How UKIP has fallen into a Tory trap and abandoned its priority of EU withdrawal

In the comments on the previous post, one of the commenters, Jacq, said something that deserved a considered reply.  However as my reply covers important issues that need to be understood more widely, I am sharing it as a blog post of its own.  In Jacq’s comment was this paragraph:

In some people’s eye’s, UKIP are damned whatever they do. Talk about something else like foreign aid, immigration etc, and they are “not talking about the issue that matters”. If they talked solely about the EU, the same critics would accuse them of having no credibility as a political party as they only had one obsessive strand of policy.

The reply to Jacq was this…

This opens up a very important issue. UKIP has proved the point that a political party cannot be the channel for a campaign of the nature of EU withdrawal. They have fallen into the trap that was laid for them by the Tories some years back.

When UKIP focussed on EU withdrawal they were accused of being a pressure group. So to appear like a serious grown up party they began to focus on other areas, such as the ones you mention and Farage’s ludicrous attempt (given his personal behaviour, some of which is not in the public domain) to espouse family values.

As UKIP has deliberately vacated the high ground on the EU to further their party political credentials and focus on Farage’s electoral ambitions, so the Tories and their outriders – having waited so patiently for their plan to unfold – have gleefully moved onto it and are relentlessly spinning their faux renegotiation narrative, setting the agenda with the lie that single market access requires EU membership, and having an unchallenged run in falsely claiming Norway and Switzerland get told what to do by fax without having any opportunity to influence the rules. Where UKIP should be tearing the Tory lies apart, they can be found in the pub or talking about anything but EU matters.

My limited attempts to draw attention to this, and the need for UKIP to not only rebut the Tory lies but reassure voters UKIP has a plan for getting us out of the EU while avoiding all the catastrophes Roland Rudd and his minions are claiming await us on Brexit, have resulted in the personal invective you refer to. They probably deserve more of the same because they have still not uttered a word about the likelihood of Matthew Elliott, a pro-EU Tory, being backed for leadership of any ‘No’ to EU referendum campaign. The Tories have encouraged UKIP to leave their house, have moved in, are selling off the possessions and now plan to let it out to their friends who will use it to support Tory pro-EU aspirations.

Because Farage, Batten, the Bowler-hatted buffoon, Nuttall et al are being criticised by us for not addressing with this central issue, their very defensive supporters have attacked Richard and me and berated us for not getting in line and offering unquestioning fealty to the Blessed Nigel. Regardless of the evidence we provide that a simple and easy to understand message (backed up where necessary with hard, uncontestable facts) can be communicated repeatedly, to reassure voters that we can leave the EU and retain access to the single market, because Farage and Co have not argued it we are charged with being pro-EU trolls, accused of walking us into a EU trap and rejected out of hand of being of any account.

What I did not include in the reply was this… campaigns of the kind that would be run to get the UK out of the EU do not work if they are run by political parties.  UKIP, in order to satisfy party political considerations, has backed away from the focus that is needed to achieve Brexit.  That is why they have gone ‘off reservation’ and are talking about issues that, ironically, we cannot possibly resolve unless we achieve withdrawal from the EU in the first instance.

UKIP has ceased to be fit for the purpose it was created for.  It has given up leadership of the Eurosceptic movement by pushing EU withdrawal and the focus on it down the list of priorities in order to play party politics.  Instead of keeping EU matters at the forefront of its agenda UKIP is devoting more of its energies to servicing narrow party interests, such as trying to appeal to floating voters and win council and parliamentary seats.  Instead of being the raison d’etre of the party, withdrawal from the EU is now just another element of a larger agenda.

Say what you like about the Europhile Tories, they know how to do politics and they have successfully neutered UKIP.  Sure, a number of Tory voters and floaters will back UKIP in the EU elections next year (and due to the date change, increase UKIP’s council election prospects) but come the General Election, UKIP will achieve hardly anything.  By the time any referendum came around, the UKIP piece will have been removed from the board and the Tories will be rolling the dice.

It’s time for a non party political movement to take the helm.  And it must not be the pro-EU wolf in Eurosceptic clothing, Matthew Elliott, who is leveraged into position to guarantee the false Tory ‘reform/renegotiation’ option goes unchallenged.  That would be the final nail in the coffin.

