Monday, 16 August 2010

NEC Election Interview: Mike Hookem

The latest in our series of interviews with NEC Election Candidates is with Mike Hookem.
Mike, you're one of a growing number of former Labour and Lib Dem supporters rising through the ranks in UKIP. How important is it for the party to cast off its image as a eurosceptic version of the Tories? Is there a danger that we could become, for want of a better word, schizophrenic - neither left nor right, capitalist or socialist - and could this confuse potential voters?

After thinking about this question I realise I have voted Labour, not supported, through ignorance being what people term as a tribal voter and after thirteen years of in my view a criminal Labour government I have become angry and decided to fight back and in 2007 joined UKIP. The only party I believe who have the best interest of this country and it's people to heart. And it's this passion for our freedom from Brussels and the corrupt going's on in the Euro Parliament that we have to get across to the electorate but also we have to show that we are not just a one trick pony we have to show that we also have policies on all aspects needed to run this country. We must as a party show that we are distinctly seperate from all other parties a new breed of politics that puts country first above all else and cast off the rosettes of our former parties. There is NO eurosceptic Labour Liberal or Conservative supporter because if they were truly anti Europe they would be a member of UKIP.

Tribal voting is a perennial problem and one that afflicts smaller parties like UKIP. We do have a full manifesto but we don't seem to be able to effectively get the point across that we're not just a one-trick pony. How do you think we can raise awareness of UKIP and its policies amongst the electorate and equally importantly, how do we get the media on-side so that we get the exposure we desperately need?

I believe we must form a shadow cabinet,it's imperative that we have a spokesman for each post and that spokesman be the one who the media approach for comments, all though Nigel is a consummate professional with the media we appear to the electorate that he is the only man who can speak on behalf of the party. We have many talented people in the party and they should be given the chance to get our message across

The invitation to take part in these interviews was made on the Bloggers4UKIP website and the UKIP members' forum. The Tories use the internet very well for campaigning and Labour are making a better job of it than they did of running the country. The internet is becoming more and more important in elections, how can UKIP make better use of the internet?

I see it like this; can the internet ultimately change politics? Yes I think it can, and should UKIP embrace the new technology? Absolutely, but not as a replacement for more traditional methods, but as a powerful tool in our arsenal.

Optimists point to the green movement in Iran, when the reformist campaign showed the power of new technologies to organise resistance and to break the stranglehold of censors on information; but the episode also showed that technology alone is not enough to secure democratic change, after all Mahmud Ahmadinejad remains in power.

After Barack Obama's successful use of social networking, British parties have redoubled their rush on to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. A few engaged MPs use such sites not only to broadcast their views but also to listen to their constituents. However, far too often, parties simply mimic online, the traditional marketing-driven campaigning. Treating the electorate as little more than shoppers, and the policies as slickly marketed products. The real lesson of Obama's campaign is that it treated voters as citizens with active roles to play in democracy, and not as little more than consumers to be swayed by the party marketing machine.

Should a political party tell the public what it believes, or should it ask the public what it wants? There is no easy answer to that, but I believe Blogs like this one, can, and should, help shape the party in the future. In a recent survey conducted of Conservative candidates in winnable seats, they found that 96% used Conservative Home as a source of information compared to only 13% using the official Conservative Party website. Conhome is far from an official party website, it has an explicit editorial line which means they are often arguing for changes to the party and its policies. The old Party hierarchies are no longer in control of the flow of information.

There is only one electorate out there, we need to listen to what they want from a party like UKIP, and the internet is a great way to engage with them. Once we have a better understanding of what the public want, we can make UKIP the party the public wants, after all, it is they who that put the cross's in the box come polling day! Winning elections is the aim of any political party, and as has already been discussed tribalism is a real problem for the smaller parties so that is why I believe we need to stand out from the crowd, so to speak, yes we do on Europe, but after that I believe we are still seen as Tory off shoot. We can use the internet to become the real party of the people, for the people. Then, once we have our aims and goals set out, then nothing in my mind replaces the leaflet drop, the hustings, the good old face to face meeting with the voters.

One final question: if every member of the new NEC was given the chance to introduce one change unopposed, what would yours be?

Difficult question two or three come to mind I have already spoke about a shadow cabinet, NEC meeting to be held at weekends which it seems other candidates are in favour of. Each region to elect a delegate on the committee therefore giving the grass root members of that region a voice.

Thanks Mike, good luck.