The Election that never was;
The task to follow Nigel Farage was always going to be a challenge; it is fast turning out to be a poison chalice.
The election that the majority of UKIP members probably wanted to see was Suzanne Evans against Steven Woolfe; this would have given the Party the opportunity to debate what we stood for in a post-Brexit World, what our style was and most importantly what the substance of the arguments was.
From a very early stage, Steven was my choice to succeed Nigel. I have known Steven for a number of years and having worked with him I have been impressed by his intellectual capability as well as the likelihood that he would appeal to a wide section of the electorate. I do not know Suzanne well but she comes across well on the media, which is definitely a plus point. Her appeal will certainly resonate more with woman and the South East of England. However if we are to target the Labour heartlands, I honestly think that Suzanne would have struggled.
In any event that was the election that should have been, but never was.
So now to the declared candidates: Having worked with Diane James earlier this year when I was a Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, I respect her calmness and attention to detail. Clearly some of the potential issues I attach to Suzanne about how wide is her appeal could also apply. However Diane is known beyond UKIP, is a competent performer and is clearly now the front runner.
Hardworking: Diane James at the PCC campaign April 2016.
The other candidates are what I would class as true UKIPers from the regions. Again, nothing wrong with that but I would need convincing that the Party was really offering an alternative in the national political arena if the next leader were to be selected from amongst their ranks. I respect Bill Etheridge’s down to earth and forthright approach and Lisa Duffy will surely feature in some future capacity.
The NEC is a problem. As the Party has grown the structure has not kept pace – the management of the Party needs checks and balances.
In my opinion the Party should have four strands of power (a check and balance); Leader of the Party, elected by the members, a Party Chairman elected by the Area Chairmen (who, in turn, are elected by County Chairmen who, in turn, are elected by Constituency Chairmen). There should also be a Chairman of the Councillors Association (elected by UKIP Councillors) and a Chief Executive tasked with running the Party and keeping discipline amongst the paid staff of UKIP.
The decision making in respect of management of the Party would be taken by a small group of people, but the democracy and power would cascade down through the regions to the grass roots – every member would feel that they were a stakeholder. Conference should also be where policies are debated, with any branch able to submit a motion for debate.
In my opinion a pragmatic solution is required. The NEC members need to realise that the game is over. They can resist as much as they wish but a regime change will come, so a pragmatic approach would be to embrace change. After all, what unites us? A desire to change politics which thus far UKIP have done with incredible success. UKIP is in great danger of imploding and owe the British people much more than starting the changes but not seeing the job through.