A political party is like a very large, extremely annoying extended family. Active involvement takes over one’s life.
One can therefore imagine the emotional wrench Nigel Farage experienced when he left UKIP a couple of weeks ago. His was the face of UKIP. Not only had he given his life to UKIP but as a founding member in 1992, he had worked 36 years, almost non-stop for this annoying extended family. Love him or loathe him, the one thing no one can accuse him of is not being consistent. For decades with energy and fortitude, he persisted in fighting, through thick and thin, to exit the European union.
So what made Farage leave UKIP? He doesn’t think that Brexit is done and dusted. Last week he predicted that there will be a second referendum which will need to be fought over again. Brexit has been, as every leaver knows, betrayed.
UKIP ‘was’ the political face of Brexit. The UKIP that I joined was also remarkably united. There were always rumblings between ‘red’ UKIP and ‘blue’ UKIP members but they were minor, always some discontent among a few members about Islam but in general the party was united – unlike both other major parties who have torn themselves and each other apart over Brexit.
All UKIP members wanted was to leave the EU, to replace it with small government, lower taxes, free speech, control of our borders, a massive reduction in welfare tourism and see a halt to economic immigration. In addition they wanted a return to proper policing and the rule of law. All were in favour of reducing overseas aid and putting British people first. None of these things were controversial. The party was united.
Then Gerard Batten took over. Mr Batten seems to have spent most of his short leadership concentrating his energies on getting one man, Tommy Robinson, admitted to the party. (Ironically UKIP is the only party which specifically forbids membership – written into the Constitution – to anyone who has been a member of either the BNP or the EDL.) Tommy Robinson is not only the founder of the EDL but has never, before now, had any interest in either Brexit or UKIP.
Indeed two senior journalists told me that Mr Robinson is not really that interested in joining UKIP and all the running to get him to join has been done by Mr Batten, not the other way around, as people have been led to believe.
Batten’s policy has been met with ferocious resistance internally; from rank and file members to regional organisers, from NEC members and even as far as the House of Lords; both Lord Stevens and Lord Willoughby have left the party in the last couple of weeks.
There have been however a number of recruits of hard core of Tommy fans. These include a number of senior people from Anne Marie Water’s party, her deputy and many new members – some of whom are clearly ex BNP and EDL supporters. Indeed critics of Batten have characterised it as a ‘Momentum’ like insurgency.
The entire party has changed out of all recognition. Many of the older stalwarts – local chairman, regional chairs, elected councillors, London assembly members, mayors and MEP’s are now openly and disparagingly called ‘Old Tories’.
Whilst the party may have increased membership, it has lost its core – it funders, it’s writers, it’s intelligentsia and many of it’s hard working, grassroots activists, leaving the question, who are disaffected Conservative voters like Victoria, writing this week at at Conservative woman now going to vote for?
This is when, with Brexit failing, there could not be a more propitious time for UKIP. Instead, under Batten’s leadership UKIP has achieved the astonishing feat of burying itself with its own ideological spade and is languishing at 6-8% in the polls. It will not win a local district council seat with that electoral share.
As a result the entire Brexit campaign now focuses on Nigel Farage, Rees Mogg and Richard Tice at Leave Means Leave. UKIP is dead.
Catherine Blaiklock was formerly UKIP’s Economics spokesman and the Eastern Regional Chair. She has resigned and left the party.