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UKIP’s farcical leadership race threatens to split the party

posted by: David Lawrence | on: Friday, 5 August 2016, 15:11

A bitter internal war threatens to tear UKIP asunder after Steven Woolfe MEP, the favourite to lead UKIP after Nigel Farage resigned, was disqualified from the leadership race by UKIP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) after submitting his leadership application 17 minutes late.

Steven Woolfe MEP, disqualified from the leadership race by the NEC

Steven Woolfe MEP, disqualified from the leadership race by the NEC

Woolfe claims his late application was due to a comical technical error. However, his leadership bid was already in jeopardy after it emerged that he had neglected to declare a criminal conviction for drink-driving when running to be a Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012.

Woolfe, an ally of Farage, believes he is the victim of a coup by anti-Farage elements within the party and has accused the NEC of leaking documents about his drink-driving conviction. Woolfe labelled the NEC, which includes MP Douglas Carswell and controversial Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton, “no longer fit for purpose” in an article on Wednesday and called for its abolition.

Farage himself has waded into the fray and labelled the NEC “among the lowest grade of people I have ever met” and “total amateurs”. Perhaps most significantly, UKIP’s largest financial donor Arron Banks has claimed that the ruling against Woolfe was “the final straw” and “effectively a Hamilton/Carswell coup”.

Farage’s combative tweets

Farage’s combative tweets

The affair has drastically deepened the existing rift between Farage, Woolfe, Banks and large sections of the grassroots on one side and Carswell, Hamilton, Parliamentary spokesperson Suzanne Evans and Patrick O’Flynn MEP on the other.

The Current Leadership Candidates

With Woolfe currently banished from the race, Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall ruling himself out and Evans and Carswell disqualified, the remaining six leading candidates are virtually unknown to the public.

UKIP currently has the following options for its next leader:

Diane James MEP: UKIP’s Justice and Home Affairs Spokesperson and the highest profile of all the candidates. She is the current bookies’ favourite, despite claiming in 2015 that she was “not at all” interested in the position. In 2015, she raised eyebrows when she expressed her admiration for Vladimir Putin for his actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Jonathan Arnott MEP: UKIP’s General Secretary from 2008-2014 and James’ closest rival. He is a moderate within the party but has a rebellious streak, voting against the UKIP whip more than any other UKIP MEP. He lacks the dynamism of Farage but does have the backing of the influential Nuttall.

Bill Etheridge MEP: A hardliner who has recently called for a ban on the burka, a ban on kosher and halal meat and expressed his support for the death penalty. He resigned from the Conservative Party after posing with ‘golliwogs’ on Facebook. He is not well-liked within the party; on the eve of the deadline for registering as a leadership candidate, his GoFundMe page had raised a mere £8 of the required £5,000.

Lisa Duffy: A Cambridgeshire councillor and former TK Maxx store manager. She is nearly unknown to the public, but has the backing of Evans and O’Flynn. She has recently called for the government to “close British Islamic faith schools”.

Phillip Broughton: A former amateur wrestler who unsuccessfully stood for the parliamentary seat in Hartlepool in 2015. He is also the author of a series of unwise Youtube videos, in which he claims “I’ve got money than any of you could possibly imagine”. He is at least wealthy enough to cough up the required £5,000 for the leadership campaign, which is likely the only reason he is in the race.

Elizabeth Jones: A lawyer and MEP candidate for South London. On a recent radio interview she claimed “UKIP will have a great deal of appeal until we’re out of the EU”, suggesting once Brexit is implemented UKIP’s appeal will effectively end. She also attracted criticised for her unprofessional conduct when she told a Socialist Party member to “shut up” on radio in 2014.

What next?

The probable outcome is that Farage and Woolfe will get the support of the required 25% of UKIP branches and call an Extraordinary General Meeting. Farage will then attempt a fundamental reform of the party structure and internal decision making. This would remove the NEC and the anti-Farage factions and reset the leadership race. If successful, this ugly public spectacle could see UKIP veer even further to the right without the more moderate influence of Evans and Carswell.

