Thursday, September 11

UKIP on the brink

The weekend's press gave a fascinating, and long overdue, insight into UKIP's latest series of crises. This has been a bizarre week for the party (and particularly internal UKIP party democracy), with candidates being forced to resign from winnable positions on the party's candidate lists, the new party chairman being, apparently, suddenly appointed by Nigel Farage, without the consent or knowledge of party members or even the party's National Executive. All of which has occurred while the party 'enjoys' its annual conference in Bournemouth.

The Independent ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rumours-plotting-even-a-bnp-link--is-the-party-over-for-ukip-920824.html) revealed an attempt from within UKIP party headquarters to oust Farage as leader, with the conspirators including David Abbott, a member of UKIP's NEC who has donated money to the BNP. Elsewhere, Roger Knapman (who has always hated Farage since his own removal as party leader in 2006) and his allies also hope to force Farage out.

The Devil's Kitchen (http://devilskitchen.me.uk/2008/09/more-ukip-infighting-apparently.html) has an interesting post on UKIP's travails. The reality is that the infighting is between personalities, but also for the party's identity. UKIP is split between anti-tax and anti-state libertarians who think that Britain should leave the EU because its common market has common rules on environmental, social and consumer protection standards (in many ways their libertarianism is not wholly dissimilar to the more right-wing US Republicans).

The problem for these characters, which include chief of staff, Gawain Towler, press officer, Tim Worstall and new chairman, Paul Nuttall and, amongst the MEPs, by Nigel Farage, Graham Booth and John Whittaker, is that they are a minority elite. Most of the UKIPs activists and votes are not libertarian but authoritarian - the sort of hang 'em and flog 'em extreme right-wingers who hate foreigners and think Enoch Powell was too soft on immigration. Significantly, the likes of Towler and Nuttall (and former press office Annabelle Fuller whose ousting also appears in the Indy's piece) are all former Tories who defected after the 2004 breakthrough and are still regarded with suspicion by the old-guard who founded UKIP back in the early 90s when they were even more of a rag-bag of nutters and racists.

The new UKIP elite, which really only amount to a very small number, have run the party from the centre, frequently getting into trouble with the Electoral Commission over their financial declarations and cutting the NEC and party members out of decision making. The shenanigans surrounding allegations of fraud against Tom Wise MEP, which the party leadership have known about for the last three years, have been allowed to rumble on. Furthermore, the allegations made last week by party members on the Democracy Forum (http://www.democracyforum.co.uk/ukip-general-issues/52571-official-results-mep-selection-ballots.html) site that the MEP selection ballots were rigged by the leadership are further evidence that long-term party members are fed up with being treated with contempt.

Needless to say, the old guard are also apoplectic at the talks between Farage and Conservatives to establish some kind of non-aggression pact in advance of next year's European elections, presumably in exchange for UKIP not standing candidates in marginal Labour held seats that the Tories need to win to form the next Government.

UKIP are suffering from the inevitable problem of trying to turn themselves into a serious party. Farage is an effective and intelligent media performer, but most of his MEP colleagues are semi-literate buffoons. Mike Nattrass, Godfrey Bloom and Derek Clark are deadweights who don't seems to do any work and seldom get any media coverage, while Roger Knapman and Jeffrey Titford are similarly inactive and, in Knapman's case, hell bent on wrecking Farage's leadership.

Consequently, we have a brutal power struggle between the racist hard-right (who constitute most of the old guard and party members) and the so-called libertarian free traders (who want UKIP to be a serious and viable political party). The old adage about student politics being so vicious because the stakes are so small also applies to UKIP!

But, if UKIP collapses, where do their votes go? As the Independent says, if UKIP totally collapses, then the BNP will stand to benefit. The BNP comfortably outpolled UKIP in the London Mayoral and Assembly elections this year, they have more members and, unless the likes of Paul Sykes are prepared to give UKIP a couple of million as they did in 2004, they will have similar financial resources. And, of course, the BNP are in favour of British withdrawal from the EU. So if, as seems inevitable, UKIP's vote collapses and they lose most of their 12 seats won in 2004, it is likely that the BNP will win several seats, with the East Midlands, North-West and London the most likely regions.

However, a collapsing UKIP vote could also be good news for the Tories. In 2004, the Tories took only 28% of the vote (at the height of Government unpopularity over the Iraq war) with many natural eurosceptic Tory voters giving UKIP a try. With UKIP in turmoil, Cameron will expect to see these voters returning to the Tory fold.

The bottom line seems to be that, outside Farage and his cabal of 'modernisers', UKIP as a party are rotten to the core. After the 2004 breakthrough they look set to be consigned to obscurity, a blot on Britain's political landscape. Few will shed any tears.

Wednesday, September 10

Is Ashley Mote crossing the floor to the BNP

It looks as though the chequered political career of Ashley Mote is not yet complete. The convicted benefit fraudster and former UKIP MEP is apparently attempting to seek re-election in next year's European election…….heading the BNP list in the South-East where he was elected along with Nigel Farage for UKIP in 2004. And you thought he couldn't stoop any lower.

