Calgacus
Calgacus

The EU Creates A Desert and Calls It Peace

Whither UKIP?

Whither UKIP?

Whither UKIP?

It is a remarkable thing for a party that claims to have brought about Brexit that it should be deserted by its leader and effectively disband at the revolutionary moment.
Did Lenin disband the Communist Party when the Czar fell? Even before he actually fell? Did Fidel and Che get back on the Granma and go back to Florida as soon as Batista was deposed? Did Ho Chi Minh say, " oh, I've got you a bicycle, that't it now"? Did Nelson Mandela say "now I'm out of prison I think an allottment would be nice"? Did Khomeni retire just because the Shah had rung the travel agent about flights to Paris?
So what is going on in Britain that most of what passed for an anti-EU movement should dissolve, not when the reveolution was achieved, but only when its intention was declared by the people in a referendum?
Odd.
First I will offer some wild speculations to explain that UKIP is about to disband or at least dissolve away to one of those legacy names that have legal but no physical existence.
Then a few sentences about the consequences and, finally, the dull obvious of what will happen next.

Nigel Farage's attempts to dominate , or at least avoid exclusion from, the Leave campaign revolved around his bromance with Arron Banks, his wealthy backer in Catbrains in Bristol: Leave.eu and GO!. Let us observe two facts: Nigel Farage has suddenly resigned leadership of UKIP, and, Arron Banks has publicly declared an intention to form a new party, a "momentum of the Right", a New Party even. Nigel Farage is only 53, not a healthy 53, but still only 53.
So, let us interpret events in the light of a plan to form a new political party to flourish in a post-Brexit age. The idea of dissolving UKIP now may seem as odd as disbanding the Communist Party now the Winter Palace is stormed but there are other models, such as the French Revolution, where there was almost no continuity of institutions nor leaders through the whole process. Do not revolutions consume their children?
But if we believe the reports that some UKIP candidates have already been approached and that a new party will be founded, then a rump of UKIP would not just be a competitor but an obstacle.
It would be necessary for UKIP to wither away as quickly as possible. Given that UKIP could continue to have electoral growth by, for instance, targetting the kind of white (and nowadays British but not white) working class members both New Labour and Corbinistas despise, measures would have to be taken to scuttle UKIP before abandoning ship.
UKIP's main financial backer is the EU - by the largesse of the European Parliament. At Brexit UKIP will therefore also lose its key apparatchiks. Although a long-serving MEP will receive a generous pension of about 85% of salary.
But what about leadership? Still, UKIP, under energetic and imaginative leadership could still have a future, surely. It would be necessary to the immediate success of any new party that UKIP did not have energetic and imaginative leaders. You would want to ensure it was just some junior local administrator or some bloke with wild opinions but no intellectual depth or a transparently cynical woman that no one likes. So it seemed a falsifier when Steven Woolfe apeared as the front runner and had the public support of Arron Banks (who had also so enthusiastically backed Andrea Leadsome for Tory leadership). Paul Nuttall, who had been rumoured to have designs on the top job, not only declared he would not stand but also resigned as deputy leader. We do not believe either of these two men were privvy to Farage's plans having not been invited to and even unaware of Farage's referendum night do at Bank's London HQ.
Come to think of it, how had Steve Woolfe survived so long in UKIP? He was often been refered to as "the reasonable UKIPper" or "the normal UKIPper". For sure he had style and some brains. Usually anyone with any talent that might threaten the Leader is purged. How did Steve survive? Why was Farage secure? Why did Steve not suffer the end of Scibonius Proculus (in the acclaimed cinematic adaptation of Seloneus' 'Lives of the Ceasars' by Tinto Brass)?
Of course, Brussels, there are always rumours of affairs - why else do MEPs have a bed and a shower in the office? But it was his failure to declare a very minor offence when standing in a particular election that was the charge that scuttled him. Although that charge may have fired months earlier than planned.
UKIP's imminent dissolution is not just due to the lack of future leadership but its abscence in the past. UKIP was held together by its desire to leave the EU. That is not unreasonable since it was, before it became a more general purpose populist party, founded by Alan Sked exclusively for this objective. And we have nearly achieved it.
But, after Sked left, UKIP never knew why it wanted Brexit. UKIP never had a vision of Britain's future, UKIP never had an ideology of the post-Brexit Britain. (In fairness who else does?) Lenin did not fall to pieces at the moment of revolution precisely because he knew the shape of Russia in the future. Same with Fidel and Che. We are more like Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten: we don't know what we want but we somehow knew how to get it.
Not having such a vision what such leaders do? One option is to go away somewhere, develop some intellectual and spiritual depth so that they could return and offer the required leadership. Another option would be to go away somewhere else and bring back a model of populist protest that could profit in an unsatisfactory Brexit settlement.
UKIP has a new leader: Dianne James. Of the remaining candidates, the members took the safest bet. Listening to her speeches to Bruges Group (on brugesgroup.com) and during the campaign, one has to agree with the description of her as business-like and managerial. She is considered to be normal and balanced. But in what she says there is barely a syllable that reveals a vision. Her talk is of market opportunities to be exploited. UKIP without the flair. UKIP as business. We can expect to see focus group researched policies, listening to key sectors of the electorate and repeating back to them what they say. Of course this does not necessarily mean immediate decline - it worked well for the Liberal Democrats for years. But consider a scenario where the call goes out from a new party with Nigel Farage: who would respond saying UKIP under Dianne James is far more exciting? Maybe she can come and prove us wrong.
One reason we are left to a bit of guess-work is that Farage, one of Trump's League of Useful Immigrants, is on the Trump election trail and absent from the UK scene. If Donald Trump is what his critics say he is, then Farage and Banks will see an irresistable opportunity. The dissatisfied vote is growing all over the western world. The Trump formula is doing rather well.
If Trump wins, his warm-up act will want the UK franchise. At the carrion strewn field of the next General Election, when the Tories are in dissarray over the perceived treachery of the May provisional government, Labour just in dissarray and the Lib-Dems resurgent as the champions of the 48%, a Farage/Banks new party could have startling success.

