UKIP: Fighting the battles of yesterday

Our model should be the Liberal Democrats. Not in policy terms but on how they focused on areas where they are strong, focusing on district councillors and parish and city councils. They trebled the number of seats in Westminster that way. We need a volunteer army. We need people to stand up and put their heads above the parapet.

So said Nigel Farage at the UKIP rally in Telford.

What sounds like a step change in progress is, in reality, Farage seeking to fight the battles of yesterday.  When UKIP was formed it was for a clear purpose, to secure withdrawal from the EU.  Using the party political model was the right approach for the time because the only way to force withdrawal was via taking Westminster by storm, securing a parliamentary majority and voting to repeal the European Communities Act. The focus, however ambitious, was on going after the politicians by defeating them in elections and taking power.

It was the wisdom of its time.  There was no Lisbon Treaty back then, therefore no other route to an orderly exit.  There was also no suggestion of a referendum either.  But that is not true today.   Now we have Article 50 and a defined route to an orderly exit from the EU that didn’t exist before.  We also have talk of a referendum.  Yet in Telford, Farage spoke of the need for a volunteer army,  for people to stand up and put their heads above the parapet.  To what end?

It’s a puzzler because UKIP has no clear policy message for this army to carry to the public.  Farage won’t let a defined policy be articulated for two reasons:

1) because it allows him to remain all things to all members by not coming off the fence to explicitly chart the course the party will take, therefore avoiding a split with the half of the party that wants a different approach to be taken, and
2) because Farage fears having his policy pulled apart by political opponents, resulting in a loss of confidence among potential UKIP voters when the detail-free policies collapse under scrutiny.

As a result, there is nothing for UKIP to teach its members and activists in the proposed training, therefore they will get chewed up on doorsteps and in hustings as soon as detail is sought and the responses are on-the-fly, off-the-cuff answers that may easily contradict what other UKIP candidates assert elsewhere.

Setting these considerations aside, what can this volunteer army realistically achieve?  Most of them will be supporting the party because they oppose EU membership, but having arrived they will be encountering a party whose leader is now dramatically reducing any discussion of EU matters.  Ironically, of those things which Farage does deign to talk about many have come about or become an issue precisely because they come under EU competence and have been imposed on the UK.  But even Farage is refusing or failing to connect those dots to help voters understand just how relevant and how much impact the EU has on their day to day lives.

This volunteer army would be part of a force in a party that was created in a time when seizing political control was the only way to realise its aim of exiting the EU.  But today the world is rather different.  There isn’t the need to directly tackle the political class on its own terms in its own domain to move the UK towards the exit door.   The battle that needs to be fought is to win the hearts, minds and confidence of the general public to get them on side to vote in a referendum for an independent Britain.  How does UKIP having its army and getting Farage and others into Parliament achieve that aim?  Norway has already shown the way, winning its referendum to remain independent without having a UKIP type party leading the campaign.

But when it comes to winning the hearts, minds and confidence of voters, many vocal UKIP supporters argue that it is sufficient just to say ‘UKIP wants the UK to leave the EU’ to get them onside, and that giving voters detail will put them off.  But unless voters have confidence that the solely political aim of leaving (to achieve self determination) can be achieved without damaging the country’s economic and commercial interests, they aren’t going to get onside.  They will stick with the status quo out of fear.  This partly explains why UKIP is stubbonly rooted on around 12% in the polls, unable to increase its support because it is mute on the EU issue and is leaving the field to the Europhile voices who are happily sowing misinformation and outright lies without challenge.

Then there is the issue of business involvement in the campaign.  Even though it isn’t the place of business to decide how this country should be governed, there’s benefit to the business community also having confidence that an orderly exit can preserve what they want to hold on to and there’s nothing to fear from a Brexit.  Leaving the EU is about politics and democracy, it is not an economic matter and must not be allowed to be positioned as such by the Europhiles, using economic concerns to corrupt the debate and scare people into accepting the wishes of the political class.

