Saturday, 28 August 2010
Who will be UKIP's next Leader?
Which candidate UKIP member's pick as their next leader will be more important this time than ever before. In the most simple terms, this is likely to be, for those wishing to leave the EU, their last chance to get out by their own endeavours. As the years have gone by, although the majority still want to leave, the young voters who are replacing the dying elder voters, are in favour of, or at least are not implacably against our membership as the older generation are - probably because they have no memory of living in an independent country. So if the next leader also fails, the game will, effectively, be up for UKIP and it may as well disband.
UKIP has now been in existence for 17 years - at the last General Election they obtained 3% of the vote. There is only one way out of the EU and that is through Westminster which means obtaining enough votes to win seats in the House of Commons - this clearly is not happening and a root and branch reform of the Party is required if there is to be any chance of success - what has been happening is not working!
The most obvious reason for this failure is that UKIP's leadership has been, as MEPs, based in Brussels, but it is in the UK that the work to convince British voters to vote for the Party must be done. It may be that the odd abusive speech by Farage is reported in the UK and the occasional appearance on a TV show might keep the Party in the public's memory, but it is clearly having little effect in terms of votes.
In order to re-adjust the Party's focus it seems essential that the next leader is not an MEP, but is someone who is based in the UK. This does open up the problem that the Party does not have the funds to pay a non MEP a reasonable salary and, as the majority of the MEPs do not seem eager to hand over much of their overly generous salary package, it means that a non MEP leader will have to mostly fund themselves - this essentially confines the search to someone who has retired on a healthy pension or has a significant income from elsewhere.
Tim Congdon is the only one of the current leadership candidates who fits this bill, although Dr Eric Edmond, the former NEC member, is actively considering standing as is Frank Maloney the boxing promoter and possibly Lord Monckton.
There is little doubt that the Party has been in the grip of Farage and his supporters - mainly MEPs and the staff paid for by the MEPs budgets. The current election of new NEC members coupled to the election of a new leader does offer the chance for a new group to manage and direct UKIP, whether this will be accomplished is yet to be seen, but it will not be an easy transition - these leading MEPs have enjoyed their highlife in Brussels for far too long to give it up without a fight.
Of the MEPs, David Bannerman has already said he will stand for the leadership. Another possible contender is the Earl of Dartmouth, although Gerard Batten should be amongst the favourites to win, coming second in last year's contest, should he decide to throw his hat into the ring.
Should the battle to seize the control of the Party away from Farage and his cabal be successful, clearly the rules governing the MEPs responsibilities will be an issue to be reviewed at an early stage by the leader and the new NEC. Perhaps Nikki Sinclair would be willing to set up and run some training courses for the most wayward MEPs, as she has clearly demonstrated her devotion to the cause and has been prepared to donate a considerable amount of her salary package to the Party.