The official, Governmentally appointed opposition - Vote Leave - has also disbanded. Having such an arrangement to represent the Leave side was close to a catastrophe but entirely unavoidable once referendum was announced. We had to tolerate a pop-up campaign run by people who were not actually of the anti-EU movement because, in early 2016, the British anti-EU movement had no meaningful, operational organisation of its own. We had no defence and so one was appointed for us. (Although the fair show trial went wrong and we won - just).
UKIP were part of this problem because people were tempted away from proper anti-EU organisation by UKIP's busy programme of election campaigns which was a more attractive hobby than patient movement building. When it came to it, in early 2016, UKIP actually prioritised those election campaigns for such things as Welsh assemblies, over the referendum campaign - which it joined rather late.
The probelm remains and it defines the loss of Brexit: there is only a tiny organised anti-EU movement in Britain. There is BOO, Bruges Group - and not much else. Oh, some meetings of Tory back-benchers.
Neither what Farage/Banks does next nor the speed of UKIP's decline do anything at all to address that fundamental problem.

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Post Script

Since putting this article up a few weeks ago Diane James has been elected and, last night, resigned. This event takes UKIP further along the trajectory described in the article above. Farage is still legally the leader and there is talk of Woolfe, or someone, stepping in as a caretaker just to stabilise the situation for the , shall we say, foreseeable future.

We have also learnt that the Farage/Banks venture,what Banks calls "a Momentum of the Right" is to be called Velocity. Those who went to school will rememebr that Momentum = mass x velocity.  We may be looking at something with no mass but staff are detailed to the project and there are spacious offices in central London .... offices which will be familiar to some visitors. Will it be more than a Nigel Farage fan club? What possible positive contribution could it make?

Surely UKIP members, who have given so much to build this party, must feel manipulated. Let us know who is doing what in response.