We do need UKIP as a membership organisation to be onside with a Brexit campaign, articulating the right arguments to win people over to the merits of independence.   But UKIP has gone awol just as the Europhiles have started spreading false arguments, which unchallenged are therefore presumed by voters to be accurate and true.

UKIP is working back to front, adopting an approach they should have used years ago just after it has become obsolete.  The party is dancing to Farage’s tune, but he is way off key.   So what is UKIP good for if it’s so far behind the times and won’t show leadership in the independence campaign because it wants to win the protest votes of fed up people to realise Farage’s ambitions?

The sad fact is, in fighting the battles of yesterday UKIP is not helping us win the bigger battle that is coming tomorrow.  The party needs to change and that isn’t going to happen under the Blessed Nigel.

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19 Responses to “UKIP: Fighting the battles of yesterday”


  1. 1 Ken Whittaker 10/09/2013 at 9:09 pm

    “There isn’t the need to directly tackle the political class on its own terms in its own domain to move the UK towards the exit door. The battle that needs to be fought is to win the hearts, minds and confidence of the general public to get them on side to vote in a referendum for an independent Britain.”
    I’m a bit puzzled by this AM. There is no guarantee of a referendum unless you advocate we all vote for Cameron (and even then it’s not certain we’d get one). I would have thought that tackling the political class on its own terms by voting UKIP was the more promising action to take. I’m not necessarily criticising; just seeking clarification.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 10/09/2013 at 9:35 pm

    The clamour for a referendum and promise by the Tories to hold one after Cameron’s faux renegotiation nonsense, means Pandora’s box is now open. Miliband trying to put a referendum back in the box isn’t going to play. Eventually he would have to offer one if Labour won the next election. So the fight with the political class to have our say is just about won.

    That is why I contend the focus has to be on making the public demand for withdrawal so popular and so clear the politicians could never hold the line against it. Remember, it is only the increasing agitation among voters against immigration that has seen that issue sanitised and at the forefront of the political agenda. It wasn’t winning a battle in the Commons that got it this far.

  3. 3 Alan H 10/09/2013 at 10:16 pm

    Out on the street meeting people the main, no only, thing of concern seems to be immigration. I find while campaigning that that is the subject that will keep a conversation going for as long as you are prepared to talk about it. I’ve tried as a Ukip activist to talk about the EU as you think we should and find I get what I call the 1000 yard stare. Over and over again this has happened. When it comes to all things EU, it doesn’t matter if it costs 50 odd million a day or most of our laws are made by it. You will just get the 1000 yard stare….try it and see. I can’t see how just concentrating on the one issue will ever work.

  4. 4 Autonomous Mind 10/09/2013 at 10:53 pm

    It’s not about concentrating on one issue, it’s that UKIP is now ignoring the primary issue. It has put party maintenance and interests before a principled stand and is now pointedly refusing to even challenge lies by the Europhiles that are conning the public into supporting EU membership out of fear.

  5. 5 Ken Whittaker 10/09/2013 at 11:20 pm

    I would suggest that it is votes for UKIP that has forced Cameron to offer a referendum. That is the only expression of public opinion that the politicians bother about. Look how the press and the internet clamoured for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty but it didn’t make Brown back down. No, if it wasn’t for UKIP there would be no chance of a referendum and I’m still not sure that Miliband will consent to one. He hasn’t so far.

  6. 6 cosmic 10/09/2013 at 11:38 pm

    “Most of them will be supporting the party because they oppose EU membership”

    Not a safe assumption. What’s still a fairly small number see membership of the EU as a defining question in British politics which goes far beyond party political squabbles. A lot may oppose EU membership in a vague way, but they’ve gravitated to UKIP for a variety of other reasons, HS2, immigration, military adventures and some less weighty ones such as they don’t like and don’t trust Cameron. Many of these have their origins in the EU or Britain’s relationship with the EU.

