Last Sunday I wrote a piece for the Sunday Times which, owing to the pressure for space, had a few paragraphs dropped which were the constructive argument for Ukip reform. Not a complaint incidentally, space is precious and my main points were made. Some readers thought it was hostile to either individuals or Ukip itself let, me make it plain here before I outline the structural changes which need to be put in place. I was a founder member of Ukip, a major donor, and even since my resignation in September 2013 I continued to financially support Ukip Yorkshire until July 2014. My last donation was January 2015, £2,000 to be exact. I only make mention of this to prove I am not hostile to Ukip quite the reverse. Glad that's out of the way.
Some folk, ignorant of the ways of British politics think the Labour Party is falling to bits after the recent, and indeed ongoing row about the party and its personalities. This is quite wrong, post-election defeat a reappraisal needs to take place, what went wrong? Who was at fault? Was the message bad or just badly delivered? This is traditional and healthy. The next electoral battle is five years away. No point in repeating the same mistakes and getting the same result. Traditional mainstream parties understand this, so do the press.
Ukip is institutionally unsure if it is a protest group or a political party. It has not matured into either. This was always going to be enormously difficult, if not impossible. At the moment it has no fundamental ethos. A party that came about as simply a pressure group or protest vehicle to get the UK out of the EU. In this it has made huge strides. The government now in office is committed to a referendum albeit from the word of one of the most deceitful politicians in British politics today. But a significant victory. But what was a grass roots party has been hijacked by a small coterie of individuals with their own political and private agenda. In the spirit of reconciliation let all that pass, blood under the bridge.
The problems began with a new constitution designed quite naturally to give the hierarchy a firmer hand on the tiller, it was needed and voted in with a significant majority. Yet very few people, including me realised it was basically carte blanche for the leader and a tame NEC. Outgoing leader Roger Knapman told me it was far too much power in the hands of one man. I didn't listen, more fool me. What was a party of its members has become a private fiefdom. No one cared much about this when things were going well. Reality is now staring Ukip in its bewildered face. Not a single new seat. Plenty of votes largely delivered by the membership out in all weathers for the last five years, a more dedicated group of activists could not be found. The dilemma the party faces is having a completely autocratic, charismatic and flamboyant leader who is loved at conference but is not popular with the electorate. In any other party a leader who has been personally rejected by the electorate seven times would be unthinkable, absurd perhaps. For some years Ukip have been denying it is a one-man band and the leader does not enjoy cult status. Yet in the last few weeks that is exactly the message it has sent out. The Ukip spin doctors are now posting the bizarre message that this leader, who has failed to enter Westminster almost to an extent the Guinness Book of Records have expressed an interest, is the "best communicator in British politics". Yet in Thanet the voters elected a Ukip-dominated council, whilst in the same ballot booth rejected the party leader. What the electorate appear to be saying is we like Ukip but not the leader. This message is unacceptable to the members, so be it. Total denial can sometimes be good, it saved our bacon in 1940.
Let me therefore outline things which can be done almost immediately.
Stop the appalling attitude that constructive criticism is disloyal, that questioning the party hierarchy is somehow harming the cause of EU withdrawal, which is how the party started. Lose the embarrassing tag Nigel Farage's Purple Army, whoever came up with that does not understand the English at all. Put into place a party chairman who has been elected; Crowther was yet another typical Farage pub appointee, someone respected and loved and been in the party for more than five minutes. Paul Nuttall is so screamingly obvious a choice it doesn't need flagging up here (he will kill me for suggesting it).
Find a political ethos. Conservative with a small 'c' or classical liberal, forget the so-called ephemeral middle ground, if it exists at all. Start putting together a team of experts in their fields for TV duties. No need to restrict this team to MEPs or any elected representatives, but the best man for the job. Heavyweights only, particularly on economics the key subject of future battles.
Lose the Home Counties bias. The NEC must have a representative from every region. That means the North East, Scotland, Yorkshire and Wales - scandalously kept off in recent years.
Review the constitution, no more legal ballot rigging, make a start by releasing the hitherto secret results of the August 2013 membership vote. Where senior members of the party hierarchy have no military or team sport experience and struggle with people management persuade the donors to pay for the appropriate leadership course. The list of resignations since 2011 beggars belief.
Finally everyone focus on the coming battle in 2017 to save our country ditch the prima doña posturing there is a big job to do.