What has happened to UKIP? They, as the only major British party who supported British exit of the EU, objectively won the referendum as compared to all the other major parties. They should be capitalizing, chasing new horizons, and holding our new Prime Minister's feet to the fire with her “deal” on immigration, trade and our sovereignty now that we are leaving the European Union.
But every few days I read an article on the supposed “death of UKIP,” either in the classic UKIP hate rags such as the Guardian, the BBC or the Times, or the more UKIP-sympathizing news sources like The Spectator. It certainly feels that way: “high profile” defections to the Tories, certain polls seeming to show UKIP in a deep slide, and faction wars between key party members over the party's direction.
Make no mistake, some of this is just noise. Defections are rarely important (I seldom recall the name of anyone who has defected); other polls show UKIP to be doing rather fine, and factions wars are only for the egotists in the party and do not reflect party division as a whole.
On the other hand, UKIP does have problems. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. At the end of the day, for much of the public, Nigel Farage was UKIP. The “one-man band” criticism of UKIP was a very strong argument against them. They were getting better though. There were several good performances on television and certain key members of the party utilized social media (without the help of professionals) much better than any other major party, allowing for semi-recognizable faces to grow in the party. This could have been a great bouncing pad for a good leader with wider electoral promises. But none of these people were on the leadership ballot.
My first choice for leader, in a rather premature decision, was Paul Nuttall, the now former deputy leader. I had felt for a while that he was the perfect choice to continue UKIP. He was similar to Farage in a way but had enough varied opinions to make him not seem like a bland continuation of Farage. These included being pro-life, tough on crime, etc., to even more nuanced policies like his support for the creation of an MP in Gibraltar. I had always felt that Nuttall could magnify UKIP as a fully-formed party, truly shaping it into a nationalist, small state party who were willing to talk about issues without shame. Truly to be the unashamed right wing party that it so desperately wanted to be.
Those hopes were dashed when he ruled himself out for reasons I don’t quite frankly know, leaving me, bookies, and much of the media bewildered as to who was to become favorite. Their attention moved to Steven Woolfe, an okay choice for leader. The continuity candidate of Farage. He wouldn’t take many risks to deviate from Farage (the media dub them the Faragists). The problem was that this wouldn't win any voters UKIP doesn’t already have.
Woolfe ran, for the most part, a decent and semi-professional campaign, holding rallies across the country to drum up support for his campaign. He was also one of the few people in UKIP that had a plan for dealing with the left wing Labour part in its northern heartlands, as UKIP should have been doing in the last general election.
Despite this, Woolfe managed to make a mistake that can only be dubbed a major gaffe, finalizing his leadership forms 20 minutes after the deadline. Knocking himself out of the race instantly.
So who were the actual leadership candidates? Two filler candidates, a “modernizer” (the word screams political correctness), the obvious winner, my choice for leader, and a man I’ve met on three separate occasions for reasons beyond my comprehension. I’ll not discuss the fillers, the modernizer or the man I met thrice, as the former are not important and the last dropped out before voting commenced.
Diana James was the “obvious winner”. She was parachuted in by continuity Faragists just in case Woolfe didn’t get on the ballot, and boy does it show. Besides skipping all the leadership hustings (debates) in an act of unashamed arrogance, she gave off the energy of a person who didn’t want to be leader but was just forcing herself to be one. She offered no actual polices. Her leaflet was just a letter talking about “Brexit” and nothing much else.
James would have been an excellent leader if it were 2013. Wonderful for the party that was growing more and more, quieting the talk that UKIP is an old man’s party, but time has moved on. UKIP has won the referendum and it needs to grow. It can’t just be the “Bashing Brussels” group. That should always be a part of UKIP, of course, but UKIP and the British nationalist movement have so many more problems to fight: neo-conservative foreign policy, NATO, the managerial state, wider globalization that reaches further than the EU, multiculturalism, and other major problems that need to be tackled. Continuity Farage, which is James, does not discuss these issues. Watered-down immigration policies and EU-bashing can only get one so far in politics.
Can UKIP continue with James? Possibly. But if UKIP isn't careful, it will become known as the “anti-EU party” that got consumed by the Conservative Party. Not the “Nationalist Party” that led a successful government.
Adam J. Young is editor (in a loose sense) of Collapse from Inside. He has written for VDARE, Libertarian Alliance, and UKIP Daily, among others. Check out more at Collapse from Inside