There is nothing broken in UKIP that can't be fixed, but in order to do so members, activists and senior figures need to mature a little and face some difficult facts of life. In military parlance the electoral mission on May 7th was the capture of seats at Westminster. At Sandhurst officers are trained to give orders in a specific way, the mission is crisp, clear and brief. Capture hill 60 or some such, there can be no confusion as to the objective. At the general election there could have been no clearer message, Commons seats and plenty of them. 5 million votes was an awesome result, largely delivered by an unbelievably loyal and hard working activist base, who incidentally have been working their socks off for many years not just campaign weeks. Yet many of these votes were gained by main party failure, the electorate just feel bewildered, they work hard but public services decline, tax goes up and their experience of inflation doesn't seem to tie in with the government numbers. They hear of austerity but fat cat salaries seem to abound, government waste is all around, billions of pounds sent abroad in aid or EU membership fees, railway lines that nobody seems to want except politicians. Foreign vagrants living in filth and aggression in London parks, speed cameras nailing grandma on the way to Tesco at 36 mph. Middle England seems always to draw the short straw. They look for a protest vote and UKIP fits the bill, nothing wrong with that, without a protest vote the pressure cooker would explode. At the euro elections, by elections and some council elections UKIP lead the field. But general elections are something else. The electorate is not as stupid as many journalists and politicians assume. It will always boil down to the economy. This is where the UKIP strategy failed. Not in the campaign but four years ago when the professionals took over. The constitution was changed to give the leader plenipotentiary power. It was rebranded in a presidential style, Nigel Farage's UKIP.
We had many a row about this because I felt it was un English and only works for a protest movement not a serious political party. As for Nigel's Purple Army it was almost designed to put most of the electorate off, as it did. The total focus on immigration was far too narrow, everyone knows the country would collapse without them.
The party started out pretty much where Douglas Carswell wants it to be today, classical liberal, small government, low tax and radical on social issues. Outside leaving the EU UKIP now stands four square for nothing in particular. Pro fracking, anti fracking, nationalise the railways, minimum wage, no NHS or tax reform.
Fascinating to look at the line up at the top of UKIP, drill down and you will find in addition to the classical liberalism of Carswell you have Thatcherite conservatism, neo socialism, soggy Lib/Demism. Farage, O'Flynn, Suzanne Evans. Ideologically it is tough to bring that all together. Indeed does it matter?
But they are not really the fault lines, UKIP is not going to form a government or even influence one in the foreseeable future. Only one seat in the commons, thanks to a faulty strategy conceived years ago. Unlike most UKIP members I don't believe the party needs to be a one man band, or one policy pressure group. There is a huge role for it to play but as advocates of small government and radical thinking.
A start would be to change the constitution and give the party back to its members. Instant progress could be with regional places on the NEC. Scotland, Yorkshire, the North East, Wales are all unrepresented. In a party of local democracy that is scandalous. Incidentally it has been quite deliberate. If there is to be a break with tradition and the losing leader does not fall on his sword UKIP must do at least what the Labour Party is doing and reappraising strategy and positioning. This will not be easy without new leadership, but that seems unlikely so the party must buckle down. Pretending the election was a success with the leader failing to get a seat for the seventh time with unlimited funds, resources and exposure was not a fiasco. Political journalists and UKIP donors must take a far more analytical approach than hitherto. The 'given ' is the leader is a major electoral asset, but does that hold water? Caroline Lucas won a seat representing the Lunatic Party, Douglas Carswell proved you can win a seat with very little money or media exposure, in Thanet UKIP won control of the council, so they were not hostile to UKIP per se. If donors with business backgrounds were making an acquisition it is difficult to believe they would keep keep this Managing Director, even if he were a member of the same golf club.Is there really no talent elsewhere in the party? Nobody had heard of Maggie Thatcher in 1979, leaders emerge often from obscurity. Perhaps donors should sometimes be exposed to a counter opinion in the party.
The cause is the thing, known in the first English Civil war as ' the good old cause' Not leadership or even party loyalty. Is it wise to give a major role to an advocate of withdrawal from the EU in 2017 to someone, however regretfully, or disappointingly just doesn't cut it outside the UKIP conference hall. The out campaign will depend on winning the hearts of the undecided, Nissan workers in Sunderland, metal workers in Sheffield, Honda employees in Leicstershire. This will be one of the toughest campaigns ever fought. The main players have to win the trust of the electorate, it will be a cross party team, but the first eleven must have a record of scoring goals.
Can UKIP have this debate without personal vilification sensibly, yes with emotion but not destructively?
A final piece of advice, get back the humour, fun and joie de vivre, don't be a fake main party lookalike. Forget the new adherence to political correctness, Polly Toynbee will never vote UKIP so forget about her and her ilk. Ditch the minders with their dark glasses and ear pieces, boot out the Mafia at Head Office, it's a grass roots phenomenon and more power to its elbow for being so.