It’s fair to say if you don’t have policies nor politicians, then you probably are not a political party. But these alone are not enough. With all the will in the world you still need apparatchiks and operatives to market your message, maintain your membership and manage your manpower. And that costs money.
So it’s fair to say you need Parliamentary resources or some pretty generous donors, who surely need something to believe in before they part with significant sums. Even then, that is not a guaranteed recipe for success. If just one of those things disappears – policies, people, prosperity, purpose – it has a devastating knock-on effect to the entire operation.
UKIP is now facing a future without all of those things.
Looking at everyone in UKIP using Diane's resignation as reason to attack eachother says all you need to know about the mindset in the party
— Alexandra Phillips (@Politicalex) October 5, 2016
Cue the UKIP crisis. Having shed Diane James, their second leader this year, after just 18 days, (who, incidentally, never even signed on the dotted line), is a clear a sign that all is not well in the Purple Towers. Sadly (or perhaps not) for Kippers, it doesn’t stop there. For those lamenting the loss of the charismatic leader, synonymous with UKIP itself, one Nigel Farage, they are about to lose a whole lot more.
In two years UKIP won’t have the majority of their elected representatives, the very caucus of the organisation, the MEPs. They have voted themselves into unemployment, along with all of their staff and the vital accompanying resources. Brexit ironically means no more nuts and bolts of UKIP. No big leader, no elected figureheads.
What about policies? Well, aside from Brexit, which we should consider near enough a fait accompli, the UKIP 2015 General Election manifesto was pretty much laid out in its entirety by Theresa May within but months of assuming office. The country’s top dog, the PM herself, intends on putting these policies in front of Parliament in the hope that they can actually come into effect. Job pretty much done.
UKIP therefore must now come up with a pretty strong new cause celebre to warrant its existence.
Wait for sparks to fly re: successor to Diane James.Ukip has 2 distinct warring factions.Can they come together or will the splits surface?
— Alexandra Phillips (@Politicalex) October 4, 2016
“Holding the Government’s feet to the fire” is simply not enough. In fact, it’s paradoxical. Newspapers, think tanks, lobbyists, bloggers, backbenchers, the opposition and the voters themselves do that.
As a political force, to depend on all the things you believe in and campaigned for, never actually being delivered just so you continue to have something to do, is absurd. It goes against the whole point of the project.
Here comes the rub. UKIP continuing to exist threatens to do just that.
The party needs to hamper the Tories, erode trust in the government delivering their promises, adapting lines that once worked so well, like “the Tories won’t give you a referendum”. Well, they did. “But they won’t deliver on Brexit”. Actually, let’s hope they do. But UKIP remaining and constantly rocking the boat is not going to help the Conservatives come up with the goods.
The Tories only have a majority of 12. That makes it pretty hard to get things through Parliament. And playing the part of the agitator, having to be bolder, louder, more controversial, simply to be heard, is only going to taint the project, fuel the opposition and risk resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Next few months will prove whether Ukip are a spent force or an existential treat to the English Labour Party. https://t.co/NmuBh7MDVk
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) October 5, 2016
UKIP’s very existence could essentially put at stake all of the things UKIP worked so hard to achieve.
The final reason currently cited as to why UKIP must exist is that it’s the only party that can take Labour votes. Well, for a start that objective has hardly helped the Lib Dems and the Greens to mushroom, and those from Old Labour who did lend UKIP their vote are now finding the party of Government has pricked their ears and are finally listening. Plus Labour itself appears to be splintering and multiplying into various different forms of Labour. Labour is essentially becoming the alternative to itself.
Where does that leave UKIP?
Think of politics like an absolute balance, a microcosm or ecosystem where one species is interdependent on the status of another. The ground was once very fertile for UKIP to grow, to occupy a specific space in the narrative. But that ground has now been retaken by the Conservatives while the left is appearing to schism and spread beyond its previous limits. Starved of money, manpower and meaning, the genus UKIP is fighting simply to survive.
Party Chairman Paul Oakden: UKIP will now move forward and in a calm and considered way to choose out next leader. pic.twitter.com/pfvK6ggLlp
— UKIP (@UKIP) October 5, 2016
Is that sad?
UKIP has been an incredible political force that has changed British politics for the better. Surely we should just celebrate that, rather than want to turn back the clock and do the whole thing again, and risk seriously mucking it up.
I’m proud to have been part of changing the entire narrative of UK politics, delivering a once in a generation victory for British democracy. I just don’t see the sense in now squandering all of that hard work out of sheer vanity, out of a blinkered tribal attachment to a brand.
What UKIP needs to do now is decide whether it has a new project, a new purpose and unify around that raison d’etre, or accept defeat. But it isn’t defeat. It’s actually a victory. And a victory every single Purple voting, leaflet delivering canvassing, campaigning, cajoling, convincing Brexiteer can tell to future generations. It’s a legacy to be proud of.
So, I implore UKIP: put your feet up, toast your success and back the Government or do something new. Whatever you do, please don’t ruin all of your hard work.
- Alexandra Phillips was head of UKIP’s media team until May 2016