Former UKIP donor Arron Banks has announced that he will not after all be standing at the General Election in the Clacton constituency.
Banks had earlier planned to stand against former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, a bitter factional opponent of Banks and his ally Nigel Farage.
But once Carswell announced his retirement, it was only a matter of time before Banks threw in the towel.
After all, Banks no longer has any real interest in UKIP – and neither does Farage. They will have little or no involvement with the party leadership during what is likely to be a disastrous campaign, but will eschew divisive attacks on the Paul Nuttall regime until after June 8th, and will give support to various constituency-level campaigns.
Then within a day or so of the election results, the Farage faction (bankrolled by Banks) will acknowledge UKIP’s death and announce the creation of a new ‘Patriotic Movement’.
On April 25th Banks issued a Twitter message, very sensibly criticising the UKIP leadership’s anti-Islam obsession
Later that day UKIP’s election campaign became even more chaotic when James Carver (a West Midlands MEP) resigned as the party’s chief foreign affairs spokesman, saying that he “strongly disagreed” with the “misguided policy” of a so-called burqa ban.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is flying back to London from his Adriatic holiday, after Theresa May surprised the nation by calling a snap General Election for June 8th.
Farage’s key financial backer Arron Banks had planned to launch a long-expected new movement – the Patriotic Alliance – on May 5th, the day after what are likely to be disastrous local elections for UKIP.
He and other Faragistes were expected to conclude that UKIP was finished and it was time for a new approach.
At a stroke Mrs May has rendered these plans redundant, and just possibly UKIP has been handed a last-minute lifeline: but only if the present party leadership – headed by the hapless Paul Nuttall – has the courage and maturity to end Banks’s suspension and recall Farage for one last campaign.
The next question would be whether UKIP should contest every single constituency, presenting itself as an alternative government, or concentrate on a smaller number of seats held by pro-Remain MPs. The latter strategy would amount to accepting that UKIP is not a challenger for power across a range of policy areas, and is more of a pressure group to ensure that Brexit goes ahead unimpeded by recalcitrant Remainers.
Meanwhile it is understood that because Parliament will be prorogued the day before the scheduled Manchester Gorton by-election, that by-election will be cancelled: a successor to the late Sir Gerald Kaufman will be elected on June 8th as part of the General Election alongside every other constituency.
This weekend UKIP moved further towards its long-expected demise.
The party’s only MP Douglas Carswell quit UKIP yesterday to become an independent. Two days earlier one of Carswell’s many factional enemies – former UKIP donor Arron Banks, who is a close associate of ex-leader Nigel Farage – asked the party for £200,000 payment for call centre and membership processing services that he had previously provided free.
Banks was effectively suspended from UKIP membership a few weeks ago for criticising the party’s new leadership, and not unreasonably he now asks: “Why on earth am I going to donate the service for free. I don’t think so. So – yes – there is a bill in the post for the thick end of £200,000.”
UKIP’s most recent by-election outing was in a seat which should be very winnable if the party were to succeed in its stated aim of challenging Labour as the voice of the White working class. In Higher Croft ward, Blackburn – where the BNP once polled 29.6% and in 2015 UKIP managed 33.3% – UKIP candidate Ian Grimshaw was a distant runner-up to Labour in Thursday’s by-election, polling 22.6%.
Mr Grimshaw obtained 169 votes in Higher Croft: precisely one hundred votes fewer than the England First Party’s Ian Lofthouse received in the same ward a decade ago. Many UKIP councillors are voting with their feet and deciding not to stand for re-election.
Arron Banks is clearly planning to set up a new organisation. It is still unclear whether this will take the form of a political party, and whether former members of parties such as the BNP or NF will be allowed to join. Most ex-members of racial nationalist groups and some anti-Islam outfits such as the EDL have long been excluded under UKIP’s constitution.
Last year UKIP leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam (an ally of Banks and Farage) argued that the party should change this policy and accept some former BNP members and others previously excluded.
Thursday’s Northern Ireland Assembly election proved a sad day for all Loyal Ulstermen and their friends across our increasingly Disunited Kingdom.
The costly shambles over the Renewable Heat Incentive (otherwise known as ‘Cash for Ash’) was cynically exploited by two parties – Sinn Fein and (shamefully) the Official Unionist Party – but predictably only Sinn Fein benefited.
