Euro sceptics ( realists?) across the country must be as delighted as I am to see UKIP doing so well at the polls. As a founder member and not insignificant donor over the last 20 years I see at least a dim light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps an end to one of the most shameful periods in British history. We must not forget the old Referendum Party, founded by James Goldsmith who nobly put a finger in the dyke until UKIP got fully mobilised , those early Kippers were derided and scorned like the early Christians ,freezing nights delivering leaflets, money for meetings which were unattended and campaigns which were all but futile. The original aim was simply a return to self government, we sort of settled along the way for an in / out referendum, so success albeit with a rather shifty commitment from a dubious source.However for better or worse UKIP is attempting the difficult change from pressure group to political party. This requires the party to indulge in some navel gazing. So far, humour me if you will,the political battle has been like a bizarre game of football. The establishment versus UKIP , the scoreboard shows them doing well, but how so? I would venture the establishment keep scoring own goals, immigration,criminal waste, social service failure,third world roads, ballooning national debt, huge defence cuts ,ministries which remain not fit for purpose,the list is endless. Naturally the UKIP team dash up to their supporters, shirts pulled over their heads revelling in the glory, they gloat unashamedly in front of the TV cameras and who can blame them, success has been a long time coming. But it is the establishment's own goals that are producing the results.
But if UKIP want to be a political party, I am not sure they really do or even should, they must stop shirking the issues. Do they want to be a Conservative party in the mould of Lord Salisbury or theLiberal party of Gladstone, or indeed may I proffer a Liberal party of Rosebery ? UKIP started out as a party of reform, low tax, libertarian and small government. This has been ruthlessly sidelined, I know I was a member of the party hierarchy when it happened. Radicals, libertarians and tax reformers have quietly departed masked by swelling ranks of those who have flocked to the colours on the populist immigration policies and those with an eye to the political main chance. There are some very good ideas, UKIP has the only energy policy which will keep the lights on, but I got that ball rolling in2006 , the return of grammar schools to break the social mobility gridlock so beloved of the privately educated political elite, after all who wants to let in outsiders when you have stitched up the jobs for young Rupert and Charlotte .It is no accident that all the parties are led by public school boys. The question has to be asked, if we get self government will we just replace Brussels with Westminster ? UKIP talk a good story about local democracy and referenda, but the party is actually run on the same basis as the EU, a veneer of democracy with occasional votes for the members with the results discarded behind closed doors if they got it wrong. Speaking invitations have to be cleared with head office,books for sale at conference are vetted , successful speeches on the platform mysteriously disappear from the recordings if one is not part of the in crowd. The spin doctors rebrand to cover this in the way of traditional despots, 'the people's army', whenever you hear people's or democratic you can be sure you get the opposite, the German Democratic Republic being the classic example , but there are many others. We know ,of course all the main parties do this but UKIP are supposed to be different. A very senior member told me the other day that the results justified all this, but the votes roll in because the electorate regard UKIP as new ,fresh and honest. They see the leader with a pint , good bloke, but in a country where political journalism was more advanced it would not wash.Witness 13 UKIP MEPs in2009 7 lost or resigned the whip by 2014 . Local democracy has been eliminated from party machinery , Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, UKIP's most successful region is unrepresented on the NEC ,the party's governing body, as is Wales ,Scotland and the North East .Now it is a legitimate question to ask how a grass roots party was wrestled away from its membership. The answer is in the new constitution. The first was virtually a carte blanche for a member controlled protest movement. It led to all sorts of problems as the party gathered momentum. What was needed was a hand on the tiller, some tweaking here and there. What happened? The leadership recruited a smart lawyer to make the party a leader's fiefdom. Outgoing Roger Knapman was horrified it gave so much power to one man. Power corrupts and absolute etc.etc. most members were too busy treading the pavement to bother too much about it, to my shame I include myself. It was only when membership cards started to be cut up by unelected party placemen I started to take heed. Nigel Farage is not a great reading man but he certainly did his homework on a Joe Stalin biography. In keeping with the genre the public persona genial chap supping a brew a man of the people but the early hours knock on the door and Gulag is never far away. Now examine the breakdown in membership, no one ever does but it is vital to understand UKIP . There are the founder members of whom there are now very few, patriotic, well read, traditionally educated, loyal by nature, party politically naive. Pretty much me until only a couple of years ago. They did not join for any reward, indeed there were none. However in the last 3 years the membership has doubled, a single issue immigration policy although popular has swelled the ranks, this is a very mixed blessing and has brought a small but significant number of members with whom the old guard are uneasy. The sort of people Dan Hannan complained of a few days ago. I too have suffered with appalling language accompanied by ignorance and stupidity. These are not real Kippers but fellow travellers as fleas are to the dog. There are of course some fantastic new young professional people. But they assume the party was always run in this autocratic and arrogant manner. They will not stay, they are used to having letters answered and reasoned argument , not diktat from a Brooks Mews jack in office.
Hardly the party of John Stuart Mill of whom the leader speaks but I suspect has not read .If there is truly to be an earthquake in British politics UKIP needs to get its act together or history will judge it to be a damp squib and Nigel Farage another Jack Cade ironically beaten by an administration led by Henry VI ,every bit as weak as Cameron's coalition. There are those who still remain in UKIP with the intellectual artillery to do this, deputy leader Paul Nuttall is more than capable of leading this debate and Douglas Carswell picking up the challenge, sweeping it under the carpet will leave us all with the usual Red/ Blue choice in May. The English civil war and the French Revolution lead to regicide but not reform, Napoleon or Cromwell's Commonwealth were hardly worth the blood bath. I would not trust theUKIP leader ship to draft a new constitution to replace the Bill of Rights if the one for UKIP is anything to go by.Yes, we get it on the EU and immigration, yes, the other parties have no answers either but being less hopeless than the others is not earthquake material. There is a growing tendency rather than bringing about major reform of the establishment there seems a desperation to be part of it. A demand for the perks of office, seats in the House of Lords gongs of various descriptions, photo opportunities on Remembrance Sunday ( particularly tacky) UKIP's popularity grew by not being part of this. Yet UKIP appears to have caught political correctness in spades, grovelling apologies from the leader at the drop of a hat, Guardian approval now seems to matter, I am almost waiting for Farage to counsel us all ' to drink responsibly'. UKIP have slid smoothly into the Lib/ Dem policy slot, reminiscent of the army cook sergeant and the recruit when asked what is in the steaming tureen, whaddya want it to be son? In the main UKIP now seem to stand for nothing in particular except anti immigration, an enormous problem in a welfare state, but it is the welfare system that needs reform . Of this we hear nothing, nor will we whilst the ' don't frighten the horses' policy holds sway. This inevitably means UKIP is in danger of going the same way, albeit the late comers in the hierarchy will have feathered their own nest by that stage.
Sean Gabb got it right when he raised the query post Brussels what sort of government do we want? UKIP at the moment is run with an iron rod by a small cartel of London based public schoolboys ( sound familiar?) all of whom are or were card carrying members of the Conservative party , donations come from the same source. There is no political earthquake, although there could be, this is about repositioning the Tories which is why the provinces in UKIP are unrepresented ,that is a missed opportunity . The Blair administration in 1997 had the same rare political opportunity , it could have been so much more.