Our constituency treasurer is a UKIP patron. For those who don’t know, the patrons meet periodically to discuss major UKIP issues. Paul sent out the next agenda to local activists for comments which gave me the opportunity to present my view of ‘the next steps’. My observations are likely to be generally supported so perhaps worth sharing as well.
The way forward is less complex than we imagine if approached with clarity of thought. UKIP has experienced phenomenal growth as a party because we addressed and campaigned for an issue which had the majority support of British people.
On the back of that we gained electoral support, won national elections, made inroads to local councils and became the third largest party in the country. We campaigned fearlessly against the EU and uncontrolled immigration, largely through the incredible abilities of Nigel Farage. He put us on the map.
Now we are on the map it is up to us to remain there. The job is now easier because everyone knows about UKIP; it is harder because our leadership is about to change but what we must do is exactly what we have always done, that is to grab a cause, campaign relentlessly, gather more support and recruit more members.
Our campaign against the EU and uncontrolled immigration had great difficulties. Any sensible comment on immigration used to be met with cries of racism, the party image suffered because of that and some of it lingers on. However, despite the misinformation constantly being spread, the unrelenting attacks by the media and the natural hostility of the other two parties, we brought about a referendum, caused the resignation of the prime minister, sacked the chancellor and others and won the greatest political victory of the age.
The purpose of UKIP now is to provide a valid and competent opposition to the Conservatives with a view to forming a government within the next 15 years. To do that we need to increase our support among the people and to do that we must continually present well-thought-out and radical policies on an ongoing basis, not just at national election times. It is important that everyone knows what we stand for, all the time. We cannot remain content with the status quo; if we desire more influence we need to be prepared for government.
We must talk about something other than BREXIT.
We have been given a unique opportunity. At a time when the Labour party is in disarray and leaving the electorate behind, the Liberal Democrats reverting to ‘fence sitting’ form and the Conservatives being devoid of any ideas at all, the goal is wide open and the goalkeeper on a break. Let’s kick the ball in it.
Fortunately, the next great campaign will be much easier than the last and it already has overwhelming support. That is electoral reform, because by those means we can translate support into seats, but firstly how should we bring about such change?
Electoral reform has three components:
The voting system
Reform of the second chamber
Political party funding
To gather support for a change in the voting system we must effectively and innovatively counter the strongest argument that FPTP has. This is often around the erroneous assertion that because FPTP is more likely to produce a majority for one party it therefore makes for strong government. A simple glance at the last few years will show that to be quite false. I’ve written about this approach already at www.makevotescount.co.uk
I will present a paper in due course on what we like to call ‘House of Lords Reform’, but in-reality would be the establishment of a functional second chamber. It becomes a much clearer task if one separates the honour of a peerage with the function of the second chamber, perhaps a senate (or whatever it should be called). That way leaders still get to throw their patronage around but as simply titles with no legislative role at all. The second chamber would be populated by a distinct and separate process which could include an elected component.
Political party funding is the most difficult as the arguments have yet to be made and won but, we can steam ahead with a preferred alternative voting system.
The party needs to stop talking about Brexit so much and begin the drive to become relevant in a post-Brexit world. The best way to do this is to continually develop new and innovative policy. Policy attracts support, which attracts supporters, which attracts members which translates into votes. Without this support, we are nothing.
The first of the great policy issues to promote should be ‘Voting Reform’. The party must commission a panel to evaluate all the credible alternatives and pick a system to campaign for. It is time to be positive. This is something most people actually want.
A policy creation structure must be formed that includes member input and member involvement. For a party that prides itself on local strength, it’s ironic that the membership is all but ignored by the leadership. Policy creation should incorporate the skills and experience that we already have in our membership and critically a ‘red team’ approach to policy ideas. That is for all policy to be critically evaluated by people who have had no part in its initial creation. Essentially, think of an idea, then try to ‘break it’. Policy is everything.
We need a new approach to fundraising which keeps the donor involved. I will also write a paper on how to do this in due course. In the new, ‘post large donors’ political environment parties will need to be much more innovative in acquiring donations. ‘DONATE’ in big letters at every opportunity no longer cuts the mustard with enough people.
Naturally there are internal mechanisms that need change, such as the constitution and the rule book, but when they work well the populace don’t see them; that happens only when we fight.
UKIP is a party about ideas, fearless debate and incorruptible spirit so let’s not disappoint all those people out there who deserve a better life.