Terrorist sympathiser Michelle O’Neill thus took a step closer to becoming First Minister of Northern Ireland, while the IRA godfathers behind her celebrated yet another own goal by the Unionist establishment.
With the Assembly reduced to 90 seats, the target for the Democratic Unionist Party was 30 seats – enough to ensure an effective veto known as a “petition of concern”, but they have fallen two seats short. Critically this means that even with the support of Jim Allister, leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, who retained his seat in North Antrim, the DUP will not have the 30 votes required for an effective block on (for example) gay marriage.
As for broader issues of who now runs Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein are likely to use their strengthened position to claim the scalp of Arlene Foster, DUP leader and outgoing First Minister. Edwin Poots, re-elected for the DUP in Lagan Valley, supported his leader today but hinted that she might be considering her position.
While it is unlikely that the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to agree a new coalition within the official three week deadline, something will doubtless be patched up in due course to avoid a return to direct rule from London, which would be a disaster for Prime Minister Theresa May.
The big loser on Thursday – deservedly – was Official Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who resigned after the failure of his opportunistic effort to destabilise the DUP. Nesbitt had called on his supporters to give their second preference votes to the nationalist SDLP rather than to the DUP, a shocking betrayal of the unionist interest.
Meanwhile UKIP confirmed their utter irrelevance in Northern Ireland. They contested just one Assembly constituency – East Antrim – but this tactic of concentrating their resources failed miserably. UKIP candidate and Carrickfergus councillor Noel Jordan was eliminated with just 4.2% of first preferences. (The Assembly is elected by the Single Transferable Vote system, with each constituency now electing five MLAs.)
Mr Jordan told the Belfast Newsletter:
“We just don’t know what happened. I can’t explain why our vote has dropped.”
Today UKIP leader Paul Nuttall appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, no doubt hoping to repair some of the damage from the disastrous Stoke by-election campaign.
In fact he showed yet again that he is unfit for office. The sooner Arron Banks calls time on this UKIP pantomime and starts a new movement free of politically correct baggage and cranky “leaders” like Nuttall, the better.
Shneur Odze – Orthodox Jewish rabbi and UKIP candidate for the first Greater Manchester mayoral election on 4th May 2017 – is once again in trouble because his religious practices clash with political correctness.
More than three years ago when Rabbi Odze (a member of the Lubavitcher Jewish sect) was on the UKIP slate for North West England at the European Parliamentary election, he made national headlines because Orthodox Jewish “religious modesty” laws forbid him to have physical contact with women. Dr Fred McGlade resigned as UKIP’s North West regional organiser in February 2014 because he felt it was inappropriate for Odze to be a candidate. The national UKIP leadership – cynically aware that having Odze on the ticket might help them distance their party from the “far right” took the rabbi’s side, and Dr McGlade quit the party.
Last weekend the issue was raised again by Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Jane Brophy, who complained that Odze refused to shake her hand at a hustings event – not because he objects to Lib Dems, but because he refuses on principle to shake hands with women.
Ms Brophy said:
“I think if you’re standing for a position then religion shouldn’t come into it. I should be treated equally as a woman, as a candidate, as everybody here.”
Perhaps a more serious objection to Rabbi Odze standing as a candidate is that when serving as a Tory councillor in Hackney in 2004, he was censured and suspended from the council for three months after removing a sack of electoral registration forms from the Town Hall and delivering them to a local newspaper in what he claimed was a stunt to reveal poor security. His suspension followed failure to complete a supervised ethical training programme.
The panel censuring Odze commented:
“The evidence indicates that Councillor Odze was, at the least in part, motivated by a wish to compromise the Mayoral election. The evidence suggests that Councillor Odze was aware that what he was doing was wrong, that he was misusing confidential information and that his actions likely to bring his office into disrepute. …Cllr Odze undermined public confidence in the Council and he encouraged a member of staff to breach their contract of employment by co-opting them to assist him in this plan.
As stated above the breach of trust involved in the incident was such as to go to the heart of the relationship between Councillor Odze and the Council. It is difficult to imagine a more serious case being referred back to the Council for local determination.”
