advisor (unpaid and unofficial).
I am not going to dwell on the Tommy Robinson issue because the NEC decided that any consideration of his possible membership of the Party cannot happen until after the end of March 2019, and as I proposed, that would have to be subject to a vote of the entire membership. I am entirely happy with this outcome.
New members have been joining for a variety of reasons: Mrs May’s incompetence and her betrayal of Brexit, because they have seen me on national TV and radio promoting unilateral exit from the EU, and because the Party has regained credibility among those who want a genuine exit from the EU.
We have lost a number of people from UKIP I admit. Nigel Farage is the most high-profile. In my opinion Nigel left the party in spirit after the Referendum and has been waiting for a reason to go physically. He has found one now, but if it was not one thing it would have been another.
Now he thinks that the UK may possibly take part in the next European Elections next year and he wants to form a new party to fight them without the inconvenience of a democratic political structure behind it. Such a party could inevitably split the genuinely pro-Brexit vote.
This brings us on to the UKIP MEPs. A number had left long before I became Leader, and more have left since, some in the last week. Some I like and respect and I am sorry to see them go. Others have never fulfilled their commitment to the Party to donate 10% of their take home salary to the Party.
Not one of the MEPs who has resigned from UKIP have observed their 2013 Charter obligation to hand the seat back to UKIP should they resign from the Party for any reason. You can make up your own mind about their honour and integrity.
At the Conference last September, I said that I wanted to make UKIP a genuinely populist party – a party whose policies are popular with a very large section of the electorate. I want UKIP to represent ordinary patriotic people – from all classes. I always felt that some in UKIP, especially some at the top, just wanted to use the Party as a political stick with which to beat the Tories. Once the Referendum was won, they wanted UKIP to fold and die.
You may or may not agree with everything I have done. But it has all been done in good faith in order to preserve and promote the Party and the cause we represent. I have fulfilled the three main objectives I set myself in February: I have saved the Party financially, significantly raised membership, and pointed us in the right direction politically.
UKIP is the only Party that genuinely wants the UK to leave the EU. We are in a desperate struggle to promote that outcome, and it may take years yet to make it happen. We are in a political war, and we have to find allies who are willing and able to assist us. UKIP’s activists, members, supporters and voters understand that we are facing a betrayal of our country by our political class that is unparalleled in our history. Fighting that betrayal will not be an easy path to take.
I have no personal political ambition. I am not an egotist. Leadership is a burden and a grave responsibility. Uppermost in my mind for the last ten months has been fulfilling the trust of our ordinary rank and file members, and that when I stand down, I will leave the Party stronger than I found it.
In the New Year I will consider my options and decide what to do. In the meantime, I wish everyone, my supporters and detractors, a very Happy Christmas.