23 Responses to “How UKIP has fallen into a Tory trap and abandoned its priority of EU withdrawal”

  1. 1 Ken Whittaker 13/08/2013 at 11:13 pm

    AM (and Richard) I fully accept that UKIP leadership should do better. I also accept that you and Richard have had personal dealings with Farage and that anything I might say in his defence (as I have never met him) would be futile. I have learnt a great deal about the EU from reading your blogs and have the utmost respect for both of you. But, a question. If the Daily Mail should send a reporter to interview you about UKIP on the eve of the next GE would you give the same blunt opinions using the same language you have used here, knowing that it would damage UKIP’s electoral chances, or would you be more tempered in your comments.
    Richard has said previously that he knows how the media industry works. Does it bother him (or your good self) that one day the media may want to give you a wider audience simply because of your animosity towards Farage and co.? I’m not having a dig here; I genuinely want to know how you might respond.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 13/08/2013 at 11:23 pm

    Ken, if the media gave me or Richard a platform, I am certain neither of us would waste it talking about UKIP, regardless of the journo’s implorings. We would give the journo something more newsworthy and do what UKIP isn’t doing, namely talk to the issues and rebutting the lies and FUD that Cameron and his Tory front organisations are spreading.

  3. 3 Ken Whittaker 13/08/2013 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks AM. That’s fair enough.

  4. 4 Richard North 13/08/2013 at 11:31 pm

    Ken – difficult one. As at present, I am of the view that UKIP is doing more harm than good to the eurosceptic cause. I could well be guided by that thought, depending whether I was then in a position to offer an alternative.

    In fact, at the general election, it won’t be UKIP winning, and the overall effect of the party could be to improve Labour chances. In that that could – for complex reasons – be beneficial to the cause, I could find myself supporting UKIP, for entirely tactical reasons.

    I guess though that I would have to get closer to the time before making a decision.

  5. 5 Ken Whittaker 13/08/2013 at 11:42 pm

    Thanks Richard. An interesting response.

  6. 6 PeterMG 14/08/2013 at 12:32 am

    AM and Richard I unreservedly support your stance, and let me reassure you that UKIP’s stock is way down at present amongst those voters they have to win over if they are to have the slightest chance of success. I work with people who can all count themselves as well off compared to most and who in the main are highly educated although not all have learnt how to use their intellect; but that’s another matter. But from casual discussions about politics and the usual matters, as you do, UKIP is a non-starter, but far worse any incidents such as last week do immense damage to any cause that UKIP is associated with.

    So even though last week debacle was about foreign aid, something most intelligent people know to be corrupt, the fact that UKIP is mostly associated with an EU withdrawal, the bad press received by association damages the EU withdrawal cause. And given that a disturbing number of the better off in our country are still champagne socialist, the mention of racism makes them something unspeakable.

    I am sorry so many otherwise thoughtful people chose to throw their brains away the other day when criticising you both. I bet that many now wish they had considered those replies a little more before posting.

    I also sent of a rebuke to Dellers who completely lost the plot. We all hate political correctness, and we all hate people playing the racist card, which by the way I unfortunately have been a victim of recently, and everyone slips up now and again, but never in a million years can what the buffoon Bloom said be considered acceptable in any context.

    But that’s a side show. The real issue is the subject of this and other posts. UKIP are AWOL on the only matter they should be concentrating on, EU withdrawal and that is unacceptable.

    Deller’s was also wondering also why all the promises over on shore wind turbines not being built was yet another Tory lie. Well part of the answer is UKIP letting the pressure off on the EU, part Labour ineptitude. This has given Cameron more confidence to push through his will.

    Time for some contrition people and a re-engaging of the brains, and as Richard is at pains to point out we have to get the message right, we have to be organised and the message has to be spread far and wide, something UKIP are singularly failing to do.

  7. 7 Richard North 14/08/2013 at 8:28 am

    PeterMG @ 14/08/2013 at 12:32 am

    Thank you

  8. 8 Adam West 14/08/2013 at 11:02 am

    Autonomous Mind said: “UKIP has ceased to be fit for the purpose it was created for. It has given up leadership of the Eurosceptic movement by pushing EU withdrawal and the focus on it down the list of priorities in order to play party politics. ”

    Out of curiosity I had a look at UKIP’s pages on the Web Archive.

    They seem to have not changed approach in the 13 years that are available. Vague about how exit would be done and intent on looking like just another party.(The clue is in the name?)

    Take this from 2004 for example

    “The inability of the EU to reform itself, the growing amount of fraud, at least £700 million per year and rising, and the obscene inequities of the Common Agricultural and Fishing policies should be of concern to all, particularly Britain. The question that none of our political leaders will face is ‘would we not be better off out of the EU?’

    The answer is an unequivocal ‘Yes’ …”

    It’s making all the right noises but where is the detail and where have they gone since?

    I don’t think EU withdrawal has been pushed down the list of priorities. Farage and others have always been ready with comments about how things would be better for Britain if we were out and they have always been light on detail about how to achieve it.

