As Morpheus Magnus has said in his excellent article published today, we must not beat ourselves up. We did nothing wrong. The Conservatives did everything right by ensuring that in the polling booth the spectre of Nicola Sturgeon as puppeteer of Ed Miliband appeared in the voter’s eyes. I believe that for many voters their hand was on their heart to vote UKIP but then they fingered their wallet and voted Conservative.
So, the big question is now: Where Do We Go? For a start, we will have a leadership election. I, and many others, have little doubt that Nigel will stand in this election to seek a mandate to go forward to 2020. While there will doubtless be other worthy contenders, in my opinion, there is also little doubt he would win that contest.
What else? In this article I’ll try to express my thoughts on those things that UKIP must make a priority, for us to continue our journey onwards and upwards.
Refresh, Recruit, Re-organise and Rebuild
At every level, national, regional, branch and personal, we need the 4 “Rs”. Nigel’s having a holiday, I’m having a holiday, you all need a holiday. Also our funds needs refreshing – the party at both national and branch level needs to raise funds to refresh our depleted coffers. The government’s “Short Money” will help the party for starters, worth £545,826 per annum with our 1 MP and 3.8 million voters, but branches will need to go through the slog of running fund-raising events.
We need to recruit more members as well – younger ones in particular as a fresh army of foot soldiers. I know that within my own constituency most of the schools had mock election campaigns and in one school 25% voted for UKIP! We can also exploit the disaffected feelings of many of those 3.8 million who are now feeling distinctly under-represented. A campaign with a message of “Feeling Disenfranchised? Then do something about it! Join UKIP” may well reap a rich harvest of new members through the summer.
When I say re-organise, I am not necessarily saying that structures should be changed, but there will doubtless be some shuffling of personalities at all levels and re-allocation of roles. However, I would suggest there needs to be a debate on the regional structure, which was devised to primarily focus on the European regions. Perhaps a county/city based structure may be better if we want to adopt the once successful Liberal Democrat strategy of “Think National, Act Local”.
In terms of rebuild I mean that we have widely diverging levels of capability and effort across our branches. Processes and preferences are different. Some branches had sophisticated machines driving media and campaigning operations using state of the art ideas and tools. Other branches struggled to get leaflets through letter-boxes. Great discussions ensued on whether to canvass or not, a process that some swear by, and others dismiss as being very costly in terms of votes per manhour. The party needs to offer the branches toolsets they can use: training notes, recommended operating procedures, software support and so on, pushing them out to as many branches as possible.
Once we have refreshed ourselves, there will be a certain urgency to recruiting, re-organising and rebuilding as there are some important elections on 5 May 2016:
- The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections. The opportunities to demonstrate that UKIP is a national party in these elections is enormous, and our English members living within striking distance of their borders should be generous in their support of our Welsh and Scottish brethren.
- In London there are both the Assembly and Mayoral elections. Again, UKIP can demonstrate wider support and perhaps garner initial protest votes against any early excesses of Tory government. South East branches could offer support too.
- And across the country there will be another round of District, Borough and Unitary contests. The “Think National, Act Local” idea comes to the fore here.
They say that a leaflet or doorstep visit outside an election period is worth 6 during the campaign, so we must start these campaigns during this summer. Then, 2017 will bring the County Council elections, 2018 more locals and 2019 the Euros again, if the promised EU Referendum fails to deliver the Brexit we aspire to.
Nationally, the party must do its best to hold Cameron’s feet to the fire in keeping his Referendum promise, even to hold it earlier, and fight for it to be a fair contest, with a straight question, and funding limits on campaigns. Locally, we will need to reach out to the voters again to convince them why “OUT” is essential to our nation’s survival.
I haven’t finished yet. I believe there are two single issue campaigns that UKIP should mount…
Much has been written on this. Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan’s book “The Plan” has many good ideas. We have had many different proposals expressed in these columns. In this fight we have allies – the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, both equally disadvantaged by the present system. We also have enemies – the Conservatives who will be quite happy with FPTP right now, and the SNP did very nicely out of it, thank you very much. However, with the Labour Party now suffering under it, we may have allies there… with the right idea.
The trouble with most forms of electoral reform is that they erode the benefits of the constituency-based personal representation for voters. During the election counts I heard what I thought was a good idea from a Labour activist. Basically, it was to keep the Commons as it is: pure FPTP to maintain that representation. BUT, to totally reform the House of Lords (renaming the second chamber in the process) to be totally representative at a national level. If it had the same 650 seats as the Commons, UKIP would have 82 seats in such a chamber. To reflect its democratic nature, it may be given a tad more clout, to be a better check and balance against any excesses coming out of the more partisan Commons.
Something needs to be done, and UKIP should be in the lead of such a campaign, although the Electoral Reform Society has fired off a campaign, as has the GeneralElection2020 (formerly 2015!) website.
The Mass Immigration Issue
Even though we tried to frame it in utterly impersonal terms, we still suffered the usual set of “way-cist” reactions from certain organisations and certain sections of the media. However, our argument has been mostly an emotional and qualitative one, and it was in that area that we left ourselves open to criticism and contradiction. There are “learned studies” on the benefits of immigration and many of these lean towards claiming economic benefit too. However, we know that these studies often ignore the knock-on costs.
For example, if you have an extra 1 million immigrants, that means we need 1/65 additional road, rail and airport capacity. How much would that cost? If, of them, 750,000 are aged 18-30 what kind of health support do they need? There may well be an awful lot of maternity care needed, and possibility an above average level of dealing with addiction issues. Without these million immigrants, perhaps a million unemployed young people might have jobs and cost the Exchequer less?
All these impacts need quantifying as pounds sterling and expressing in simple economic terms as the true cost to Britain of mass immigration, thus reducing the argument to an utterly unemotive one linked to what traditionally is the #1 national issue of “The Economy”.
Well, now I’ve finished. It’s a manifesto of the key issues I believe that UKIP needs to work on.
I aim to do more about it than just write in these columns. There’s another election in the autumn – for one-third of the National Executive Committee. I’m showing my hand early, as I believe in openness. At the appropriate juncture, I will be submitting my name to be considered as a member of that committee, to await the judgement of my peers.