Monday, September 8

Summer loving, had me a small chat with the police

Amid the excitement (well minor interest), farce and toys-from-pram throwing of the UKIP selection process, it is easy to forget the heroics of the established MEPs who have bumbled along at their usual standard over the summer months.

First, there was Jeffrey Titford, who had to have a little chat with the police over the summer following allegations of "financial irregularities". The News of the World reported that the complaint came from none other than UKIP's Chairman in Ipswich and East Suffolk. Oh dear.

Second point of vague interest, possibly, is the ramblings of Godfrey Bloom. Back in 2004, Godfrey was UKIP's premier hotshot gobshite, spouting all sorts of offensive nonsense to the delight of the media. Of course since then, others elected alongside him have spent time in jail, been investigated by Olaf and generally behaved rather worse than merely waffling away like the pub bore.

In fact, UKIPwatch is struggling to find the motivation to post Bloom's recent thoughts on green energy. They were predictable and wrong. Is this the best Godders really can do these days? Come on Godders, raise your game. Some of us are waiting to be offended.

Thursday, September 4

The farce continues as UKIP No 1 in North-West resigns

Just a week after the results of UKIP's MEP selection were announced the party continues to suffer embarrassment.

Gregg Beaman, who was ranked No 1 by UKIP party members in the North-West, and would have hoped to cling on to the seat won by John Whittaker in 2004, has resigned from his candidacy. Not content with that, he has resigned as UKIP Regional Organiser for the North-West.

All of which leaves UKIP staffer Paul Nuttal as No 1 in the North-West - unless the rumours of impropriety turn out to be true and the entire election is re-run.

Funnily enough, there is not a single prominent mention on UKIP's freshly designed website on their candidate selections for next year. Strange that!

Wednesday, September 3

UKIP ban candidate from standing for euro elections

UKIP may be in desperate straits, but are clearly not so desperate to be able to refuse to allow one of their candidates to stand.

Robin Page, who was UKIP's 3rd candidate in the East of England in 2004, claims to have been blocked from standing by the party hierarchy. Page, who used to present BBC's "One Man and his Dog" claims that, after following the advice of UKIP staff, he was ruled out of the internal election process for European Election Candidates, as the instructions he was given were said to be wrong.

In the words of Mr Page: "In my view I have been well and truly “stitched up”. It has, it seems, been a Banana Republic election – apparently having much in common with a Zimbabwean election. I even knew what the result would be before one vote had been cast. There is so much sleaze in UKIP at the moment with people being investigated by the police and OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office) for a number of alleged offences – I think the hierarchy wanted to prevent me from standing in case I won a place at Brussels and saw how some of them behave. It is a disgrace; the whole thing has been run like a Zimbabwean election – even the UKIP Returning Officer – former Tory MP Piers Merchant is appalled – but claims he cannot do anything about it: “I seem not to have been given the powers to call the election off”, he says, “but shall be preparing a full report in which I will highlight several areas of inadequacy and also cases such as yours, which need a proper investigation”.

Because of the flawed election process several local UKIP branches are refusing to help with next year’s European Elections and want the Electoral Reform Society to be involved in all future UKIP elections.

UKIP are in dreadful trouble through a combination of vicious and malicious infighting and rank incompetence. But it's interesting to hear the accusation that the party is undemocratic, considering UKIP's regular claims that the EU is remote and as democratic as a banana republic.

Monday, September 1

UKIP launches Euro 2009 motley crew

UKIP's motley crew of candidates for next year's European election has now been announced. Not a star in sight at the moment, although UKIPwatch is still hoping for a surprise candidacy from celebrity chef Rustie Lee, Edward Fox or, even better, the paragon of selfless virtue that is disgraced 'cash for questions' former MP, Neil Hamilton.

Replacing the convicted benefit fraudster Ashley Mote as number two in the South-East is former Commission whistleblower Marta Andreasson, whose own brand of euroscepticism is a little less extreme than her UKIP colleagues.

UKIPwatcher was also intrigued by the performance of the IND-DEM staffers. Paul Nuttal is 2nd in the North-West, with Michael McManus 3rd - neither have any chance of being elected, which is also the case for Ralph Atkinson (3rd in London) and UKIP's chief of staff and blogger Gawain Towler (3rd in the South-West).

David Campbell-Bannerman (not quite as distinguished as his illustrious former Liberal Prime Minister ancestor) takes the top spot in the East, with Jeffrey Titford's assistant Stewart Guilleford managing only fourth.

In Yorkshire, the oafish Godfrey Bloom has seen off the challenge from Jonathan 'boy' Arnott for the number 1 spot, while 'deadweight' Derek Clark and Mike Nattrass top the lists in the East and West Midlands.

Also interesting to see the vote shares in the South East and West - Nigel Farage gaining a whopping 1720 votes - ten times as many as Derek Clark's meagre 145 in the East Midlands. In the South-West, new MEP Trevor Colman was the only one to get close to a thousand votes, with 900.

So, how will UKIP fare next June. Not very well if you believe the UKIP party members and assorted hard-right extremists on the Democracy Forum, 49% of which are betting on UKIP being reduced to 4 MEPs or fewer. Nothing like a bit of confidence amongst the footsoldiers!