    They have been successful though. They do get votes and they do get attention but I am often left wondering if they could achieve a critical mass sooner by sorting out the uncertainties in their policies. They are brimming with sentiment but lack content.

  9. 9 cosmic 14/08/2013 at 11:19 am

    I disgree. There were already anti-EU pressure groups. As a political party just being anti-EU was thin gruel. OK there was bound to be more to being anti-EU than being anti-EU and jumping up and down for a referendum. There had to be an exit plan, a plan to fight the referendum and a view of what came afterwards. Having a view of what comes afterwards begs policy questions in all sorts of areas.

    I’d say they were bound to be a right-wing small government party, but that can have wide appeal. It does not mean a Tory party.

    There are all sorts of things which we appear to have embarked on for dubious reasons (vanity, PR, cowardice) and where the Westminster consensus is pretty much complete. However, it flies in the face of common sense.

    Immigration. clearly out of control and likely to cause immense problems and where Lab and Con are attempting to blame each other.

    Energy. We’ve departed on a hugely expensive and damaging policy where the poor and the old will bear the greatest burden.

    Developmental foreign aid. A quite ridiculous increase in an area where it’s reasonable to argue that no expenditure is justified because decades of experience show it does harm.

    HS2. A pure political vanity project.

    They all tie back to the EU which at least limits the UK government’s room to manoeuvre. In each case having a policy of stopping doing silly things is most of the battle. UKIP don’t need more than outline policies at this stage.

    I can’t see that covering these things need detract from the underlying message of getting out of the EU especially were a conscious effort made to make the ties clear every time. Nor need it take up disproportionate effort.

    I don’t see that UKIP extending itself to other areas with sketch policies is necessarily the problem. The problem is not putting any effort into research and working out detailed strategy and rebuttals in their main area which is leaving the EU. In general, they don’t do research and thought out strategy at all. Hence we have Cameron’s twaddle about Norway’s fax democracy etc, apparently remaining unchallenged by UKIP and it’s left to bloggers to research it and give it the lie.

  10. 10 Autonomous Mind 14/08/2013 at 12:39 pm

    So basically, Adam, in 13 years UKIP has not moved the debate or Brexit any further forward.

    As UKIP have put more effort into talking about other issues and the core issue, how to get the UK out of the EU, has been left hanging as you describe, that denotes it has been pushed down the priority list.

    It is because UKIP is servicing the requirements of running a party and fighting elections that it has drifted away from pushing the biggest issue in town. This is why political parties are not the right vehicle to fight campaigns. But the only campaign Farage is interested in is securing himself a seat in Westminster.

  11. 11 artwest 14/08/2013 at 12:57 pm

    I agree completely with AM. Getting out of the EU needs to be divorced from party politics. The pro-EU forces have the upper ground, they are entrenched, cross-party, ruthless and have fear of the unknown and inertia on their side.
    The anti-EU side needs every single vote from across the political spectrum, which includes everyone who would never vote for UKIP (or to be fair, any party with policies on other matters).
    While ever Anti-EU equals UKIP (or ANY party) then we will never get out of the EU.

  12. 12 Autonomous Mind 14/08/2013 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for that, Artwest. You’ve hit the nail on the head, such a movement needs to be cross party and leadership by a political party will alienate many otherwise receptive voters.

    Moving off slightly off that topic for a moment, part of the reason for the unpleasantness on the comments of late can be summed up by this observation Richard left on his own blog comments…

    It is a common characteristic amongst UKIP members. They know they don’t like the EU, and that is all they need to know. They don’t actually need to know any more about the EU. However, when challenged about the exit plan, clearly they now are beginning to accept that they need one, but many cannot accept (or understand) the real world position that exit is extremely complex. Therefore, they tend to over-simplify and then reject anything that does not match their ideas. To challenge that position, however, is not to enter a rational debate. One is attacking a belief system, which is why the challenge engenders such unpleasant hostility. I wonder whether the only answer is to meet like with like, or what other strategies might be appropriate.

    That’s pretty much my assessment of things too. Although I also feel there is misguided loyalty to the party at play here too. I know what it’s like to have fought (and won) elections as a candidate.

    When challenged on issues you often feel you can’t speak for yourself and your opinions when they are at odds with the line taken by leading party figures, or the leader. And if it’s a subject you do not understand, there is a sense of safety in reverting to the party line. But being a bloody minded sod, I spoke my mind anyway because I refused to be a party clone and researched the subjects and took informed positions accordingly.

  13. 13 cosmic 14/08/2013 at 1:44 pm


    “The anti-EU side needs every single vote from across the political spectrum, which includes everyone who would never vote for UKIP (or to be fair, any party with policies on other matters).”.

