In recent months this blog has clearly caused some supporters and sympathisers of UKIP to exhibit a degree of consternation at our criticisms of Nigel Farage and the party’s general performance. This has been evident in the comment threads and also in emails sent to me.
When one shares an important objective with a large number of people who are therefore kindred spirits, or colleagues in that aspiration – namely the UK leaving the European Union – it gives no pleasure to see them angry, frustrated and upset in response to the criticisms and observations this blog has made.
The criticisms are not directed at UKIP party members, or people working behind the scenes in an effort to realise our shared goal of an independent United Kingdom. Rather they are directed at the leader and the decision makers around him who, in the current political environment, should be hitting the ball out of the park when it comes to exposing the lies and distortions of the pro-EU parties and their front organisations. A leader and decision makers who should be setting the agenda, talking to our key issues and oozing credibility and mastery of the subject, but who go missing just when they are most needed to speak up.
In this country there is a large number of people who are looking for a rallying point for their views and wishes. That rallying point should be set on a firm foundation. That is where UKIP should be. But under Farage the rallying point is located on quicksand. This is not the fault of the members, but of Farage himself. For years under Farage leadership, UKIP has seen people rally to it, only to find that once they arrive there is a vacuum where there should be substance, detail, education and assurance. This is the core problem with UKIP under Farage. Some people just hope and believe there is a detailed plan to get us out of the EU, (much like all those Tories who believed for so long that Cameron would one day throw off his social democrat cloak to reveal a classically liberal, eurosceptic Conservative underneath) but the reality is there is no detailed plan. There is an ideal and no thought out strategy about how it can be realised.
As such many lose interest and drift off, some try to elicit change and improvement but all too often they are marginalised or forced out as they are considered disruptive and a threat to the leadership. But the fact is many do stay and continue to support UKIP because for genuine Eurosceptics, not the Europlastic ‘reformers’ who would still keep this country firmly under the control of the machine in Brussels, it is the only party political show in town. There are people who genuinely believe the party is exactly what it needs to be and enthusiastically endorse and revere Farage. There are others who hang in there but have to pinch their nose and reluctantly accept the failings they see as part of the package.
I respect the opinions and decisions of both types of supporter, even if I disagree with them. It is for each of them alone to make a judgement about the party and its leadership based on their own views, values and principles.
Likewise, I have my views, values and principles. While there are many people who are willing to give their support to the ‘least worst option’, it’s something I just cannot do. I need a positive reason to vote for someone. I need to feel enthusiasm for them, what they stand for and how the go about trying to achieve it. Simply supporting the ‘best of a bad bunch’ isn’t a positive decision. That is why I don’t vote for UKIP.
As a former Conservative I have a lot of experience of politics, campaigning and winning elections, including against incumbent candidates. I readily accept there is also a lot I don’t know and am yet to learn. But I do know something about trying to change an organisation from the inside.
It’s one of those things that many have tried and most have failed. For it to be possible to change a political party from the inside either you need to lie about your views in order to achieve influential position then reveal your true self as you use your position to effect the change you want to see; or there needs to be a properly democratic, transparent, accountable structure in place without an autocratic and overly powerful leader or individuals behind the scenes whose money translates into power and thus enables them to be the party’s puppeteer.
I make this point because I frequently read emails from people saying. ‘if you don’t like it then get in the tent and change it.’ It’s not that simple. Under Farage, far better qualified people than me have tried to change UKIP for the better, and each of them has been run off. There are few things as powerful as an ambitious and ruthless man who has a personal goal, puts that first, and also enjoys increasing control over the fiefdom he runs. Changing UKIP from within just isn’t a realistic option. Even if the members choose to dump Farage, his paranoia has seen to it that any half decent replacements have long since been exiled.
That’s a brief summary of where things stand and why I hold the position I do. For as long as I choose to blog (which may not be much longer given the way I am feeling), shutting up about it isn’t an option for the simple reason that, rightly or wrongly, Farage is seen by many as the head of the Eurosceptic movement by virtue of his position as UKIP leader. If he fails, the Eurosceptic cause will fail. Hoping no one will notice the failings by keeping quiet about them is not the way to get the problems addressed. In speaking out I am not trying to ‘do down’ or undermine UKIP. I am trying to draw attention to what needs to be improved in the hope more people will apply pressure for change.
As long as Farage is fearful of challenging and rebutting the many false assertions and claims made by Cameron and Hague and their outriders, like Rudd, Cridland, and Open Europe; and as long as Farage shies away from explaining in simple terms how the UK can leave the EU while preserving the benefits of the single market that most Britons want to retain, the Eurosceptic cause will suffer. The recent increase in support UKIP achieved will slowly peel away as the ‘all fur coat and no knickers’ reality of UKIP dawns. Many people who might otherwise support the party, if it behaved competently and relentlessly presented a positive vision of the new opportunities an independent UK could grasp, will either not vote or stick with their status quo. Many of those who did vote for the party are already losing interest.
If the current situation is not changed, and quickly, any prospective referendum will be lost due to voters being made fearful by the lies of the Tories, Lib Dems and socialists. The more they hear the lies and distortions without them being challenged with facts, the more they will believe them to be true. We need Farage to succeed for us. We want Farage to succeed for us. But all the evidence so far is that Farage is failing. He is putting long standing electoral self interest (the desire to split the Tories and lead one part of the resulting mess) before the cause he is supposed to be leading. In my view he is not the man for the job and UKIP would be performing much better with someone else in the role.
Agree with me, don’t agree with me. It’s completely up to you. But if you prefer facts and evidence to ‘gut feeling’ then consider this. In four recent by-elections in areas where UKIP returned county councillors in May, UKIP has already lost three of the seats they won, and slipped back to third place in a district election result. Meanwhile the pro-EU voices continue to spread their lies without challenge and Farage is nowhere to be seen or heard. Hopefully you can see the point I’m making.
Is this leadership? Is this a winning strategy? Is that what you are happy to put up with? Are my criticisms valid? Now I’ve tried to explain where I’m coming from, I would like to hear what you think before I carry on.
Over to you.