Douglas Carswell

01 AUG 2016

The next leader of UKIP faces three big questions

The deadline for nominations has closed. A range of different candidates – including, I gather, Steve Woolfe, Lisa Duffy, Jonanthan Arnott, Diane James, Bill Etheridge and Liz Jones - will now compete to be the next UKIP leader. The winner will be declared mid-September.

I wish them all well. They are all decent people, and each one brings something distinct to the party. But I am not going to be backing any one candidate in particular. Why?

As UKIP's only MP I must try to work closely with the party leader. This was not always very easy in the past, but with a bit of good will and trust all round, I'm sure it will be possible going forward. That means staying absolutely neutral in the leadership contest – and letting our members decide.

The identity of the candidate I vote for will be something I keep to myself. And to be honest, I've not made up my mind.

For what it is worth, I feel that the next leader of our party faces three key questions. If he or she is able to address them, they and our party will thrive. If not, we won't.


1. What is UKIP for?

Founded to get Britain out of the European Union, the obvious first question our next leader faces will be, "What is UKIP now for?"

It's my own view that our future lies in going after traditional Labour voters. They have been let down by the cartel that is the Labour party. They deserve something better.

Almost two thirds of those that voted Labour in Clacton in 2010, voted UKIP in 2015. That's how we won in Essex, and it's how we can win elsewhere too.

But the next leader needs ideas on how to appeal to traditional Labour voters without simply trying to offer reheated socialism.

That is what the Corbynistas are there for. They are not doing a great job of it because, in the age of Netflix, top-down Fabianism just does not have the kind of mass appeal it might once have had in the 1950s.


2. What is our election strategy?

UKIP has 22 MEPs, 7 members of the Welsh assembly, 2 in the London assembly and 1 MP.

Of those 32 elected representatives, the majority of them will – thanks to Brexit - no longer hold elected public office in a couple of years. Nor are there many big elections on the horizon.

So do we focus on building up our presence in local government? If so, we need to up our local election game. Or do we hold out for a by-election to try to get our new leader into Parliament? If we go for the by-election route, do we fight it like we fought Thanet South – lots of noise, focus on macro issues? Or should be try the "beyond the base" approach that worked in Clacton?

The new leader needs to have clear answers.


3. Leadership style

If UKIP is going to rise to the challenge, competent individuals need to be given clear mandates – and allowed to get on with delivering them.

All party leaders surround themselves with sidekicks. But when those sidekicks are incompetent proxies, waging war on anyone who does not show obsequious devotion to "the boss," serious people move on. If the king surrounds himself with too many court jesters, the court jesters become the court.

UKIP's next leader needs to be collegiate. Winning elections means working with people who understand policy, messaging, data and direct mail – to name just a few. There are capable people within our party with those skills. The new leader needs to bring them into the fold.

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