    The EU has never been the foremost issue in a GE. It’s an abstract thing which is annoying but never important enough to be in the foreground. Part of it is that it’s been annoying to disconnected groups. The elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. There was nothing to pull these threads together.

    Richard North has for years pointed the insidious effect it has and has now moved on to point out that the EU is really just part of an emerging system of global governance. These ideas leave most people cold.

    The other reason it’s never been an issue at a GE is that the main parties don’t want it to be one. OK, the Tories have engaged in a calculated feint with all the dishonest nonsense they’ve trotted out over the years.

    So, anti-EU intention has never had an electoral outlet, apart from the intentionally ineffective outlet the Tories have offered. UKIP are giving it that outlet. It’s a messy business, their approach is muddled and doubts about the sincerity and competence of their leader are quite reasonable, but we could expect that to be in the nature of a political party. They’re pulling the threads together, not as efficiently as they could, not with much thought as to what they want to do with them, not with much discernment, but a lot better than having pile of threads on the floor.

    If this were so simple a matter as having all the facts and all the best arguments, we’d probably never have entered the EU and we’d certainly have left by now.

  7. 7 Richard North 11/09/2013 at 1:02 am

    I think we can assume that we are going to get a referendum – and it doesn’t really matter who takes the credit for that. As AM says, the genie is out of the bottle. But it does mean that the working assumption is that we are going to have to fight and then win that referendum.

    To a very great extent, winning the referendum, and getting votes for UKIP are two separate things, with the latter not necessarily contributing to the former. In some respects, the two objectives are incompatible and even contradictory. In order to win votes, UKIP is having to “park” EU issues an concentrate on matters with broader appeal, thus diluting its anti-EU activities.

    UKIP members, therefore, need to decide what they want most – a party looking to achieve a stronger electoral base (but not necessarily any MPs) or a fighting force which will improve our chances of winning a referendum when it comes.

    In my view, even starting now, it will take many years to pull together a coherent strategy, which will enable us to win a referendum, and more years to spread the message and lodge it in the public consciousness. Since leaving the EU is ostensibly UKIP’s primary objective, one would expect the party to focus on the referendum, even to the extent of reducing its chances of electoral success.

    As it stands, however, the Party seems to be abandoning any idea of fighting a referendum, and concentrating its resources on elections. That cannot be to the overall advantage of the anti-EU movement.

  8. 8 cosmic 11/09/2013 at 11:37 am

    Richard,

    UKIP were hardly looking like leading the out campaign anyway, nor were they likely to provide a front behind which the campaign could unite and advance. As you’ve pointed out, they haven’t got a thought through and generally agreed strategy for getting out and coping with the consequences.

    What UKIP ought to have been, and could easily have been, is by the by.

    There are many people of an out persuasion who are not supporters of UKIP, for whatever reason.

  9. 9 cosmic 11/09/2013 at 11:55 am

    AM,

    “Remember, it is only the increasing agitation among voters against immigration that has seen that issue sanitised and at the forefront of the political agenda. It wasn’t winning a battle in the Commons that got it this far.”

    This is an interesting question. I suggest that a factor was a general realisation amongst politicians that this was causing problems for them. Social services, law and order, employment levels, all sorts of things which anyone with any sense could see would be the likely consequence of admitting a huge number of extra people and especially, culturally very different people. Public dissatisfaction was only a factor.

    Politicians may have woken up to the problem they collectively created, and can see more problems coming down the line, but they are a long way from doing anything practical about it.

    Back to the EU, I’d say that a part of getting out has to be that with the UK not in the Eurozone which will vote as a block along with those committed to joining the Euro, the UK would be second class members in the outer ring. Fewer jobs, even less nebulous influence, only an occasional guest seat at the top table. So the EU inevitably becomes less attractive for the establishment. Once again what people think is just what people think, and it doesn’t matter much as long as no major party breaks ranks and panders to it unduly and people continue to vote along largely tribal lines.