    But you need to bring those votes together, and I suggest being anti-EU isn’t enough, then they need a way to be expressed in the electoral system, which most obviously amounts to voting for a party. Now I can see variations, such as having 3 million votes to direct at will, but there are all sorts of reasons why that would be hard to make fly.

    One way of looking at this is that getting out of the EU requires a majority in Westminster wanting to get out of the EU for one reason and another. While there’s a clubbish agreement not to, it’s hard.


    We have cross-party pressure groups, BOO, CIB, Bruges Group etc. I wouldn’t say they’ve been useless, but I can’t see why we need another one.

    I agree that UKIP isn’t the right thing to lead the out campaign, because a political party isn’t right to lead the out campaign.

    You seem to be saying that UKIP has a 4lb cake which they’ve quartered and they’ve dished out (wasted) 3 1lb slices on things which aren’t relevant.

    I’m saying they should have been making a bigger cake, in which case 3 1lb slices directed to these things is right provided they have a 7 lb slice to direct to their main purpose.

  14. 14 cuffleyburgers 14/08/2013 at 1:55 pm

    AM – a very useful and thoughtful piece, I have no doubt that your analysis is correct, the challenge is now to channel these insights into fighting this monster.

    there seem to be several non party political pressure groups – which seems to be the least unreliable, or do we need to start again from scratch?

    is your (and Richard’s) plan for the Harrogate agenda to fill this void?

    I’d welcome your views.

  15. 15 Richard North 14/08/2013 at 2:03 pm

    I think we intend The Harrogate Agenda to be a positive alternative to the EU, but not the entire exit plan. As I see it, THA is incompatible with membership of the EU, and therefore we need to get out of the EU in order to succeed in our six demands.

  16. 16 Autonomous Mind 14/08/2013 at 2:16 pm

    Cosmic and Cuffley, while the other non party groups have built memberships their activity has not specifically addressed the ‘how’ of getting out of the EU.

    They haven’t been able to develop the substance and expertise needed because of limited resources. They have done well to associate themselves with MPs and high profile people, but that isn’t enough.

    I see a significant role for The Harrogate Agenda in addressing this. By helping with the detail, education and approach needed, THA could help these groups energise their people so we could all work together as a loose ‘No to EU’ alliance, campaigning with a consistent, accurate and compelling message.

    It’s not for me to decide, THA supporters will make the decision. But that is what I will recommend.

  17. 17 Adam West 14/08/2013 at 3:15 pm

    Autonomous Mind,

    Daft as it might sound I’ve struggled to find evidence that an EU exit ever was a high priority for UKIP. 20 years of arm waving about repealing ECA and suggestions of us losing seats at NATO and the UN if we stay in doesn’t cut it imo.

    Their 1997 manifesto is available here at a web.archive page of an unofficial UKIP website. It is a broad document covering popular areas of concern to voters. Many references are made to leaving the EU and giving reasons why it might help but only one sentence is given over to how – repealing the ECA. Most areas of policy rest on ‘On leaving the EU UKIP would …’ notions.

    By comparison look at the Herculean efforts both main parties made over climate change policy that they wanted dearly – detail coming out your ears and hammered into the public at every opportunity. The consequences of inaction inflated to catastrophe and the consequences of action inflated to salvation. It is mostly nonsense but they made the running and bent public opinion enough that we didn’t kick up a fuss when their 5 year plans, spoiling the countryside with windmills and ever increasing energy bills became the law.

    If UKIP ever come up with an exit plan they could refer to it at every opportunity and I think it would get them lots more support from the public.

  18. 18 Andy Baxter 14/08/2013 at 4:02 pm

    RN comment above: “As I see it, THA is incompatible with membership of the EU, and therefore we need to get out of the EU in order to succeed in our six demands.”

    Cart before the horse Richard, cart before the horse!

    It’s the other way around the demands are first then the ‘out’ of the EU becomes so much easier and I’ve argued such before. IF we ever get a referendum and IF it is ever a straight IN/OUT choice (which I doubt) there will be three distinct camps:

    The anti EU such as you and I committed to putting an X in a ‘NO’ box.

    The Europhiles using FUD (good term by the way) the MSM (bar a couple of enlightened commentators and we know who) the CBI, Open Europe, MP’s MEP’s etc al using every other overhand/underhand trick in the book and then some no-one’s even thought about before, to coerce, cajole, pressure, reinforce the status quo for an X in the ‘YES’ box


    A vast majority far more in number than the AYE’s and the YEA’s who don’t really give stuff one way or the other for whatever reason from outright boredom to ‘just let me get on with my life’ inertia.