UKIP crashed to a double defeat in two Rotherham by-elections yesterday. This is of course the council that was disgraced by its multiple failure to deal with the scandal of child abuse by Pakistani-origin residents. So bad was the scandal that Whitehall commissioners were appointed to oversee with most of the council’s affairs, and every councillor had to face re-election last May, leading to the election of 14 UKIP councillors as the main local opposition to Labour.
Yet far from building on this breakthrough, the party (now under the supposedly more northern-focused leadership of Paul Nuttall) seems to be in reverse gear.
In Dinnington ward, UKIP councillor Ian Finnie (first elected when he gained the seat from Labour in 2014, then re-elected in second place as part of last year’s all-out Rotherham election) had stepped down from the council claiming ill-health and family issues.
Labour hammered UKIP in the consequent by-election.
ROTHERHAM Dinnington (Lab gain from UKIP)
VJESTICA John (Labour Party) 670
HUNTER Lee James (UKIP) 303
MIDDLETON Christopher Norman (Conservative) 238
SMITH David (Independent) 232
HART Jean (Independent) 180
SCOTT Steven (Independent) 81
FOULSTONE Charles David Dowsing (Green) 78
THORNLEY Stephen James (Liberal Democrats) 75
The other by-election was in Brinsworth & Catcliffe ward, where the infamous Cllr John Gamble (later of the NF and EFP) was elected for the BNP in 2008. This ward went two Labour, one UKIP at last year’s elections. One of the (White) Labour councillors was forced to resign before Christmas after being found guilty of a sexual assault – nothing to do with kids this time: he ‘groped’ a female colleague at an official function. We assume alcohol was involved.
One might have thought this situation was made for UKIP, but again they polled very badly. Surprisingly the Lib Dem won by a landslide: apparently he’s a well known local doctor and they did one of those typical intensive Lib Dem local campaigns. Labour didn’t help themselves by putting up a (female) Asian candidate in a 90% White ward! Fair enough, she had won the ward in 2012 (when the main opposition was the BNP, who were damaged by the Gamble fiasco and generally dying). But in 2016 she was the one out of three Labour candidates who didn’t get in: UKIP beat her to get the third spot. I assume she will now retire from politics…
ROTHERHAM Brinsworth and Catcliffe (Lib Dem gain from Lab)
CARTER Adam Jonathon (Liberal Democrats) 2,000
AHMED Shabana (Labour Party) 519
WEBSTER Steven (UKIP) 389
OLIVER John Lester (Conservative) 91
WHYMAN Rebecca Louise (Green Party) 30
A Financial Times survey of Labour councillors in some of its traditional heartland areas reveals demands from the party’s grassroots for Jeremy Corbyn to take a tougher line on “hard Brexit” and immigration controls.
Labour is increasingly divided between young liberals in inner London and other major cities, who typically supported the EU and favour Corbyn’s policy of unrestricted immigration, versus more socially conservative but traditionally pro-Labour voters in outer London and old industrial areas of the North and Midlands.
Peter Chand, a Labour councillor in River ward, Dagenham, said “the feeling on the doorstep is mainly about migration”, and suggested that his party should not insist on free movement when most voters had rejected this by voting for Brexit. Cllr Chand (who seems to be of Asian origin himself) says that the party should ease voters’ concerns by supporting “some kind of cap” on immigration.
Another Dagenham Labour councillor, Lee Waker of Village ward (where the BNP won a seat in 2006), told the FT that he favoured “hard Brexit” because for his voters “the quicker the EU is gone the better”.
Some of the councillors surveyed believed that UKIP remained a serious electoral threat in traditionally Labour-voting areas, while others felt that the Conservative Party remained a more realistic challenger in most of the country.
As it happens, most of the local elections in 2017 will be in Tory-dominated county councils. There are no scheduled elections in London, and most of the Labour-dominated metropolitan boroughs have no council elections, though new “super-mayors” will be elected in seven regions. If UKIP’s new leader Paul Nuttall is serious about challenging Labour in their traditional heartlands, his party will be concentrating on these – especially the new Tees Valley region which includes Hartlepool, one of his party’s growth area.
However local by-elections during 2016 (regularly analysed in each issue of H&D) have shown UKIP failing to make a serious impact in White working class areas that ought to have great potential. One recent example was Higher Croft ward, Blackburn with Darwen. At a by-election on December 15th, UKIP finished runners-up with 25% – at first sight a good result. Yet this is a ward where the BNP polled almost 30% at their peak a decade ago. If UKIP (post-referendum and post-Trump) is going to win Labour seats in northern England, it should certainly be winning Higher Croft (or at least coming a lot closer).
