While reading Tony Hooke’s article on the NHS and the replies by Liz Ferla, I was struck by the disparate nature of the politics within UKIP. Tony and Liz talk with enthusiasm for the NHS and the trades unions, enthusiasms that I do not share. It is also quite clear that David Allan does not share my ideas on the energy market or the Minimum Wage. I suspect that these differences will remain irreconcilable. I would also make a case that while UKIP broadly agree on immigration and European issues, we agree for different reasons. Now while I am delighted to be in a party that allows such a divergence in views, and a party that encourages debate, I must ask: does this heterogeneity mean that we are doomed?
UKIP did terribly well in the local elections in May 2013, and while the elected councillors are quite probably all well-meaning and industrious individuals, what have they achieved that is uniquely UKIP? The party has no whip system at local level, so any achievements cannot then said to be UKIP, but any mishaps along the way will be considered undeniably UKIP. This does not seem a terribly (although well intended) sustainable policy.
UKIP will do well in May 2014 at the Euros, of this I am sure. But given that the European Parliament has no powers and does not enjoy any media coverage save the occasional sensation (both good and bad), what can this really achieve for the UK?
The other main parties have already begun their May 2015 campaigns; we have not. I am not denigrating the individual efforts made by the branches week in and week out, but rather I am saying that UKIP HQ has not even begun to draw up battle lines (if it has then it has not told my branch). How are we going to fight 2015 without policy agreements between ourselves? Who is going to lead on specific policy areas?
In order to stand a fighting chance and make a difference we need to get 2015 straight. We require working groups. We need a plan. And we need cohesion. If we do not sort this out I am afraid that we will be doomed, because we would have to wait until 2020, and by then the issues that unite us will have been determined in a way that none of us will like. We will not have had a referendum, we will have a new treaty, the UK will be divided into regions answerable not to Parliament but to the EU, we will be rolling out the red carpet to the newly joined members from Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo and FYR Macedonia, and we will be preparing to welcome in the Moldovans. UKIP will have had its chance, and not taken it.