Reading Lawrence Webb’s article – “UKIP Need Tommy Robinson Far More Than He Needs Us” – UKIP members may, like myself, be prompted to remind themselves why they joined the party originally.
A lifetime Tory voter until David Cameron seized the leadership after their third successive election failure in 2005, it’s unclear if I qualify as one of Mr Webb’s crusty old Tories. In retirement, I’ve been a UKIP activist since joining as a foot-soldier in the 2015 election. My wife continued to vote Tory. She is currently a disillusioned member of the so-called Conservative Party, which she joined in post-referendum euphoria, assuming it would secure the Brexit that – but for UKIP and Nigel Farage – we would not even be contemplating. We live on a middle-class housing estate just within the M25, in a constituency where the Tory vote can be taken for granted.
The 2016 referendum vote was marginally for Brexit in our borough, despite the large proportion of households that include London commuters – most of whom had been dismissive or even hostile when offered Brexit leaflets at railway stations.
Against the background of UKIP’s subsequent decline into farce, HMG adopting the role of supplicant to the EU, and the media-labelling of true Leavers as extremists, a UKIP colleague and I changed the habits of a lifetime to attend three rallies in London this summer: the “Freedom of Speech”, the “Free Tommy Robinson”, and the one celebrating the 2nd anniversary of the Brexit vote. We marched at all three, wearing our UKIP rosettes, and listened to nearly all of the seemingly-interminable series of speeches: many inspirational, some banal.
Tommy Robinson, for obvious reasons, only attended and spoke at the first rally, which gave voice to a cosmopolitan, disparate range of speakers – nevertheless united in a shared passion for the right to express their opinions and offend.
Although Gerard Batten was one of the early speakers at all three events, UKIP’s presence was – to put it mildly – modest. In each of similar speeches, his recommendation that everyone should consider voting UKIP at the next election was low-key, lacking urgency – almost apologetic.
Instead of being the instigator and organiser of the Brexit march and inviting all pro-Leave organisations to support it, UKIP had deferred leadership to the football lads and the veterans. Quite extraordinary, when you remember that the referendum was UKIP’s baby and there was no alliance of “football lads” until 2017.
Should UKIP, like them, be in the thrall of Tommy Robinson? We share his repugnance of Muslim rape gangs; his wish to expose the threat of insidious, medieval Islamisation of British culture. But the earlier rally was called to highlight an injustice, not to endorse all his stated views or his modus-operandi.
Five months on, why are we allowing our mission in politics, and our public image, to be dominated by this man and the baggage surrounding him?
Surely our primary objective for 2018/19 should be to pressurise the government into securing a meaningful Brexit. No government can give effect to policies on immigration, anti-terrorist measures, or preventing the desecration of our traditional culture until the United Kingdom regains its sovereignty.
To this end, our leading tactic should be to attract people from the vast pool of habitual Tory and Labour supporters to vote for us at the next general election, whenever that may be called. Some decent, patriotic voters will also be supporters of Robinson and right-wing groups outside UKIP. But we do not necessarily have to embrace them officially – and by implication the more extreme of their policies – to win their votes.
Even the threat of losing seats can persuade a prime minister to alter policies or amend a manifesto commitment; witness UKIP’s success in forcing Mr Cameron to grant the referendum.
Let us support Tommy Robinson’s causes when they match our own. I have no regrets for marching in protest at the manner and potential implications of his hasty incarceration last May. But his behaviour is often crass and self-serving; unattractive to the majority of British voters. Granted membership, he would quickly be cast by the media as the face of UKIP.
In his penultimate paragraph, Mr Webb suggests bizarrely that conservative-minded ‘kippers like myself who oppose Robinson membership are hoping the Tories will eventually return to conservatism. On the contrary, we see the Tory hiatus as a unique opportunity for UKIP to represent itself as the leading party of compassionate conservatism, promoting the traditional confidence of the United Kingdom as it reasserts its independence on the world stage.
The Tory Party has abandoned conservatism in favour of a politically-correct, socialist-Marxist agenda. Simultaneously, the sensitivities and ambitions of minorities are prioritised over the instincts of the silent majority, to the detriment of our culture.
UKIP stands out from the Tories and Labour as a party of conviction. We should not sacrifice our principles in the hope of garnering votes, nor abandon them in the quest for membership subscriptions.
Lawrence Webb’s article implies that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has no need for UKIP. Ergo, let him, Anne-Marie Waters and others of that ilk do their own thing, demonstrating to the media and the electorate that UKIP does not inhabit the extreme right-wing of British politics.