Another possibility is that Arron Banks will start a new populist right-wing political party, marketed towards younger voters. Before putting his support behind Woolfe he had repeatedly stated his intention to do just that. Now that there is no snap election, Banks has the time and space to organise and market a new movement. So vital is the funding of Banks that if he did attempt to start a new party – probably taking Woolfe with him – whatever was left of UKIP could not survive as a major force in UK politics.

Arron Banks, UKIP’s financial powerhouse and founder of the Leave.EU campaign

Arron Banks, UKIP’s financial powerhouse and founder of the Leave.EU campaign

Whatever happens, the acrimony surrounding the contest and the low quality of current candidates reflects UKIP’s dismal failure to overcome the challenges posed by its Referendum success. A healthily competitive leadership race could have seen the party surpass its legacy as a Farage-dominated personality cult, but the prospect of his absence has plunged the party into bitter factional fighting. Instead of professionalising in order to enter the mainstream, a series of farcical errors, hastily invented rulings and public insult-slinging has left UKIP in tatters.

 Posted: 5 Aug 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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“Far-right lynch mob” takes over UKIP’s Youth Conference

posted by: David Lawrence | on: Thursday, 4 August 2016, 13:53

Tobias Andersson, leader of the youth wing of the Sweden Democrats

Tobias Andersson, leader of the youth wing of the Sweden Democrats

UKIP’s youth wing Young Independence (YI) has been criticised on Twitter by Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s Parliamentary spokesperson, for allowing a “far right lynch mob” to control its annual conference in Manchester this weekend.

The controversial guest speakers and demagogic language permeating the YI conference have clearly angered Evans, who tweeted that she was “very disappointed” with the event. The unrepentant organisers struck back at Evans, who is a moderate within the party, labelling her comments “slurs”.

Evans’ tweet and the reply of Edward Sumner (YI National Deputy Chairman), re-tweeted by the YI official account

Guest speaker at the conference was Tobias Andersson, Chairman of the Sweden Democrats’ youth group the 'Young Swedes'. The extreme-right Sweden Democrats (SD) was founded by a former member of Hitler’s SS and had to ban members from wearing Nazi uniforms to their meetings in 1996.

During his speech – a video of which can be found on the YI facebook page – Andersson referenced Sweden’s Viking heritage before saying: “I’m not here to steal your belongings, occupy your houses or attack your women. I suppose you have enough foreigners doing that already”. This comment was met with laughter and a loud round of applause.

Andersson went on to claim that a “cemetery of other cultures” was responsible for turning Sweden into the “rape capital of the world”. He received a standing ovation for his speech.

Speaking at the YI event

Speaking at the YI event

Also speaking at the event was UKIP leadership candidate Bill Etheridge MEP, who used the platform to call for “a ban on the burka” in public places. His support for this controversial policy was directly preceded by a reference to the Brussels bombing, warning that “civilised people are under attack” by “barbaric terrorist murdering scum” and that “we must not be stopped by political correctness by tackling [radical Islam] at its root”.

In other worrying statements Etheridge, who has recently advocated the return of the death penalty and a complete ban on halal and kosher meat, claimed that his UKIP is “not the party of compromise” but “the party of radical change”. He then called on UKIP to pursue policy “without any concerns whatsoever about backlash” or “moral outrage”.

Bill Etheridge MEP

Bill Etheridge MEP

UKIP is facing a profound identity crisis following its success in the EU Referendum and desperately needs to settle on a direction that will redefine the party. That the unapologetic populism of Andersson and Etheridge was welcomed so warmly at the YI conference exposes some worrying currents within the Young Independence movement.

If the future of UKIP is indeed to be found in its young members, then the party could be heading in an altogether darker direction than moderates – such as Suzanne Evans – would like.

 Posted: 4 Aug 2016 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments