The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

08 September
Comments Off on Diane James Was Very Briefly UKIP Leader

Diane James Was Very Briefly UKIP Leader

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Plenty of coverage of the Labour leadership contest in the media – but very little about the UKIP leadership election – which Peter Preston at the Guardian finds rather odd considering

Ukip scored 3,881,099 votes in the 2015 general election. More than the Lib Dems and SNP put together. Its current poll rating, even leaderless in the lee of Theresa, mostly hovers in the 14% region. Last June, at Brexit time, it was five or six points higher than that. Without Ukip, Remain would have won. Editorialists talked obsessively, post-referendum, about the disaffected white legions of the north and Midlands in revolt against London’s elite. Yet where is that newfound extra-metropolitan fascination when Ukip makes its own top choices?

Of course this could be down to the fact that our media gurus, permanently ensconced in their North London bubble have little understanding and even less sympathy with the party and its supporters. Maybe they assume (or hope) that, with Nigel Farage slipping into the background and Brexit won, UKIP will just go away

John Harris, also in the Guardian, has a word of caution for his fellow hacks…

At which point, a few corrective thoughts. First, whatever the state of Ukip’s internal affairs, the state of politics in both Europe and the US suggests that as economies and societies continue to fragment, and the mainstream seems to have no clear answers, the new rightwing populism is going be with us for some time to come.

Second, given that the referendum happened only two months ago, it is worth at least briefly reflecting on the part Ukip played in the outcome. With a solitary MP and a flimsy activist base, it still played a huge role in embedding the connection between most of Britain’s ills and the EU, and thereby carrying its cause from the margins of politics to its very centre. Here is an example of postmodern politics from which people on the left would do well to learn. Moreover, the people responsible are hardly likely to simply disappear.

Which is why it is absolutely essential for the future of UKIP that the next leader should be Diane James. She is the only candidate who has a national media profile, who comes across as cool, calm and collected whenever she is on TV or radio but is also rock solid on core UKIP values – and tough enough to bring some order and discipline into the organisational mess that currently fractures the party (and infuriates the grassroots….)

Remember the Eastleigh by-election when the media were shocked that UKIP came so close to winning A LIB Dem seat that Cameron had hoped to bag for the Tories?

There was a time when Ukip candidates were noted for their flakiness and eccentricity, but James, a healthcare executive and a councillor in Surrey, has come over as mainstream and professional. The Guardian’s John Harris said she was a smart, apparently unflappable operator who you might easily mistake for an A-list Tory candidate

Diane James certainly made an impression on me. For quite a while I had found myself in sympathy with UKIP on many issues but the quality of its leadership cadre before 2013 left much to be desired. Diane changed my perception of the party. As a new member I attended the 2013 party conference and discovered that quite a few other new faces felt the same way. Talking now to ordinary members it appears to me that at the grassroots level she remains very popular.

However there is some evidence that amongst the old guard, the pre 2010 folk, she is perceived by some as “not quite one of us”, rather aloof and unwilling to socialise. Some of these are keyboard warriors who, I suspect, preferred the old days of obscurity and isolation when they could play out their fantasies of worldwide conspiracies far away from the media spotlight.

If you want to go back to those times then Diane James is not your candidate. But if you want UKIP to tack on another 2/3m votes to the 4m of 2015 – and thus break into parliament – then she is the leader who can do it.

UPDATE..21/11/16

So what do I know….lol….it wasn’t to be. Pity.

“At a high profile public event in Cambridge last week, I was asked why I had not completed the process to become Leader of UKIP? I had little option, but to give the truthful response that, although nominated Leader by popular vote in the membership, I found that I had no support within the executive and thus no ability to carry forward the policies on which I had campaigned.

“My decision to retire from the election process and not complete it was very difficult personally and professionally, given that UKIP has dominated my life and all my efforts for over 5 years. In recent weeks, my relationship with the Party has been increasingly difficult and | feel it is now time to move on. | wish the Party well for the future under new leadership.”

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09 June
Comments Off on In The Real World UKIP Is Still Doing Well

In The Real World UKIP Is Still Doing Well

According to a whole range of media pundits (yes you, Benedict Brogan of the Telegraph) when I arrived at the South East England Regional Conference of UKIP  in Eastbourne last Saturday the hall should have been almost empty with just about thirty party members wandering around all sad and miserable – dumbstruck by the massive Tory victory in the Newark by election last week…you know, the election where the Tories doubled their 16,000 2010 majority and UKIP got even fewer than the 1,900 they got in 2010.

I had been told that the wheels had come off the UKIP juggernaut, the earthquake was now a squeak and purple was so…..yesterday. Clearly the People’s Army was, like Bonaparte’s in 1812, fleeing the battlefield in chaos and confusion.

Yet when I stepped into the hall I found it packed out with a thousand members and the whole place buzzing with excitement. Far from an air of despondency everyone was eager to prepare for next year’s General Election and listened intently as Nigel Farage outlined the leadership’s plan to target those 30/40 key constituencies where UKIP had done exceptionally well in the local and EU elections. They were also pleased to hear that between now and September the party would be putting the finishing touches to its 2015 election manifesto and that the responsibilities of presentation would be shared out between UKIP’s 24 MEPs with Farage himself more “primus inter pares” than the dominant voice he has been up to now.

We heard from new SE MEPs Diane James, Janice Atkinson and Ray Finch, people whose faces will become much more familiar as one part of this collegiate leadership cadre. Local councillors and party officials spoke about political issues, campaigning and branch organisation. UKIP’s national infrastructure is clearly becoming more professional, its message more consistent.

Diane James, in particular, got a lot of respect. She doesn’t do tub thumping but comes across cool, calm and measured especially under fire. She is a great asset for the party at a time when it needs to be taken more seriously.

This was not a congress of the defeated – and why should it be? Those figures in the opening paragraph were figments of my imagination – just as the media’s interpretation of Newark was an expression of their wishful thinking. In this “safe” Tory constituency the Conservative majority was less than half the 2010 figure. UKIP’s share went up from 3% to 25%. They replaced Labour as the main opposition party and the Lib Dems evaporated. True we didn’t win the seat but away from the Cameron cheerleaders at the Telegraph and Spectator there was recognition that it was still a good result for UKIP.

Ukip didn’t quite sustain their momentum from last month’s local and Euro-elections. But it was a good result, especially as Labour’s charge that the Tories threw the kitchen sink and more into the campaign is echoed by Nigel Farage, who will be studying young Jenrick’s election expenses carefully. The Tory money wall and Ukip’s inability to match it are two of the five shrewd reasons Sparrow cites on his blog for the likely outcome.

Just consider this. In 2010 the Tory majority in Newark was 16,000 yet they were unable to gain an overall majority in Parliament. If the Newark 2014 pattern was repeated throughout Britain in 2015 Cameron and his mates would not have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning power in their own.

That’s the real message of Newark – and this is why we departed Eastbourne in such high spirits…the Purple Revolution has only just begun……..

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