  10. 10 angela ellis-jones 11/09/2013 at 5:11 pm

    There seems to be a lots of concern that UKIP has not articulated a blueprint for British withdrawal.This might have been a valid criticism before the IEA announced its prize for the best BREXIT solution.However,I think it makes perfect sense for UKIP to hold fire until the prize has been awarded.Then we will have the advantage of a ready-made blueprint from one of the best economic minds.That willl be the time to give it lots of publicity.

    Political commentators always assume that people are selfishly concerned only with issues that affect them personally.It’s not only selfishness,it’s also an inability to see further than the end of their noses.If they thought more deeply about things,they would see that the EU affects them in all sorts of ways.It’s up to UKIP to bring these to the attention of the electorate!

  11. 11 Judd 11/09/2013 at 7:46 pm

    Dear old UKIP, one trick party campaigning against the EU they’re wrong, change tack to please the critics and they’re still wrong.

    Those who think they’ll get a fair and straight referendum on the EU from either of the main parties must be on something.

    Cast Iron Guarantee my backside., does anyone seriously think they’ll tell the truth next time, dear Lord just how many times do these shysters have to prove themselves as untrustworthy, nay bare faced liars before the penny finally drops.

    Judd

  12. 12 Vanessa 11/09/2013 at 11:24 pm

    A good article and I agree with most of it. You probably know that there are some people in UKIP who do have a plan to leave the EU but because the leader is such a controller none of them is allowed to distribute.

    I do not believe we will have a referendum; there will be all manner of excuses (if the tories do really get a majority in 2015, which is very doubtful – no boundary changes) and we will see that it is not worth the paper it is written on, much like the referendum “lock” which was supposed to be activated if more powers were transferred. Cameron is so much “hot air”.

    Most members of UKIP despair of anything being DONE by the political class that UKIP is the only option, albeit a very imperfect one. I agree the public need educating on the EU but with so much negative rubbish being peddled by businesses etc. we all have our work cut out to try and get the truth out to people.

  13. 13 Spinwatch 13/09/2013 at 12:06 pm

    “the Party seems to be abandoning any idea of fighting a referendum, and concentrating its resources on elections.”
    > The elections are guaranteed, the referendum is certainly not. Most people don’t trust Cameron to deliver any meaningful repatriation of power, even if he does win outright in 2015, still currently unlikely.

    “is now pointedly refusing to even challenge lies by the Europhiles that are conning the public into supporting EU membership out of fear.”
    > I have read that UKIP got in most of the questions at Monday’s Guildhall debate, and that was a sharp underbelly blow to the cosy Establishment.

    “unable to increase its support because it is mute on the EU issue and is leaving the field to the Europhile voices who are happily sowing misinformation and outright lies without challenge”
    > See website for how local councillors are trying to make a difference to people’s lives locally and deepen support, including taking on EU policies. Victoria Ayling is a defector from the Tories and politically experienced.

    http://www.ukip.org/newsroom/blog/entry/reversing-decline-in-seaside-towns

    You will also hear much at the big UKIP conference next week and in the run up to the 2014 European elections. Don’t forget the several active bloggers and activists in the meantime.

    UKIP may previously have been slow in some respects, but it is working out what sort of Britain it wants first, which will help to mould a Brexit strategy (the bridge between this and the status quo). Its general policies are very common sense based and populist and if it costs them properly, it could suddenly become very credible.

  14. 14 Spinwatch 13/09/2013 at 12:22 pm

    “UKIP is having to “park” EU issues an concentrate on matters with broader appeal, thus diluting its anti-EU activities.”
    > Nobody says that the very readable EUreferendum blog is diluting its anti-EU focus by proposing a Harrogate Agenda of wider democratic reform.
    Please don’t begrudge UKIP the same – it has already come out for more local referenda, and you can see Cllr Donna Edmunds’ posting for another contribution on pushing down local decision making

    http://www.ukip.org/newsroom/blog/entry/radical-local-government-reform-long-overdue-in-uk

    At the same time UKIP has not been parking EU issues when it speaks out about immigration, energy, wind farms, fishing, HS2 etc. These are all areas with strong EU connections. In fact it is difficult to find any major area of life where there is no EU meddling.