    What most people care about far more than IN/OUT, EU referenda or arguments about Bloom/Farage/UKIP or anything else in the main stream political arena is what is going on in their locales?

    Everyday things that affect and blight their lives from planning permissions for gypsy caravan sites next door to local parking fleecing by councils to how well their local school is run where their kids go and why can’t I get my bins emptied weekly.

    Localism; where true power should lie but instead is held centrally and exposing the powerlessness of local people to control their own lives from what their local council spends THEIR money on to how much they should be allowed to raise. ‘referism’ was what it was called.

    People being able to control their own locales, budgets and making decisions about what is important to THEM is utterly incompatible with the EU’s centralised homogenised one size fits all shoe horning on almost every aspect of their lives.

    Once that is demonstrated and illustrated by local examples (and better one you could not get here in Darlington where the local council decided to impose an unasked for unwanted ‘levy’ (followed up by bailiff calls charging extortionate amounts of fees for non payers which North Jr. is only too well aware of methinks) on all businesses to fund ‘rangers’ in bright yellow and brown jumpsuits to help ‘out of town’ shoppers find bus stops and toilets and where BINNS (you can’t miss it by the way) was and is a classic example of unwanted, unneeded and unasked for (consent) imposition of a policy that most businesses just simply believed was another way to tax them judging by local press and local conversations with owners I’ve had.

    Pursuing an anti EU stance is all well and good and best of luck, but pushing for an anti EU stance above that of localism linked to the demands will miss swathes of people who either just don’t care or who might be persuaded from a ‘yea’ to a ‘nay’ once they see the power of devolving local decision making via the demands and its total incompatibility with being part of the EU.

    I’ll throw in a very important and pertinent point from a friend recently highlighted in just such a conversation;

    Let’s say we won a straight forward ‘in’ ‘out’ referendum:

    There is nothing binding within our constitution as it neither stands, on the government of the day to implement such, nor is there anything binding on any successive government to remain out if article 50 were invoked, a further government could just as easily invoke article 49 and re-join us and short of taking to the streets (as if) WTF can we do about it?

    By cementing the demands and especially number 6 where a constitutional rigid written framework exists requiring sovereign (people) consent then yes any government of the day or successive one would be bound by such for to act otherwise would be ‘unconstitutional’ whereas today no Parliament is bound by its predecessors decisions.

  19. 19 Richard North 14/08/2013 at 4:26 pm

    Andy, I see THA as the “positive hook” on which we base our exit plan. But between THA and BREXIT, I see the latter coming sooner. The EU is a transfer of power between different political elites. Leaving the EU involves transferring power back from Brussels to Westminster and Whitehall.

    THA, on the other hand, involves the transfer of power from the political elites to the people. I see that as much harder to achieve, taking much longer. Hence, while I’d love to have THA in place before we leave the EU, I don’t see it happening. If you prove me wrong, though, I would be delighted.

  20. 20 PeterMG 14/08/2013 at 5:34 pm

    Andy you make some solid points, and I will roll them into my thinking.

  21. 21 cosmic 14/08/2013 at 5:58 pm


    I’ve no doubt that UKIP want and have always wanted to get us out of the EU, it’s just that they are big on emotion, but small on the boring details of engineering it. So their position is that they are going to launch a full frontal charge on the enemy, which is a good way to be cut down before you’ve gone 20 yards.

    I’d say a lot of eurosceptics’ thinking has evolved over the past 15 years and the problem is recognised as having been getting more complex and nuanced, especially as time has gone by and the influence of Brussels has become more complete; theirs hasn’t.

  22. 22 JohnM 15/08/2013 at 1:41 pm

    If you want people to vote to leave the EU you will have to give them reasons, good reasons, because nobody likes change.
    You will then have to inform them that after they have departed, they will still have many “EU” laws, and why.
    Then you have to inform them that the UK will have to join another organisation, or two, and why.
    Lots of people who have followed the saga assiduously from the start still don’t know why we joined, or whether it will be better to leave.
    You will have to do this in the face of staunch opposition from all political parties, including, apparently, UKIP, and the largest part of the mainstream media.
    Good luck with that. Now, about the Scottish vote for independence……sorry, even that is too complicated.
    Face it, the vast majority, using the “what’s in it for me” way of thinking will go along with the mainstream….nobody likes uncertainty, and the main Polo parties know that. AND you’re trying to drastically alter the democratic (some would say corruptocratic) system as well……
    Lots of people do not vote. Lots of people have never voted.

  23. 23 JohnM 15/08/2013 at 1:42 pm

    Oh, and posting on here works much better, sometimes only, when you use the gravatar route

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