UKIP could copy the cut-price ‘registered supporters’ system that led to Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide leadership victory, Nigel Farage has suggested.
In a bid to repeat Labour’s huge increase in membership and engagement, the UKIP leader revealed he wanted to get more online activism to reach out to younger voters in particular.
Speaking on Sky News’s Murnaghan show, Farage said that once the EU referendum was concluded on June 23, his priority was to make his own party more of a mass membership campaign.
There has been intense speculation that UKIP - which has just 48,000 members compared to Labour’s nearly 400,000 members - will aim to rebrand itself later this year in a bid to modernise its image.
Farage said that Labour and the Five Star Movement in Italy proved that cut-price membership worked.
“By going online we could make UKIP a big political party,” he said.
"All over the UK I keep meeting people aged between 18 and 30 who are enthusiastic Ukippers [saying] ‘we are right behind you mate, love your videos, we retweet your stuff’.
“I am finding some really enthustiasic support in this segment of the population and yet not one of them has considered joining Ukip."
"We saw a specimen of this last year when the Labour party said you can join for £3 and have a vote, huge numbers of people joined the Labour party.”
Many of Labour’s £3 ‘registered supporters’ were young people who joined and swept him to power in the leadership election in 2015.
But when Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan suggested that he was endorsing Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to politics, Farage wasn’t too keen on the comparison.
“No, no, no. I’m saying the Labour party attracted hundreds of thousands of new members last year and particularly a younger generation that got involved,” he said.
“And I think if UKIP does that and we give our membership a say, engage, them, say ‘look by giving us a few quid online you effectively become a shareholder’.”
A Labour source told HuffPost UK: “Farage is a failed party leader in a failing party. He may be desperate to copy Labour party democracy but no one will believe him.
“And he’s no Jeremy Corbyn.”
The number of people who joined Labour since Jeremy Corbyn became leader is more than the total UKIP membership.
Farage is keen on capitalising on the EU referendum campaign to recruit 18-30 year-olds and to get away from UKIP's image as the party of the over-60s.
Just as the SNP had a surge in membership after the Scottish referendum, some in UKIP think they can expand even if they lose the vote.
And Farage has been struck by the success of tens of thousands of people signing up as ’registered supporters’ to various Leave EU campaigns.
The UKIP leader underlined his view on LBC, as he said that ‘the shape of UKIP’ would change in coming months.
”What is see across the continent, is a desire for people to get into politics, but they are not really interested in writing out a check for 30 quid, sending it off to join a political party and carry a card around in their wallet.
"I do that, but the younger generation, just have no inclination to do it.”
"Labour last year went down this road to some extent. They got the leader they wanted and larger membership than they had in years."
Internal critics believe that he wants to copy the Labour model to avoid being booted out as leader by his own national executive and that putting power in the hands of rank and file members would make sure they too ‘got the leader they wanted’.
On Sky News, Farage also suggested that French Front National leader Marine Le Pen would be wise to abandon a planned visit to Britain during the EU referendum. “I’d rather she didn’t come,” he said.
Labour MP Gisela Stuart, a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign, has called for Le Pen to be barred from the UK.
Home Secretary Theresa May told the Andrew Marr programme that she couldn’t comment on calls to ban individuals from Britain but pointed out that it still had ‘control of our borders’.