  15. 15 Spinwatch 13/09/2013 at 12:56 pm

    “Leaving the EU is about politics and democracy, it is not an economic matter and must not be allowed to be positioned as such by the Europhiles, using economic concerns to corrupt the debate and scare people into accepting the wishes of the political class.”
    > I think I can sympathise with this concern even though it could have been better-worded.

    In 1975, the No campaign wasted time by diverting effort into repeating assurances over the sovereignty issue, where the public had already been convinced. It failed to address the economic arguments and lost the vote (read Uwe Kitzinger’s book).

    Come a 2017 referendum, it will be no good if someone asks “How do we carry on trade and keep our jobs?” and we just tell them “It isn’t about economic concerns, but about whether we can have traditional birth certificates and passports”.

    Politics is about the art of the possible and we need to have ready answers about the economically possible – how the World Trade Organisation or EFTA would help preserve trade. Or how Britain would be more competitive without the shackles of EU regulations and the millstone of propping up our competitors.

    If we can provide credible assurances about preserving trade, investment and jobs, then the public will be largely with us on the political and democratic side, and we will win.

    Fortunately the economic portents are quite favourable, but we need to understand the detail behind the various options and be able to articulate it.

  16. 16 Ken Whittaker 13/09/2013 at 4:45 pm

    A valuable contribution Spinwatch. I particularly liked “The elections are guaranteed, the referendum is certainly not.”
    I am unsure about AM and Richard’s point that the genie is out of the bottle. I suspect that the vast majority of Labour supporters know little about the EU and care little whether we have a referendum or not. I wish I was wrong but I can see Miliband fighting the election without a referendum promise. As evidence I refer back to my earlier comment about Gordon Brown and the Lisbon Treaty. It was barely mentioned during the last General Election campaign.

  17. 17 Bill 13/09/2013 at 8:50 pm

    The biggest issue the out people have is the time scale. UKIP of course give none because no matter how they play it they simply want to be part of the ‘LibLabCon Players’.

    Telling people that we might just, possibly be able to ‘get out’ in fifteen, ten, or even five years and even then only a ‘roadmap plan’ has been created, is guaranteed to ‘turn people off’. People are simply not conditioned to think so far ahead that is the current reality.
    The LibLabCon simply change places every five years, at least until the Federated European State steps out of the sheepskin and merges the LibLabCon(Ukip) into one entity.

    It is much more likely that some insignificant event, which may have already occurred will trigger a series of events which will quickly lead to fundamental change and either the EU will collapse in itself or another country will leave, or it will rush headlong into Federalism with or without Britain or it may even eject Britain.

    Imagine that a Europe that doesn’t want Britain…

  18. 18 Edward Spalton 13/09/2013 at 10:20 pm

    I have to confess to being one of those UKIP members who voted in 1999 for UKIP MEPs to take their seats in the EU parliament. Prior to that the policy was that UKIP candidates should stand but not take their seats.

    Others urged the same policy which Nigel Farage is urging today – but I don’t see him foregoing the salary and perks of Brussels to show his commitment to that.

    In practical terms, next year’s EU elections will be a sort of EU referendum and even YouGov, run by Peter Kellner (aka Mr Catherine Ashton) foresees a UKIP landslide. That may prove to be a flash in the pan but it does give Farage the patronage to create maybe two dozen millionaires – who will have a great influence on UKIP in the run up to the general election of the following year. The trouble is that, apart from abstention, which will be taken for acquiescence, there is no other credible way at the EU election to register opposition.


  1. 1 Britannia Radio » EU referendum: a murky story…..World governance: the Rolnik affair Trackback on 12/09/2013 at 7:56 pm
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