UKIP has just over four months to get its act together: failure in 2017 would surely mean the party’s over.
The main story in today’s Mail on Sunday is an interview with Nigel Farage by the paper’s political editor, Simon Walters. Farage indicates that he might stand again for Parliament, if the present investigation of allegedly illegal Tory election spending leads to a by-election in South Thanet, the Kent constituency where he polled 32.4% at last year’s general election.
Whether this means that Farage will stay in UKIP, or will go ahead with his long-planned breakaway to set up a new movement backed by Arron Banks’s money, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile we were distracted by a staggering display of political and historical illiteracy on the part of Mr Walters. The Mail on Sunday political editor writes:
“The front cover of this week’s Economist magazine shows Trump, Putin and Farage as militaristic 19th Century nationalists, strutting the world stage – in step. It’s a terrifying thought for many.”
H&D readers will be used to the Mail on Sunday‘s customary hysteria regarding nationalism, but this latest solecism is truly astonishing: it is perfectly obvious that the Economist cover is actually a pastiche of one of the most famous American historical paintings, Spirit of ’76, by Archibald Willard. Far from displaying “militaristic 19th Century nationalists”, the painting depicts 18th century American revolutionaries (obviously viewed as heroic by the artist).
Even if Mr Walters is ignorant of art and history, surely he has seen the 1963 film The Great Escape, in which Spirit of ’76 is mimicked by Steve McQueen and two fellow POWs on the 4th of July.
Meanwhile the background figure on the Economist cover is another pastiche, this time depicting Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, in the guise of Liberty Leading the People, the allegorical painting by Delacroix showing the Goddess of Liberty at the head of French revolutionaries in July 1830.
In other words all four of these figures whom Mr Walters and the Mail on Sunday clearly view as sinister – Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen – are actually being portrayed by positive (indeed heroic) artistic references!
Just 18 days after being elected to succeed Nigel Farage as leader of UKIP, Diane James has quit – forcing a new leadership election which will further demonstrate her party’s chaotic factionalism and ideological incoherence.
As suggested in the current edition of Heritage and Destiny, one of the party’s main problems is the insistence of the Farage faction (including Ms James) on increasing the power of the leader and subverting UKIP’s constitution. Behind the scenes major donors are already plotting a new breakaway party.
Farage infamously denounced his own party’s officials within days of stepping down as leader, telling an interviewer: “the barrier to radical change and the modernisation of UKIP was implanted in the mid-1990s. It is called the National Executive Committee. Many of its current crop are among the lowest grade of people I have ever met.”
Similarly Diane James, in her resignation statement emailed to The Times this evening, wrote: “It has become clear I do not have sufficient authority, nor the full support of MEP colleagues and party officers to implement the changes I believe are necessary and upon which I based my campaign.”
Amazingly, Ms James seems to have thought that political leadership was like applying for a job in the middle-class world (which is all she understands) – where if accepted or headhunted, one then negotiates mutually acceptable terms. Or else she imagined that being elected leader entitled her to impose a Führerprinzip, by which her personal fiat could overrule the party’s internal democracy.
For the benefit of future UKIP leadership candidates – including the mixed-race (and therefore inevitably bookies’ favourite for the job) Steven Woolfe, who failed to hand in his nomination papers on time during the last contest, then expected the rules to be bent for his convenience – we had better restate what should be obvious.
If you stand for the leadership of a political party, you are accepting that party’s rulebook. If you later wish to change that rulebook, then you do it in a constitutional manner. And if you aim to inspire the confidence of the British people, it’s not a good start to mistrust your own party membership.
For too long UKIP has tried to avoid all the issues that matter. When in the North, pretending to support the welfare state, while promising tax cuts and privatisation to middle-class ex-Tories in the South. Giving the populist impression of being anti-immigration, while acknowledging in the European Parliament that they favour immigration (in the interests of big business).
UKIP won its main battle at the Brexit referendum earlier this year. The leadership farce shows that it is not a fit vehicle for any form of nationalist politics. UKIP’s collapse is well under way: it cannot come soon enough.