Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Election 2011: put our resources into areas where we have known support

This year UKIP will be contesting local elections in England and elections to the devolved executives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UKIP will be putting a fair bit of money into this year's elections but is it going to be spent where it's most likely to be turned into electoral success?

Cards on the table, I'm an English nationalist.  It's no great secret and anyone who reads this blog regularly, reads the Bloggers4UKIP Twitter feed, reads my own blog or the UKIP members' forum will know that I am an active campaigner for an English Parliament and have spent the last year or two debating (sometimes rowing) with fellow UKIPpers about devolution.  I even set up the 1997 Group for like-minded UKIPpers.

UKIP's policy on devolution is wrong and a lot of members agree with this and support a change in the current policy of abolishing the devolved executives and establishing Grand Committees of British MPs to replace them - an extension of the Tories' now-abandoned English Votes on English Laws policy to establish Scottish Votes on Scottish Laws, Welsh Votes on Welsh Laws and Northern Irish Votes on Northern Irish Laws instead of democratically accountable devolved executives.

But it's not just UKIP members that our policy makers should be listening to - they should be listening to the general public.  Only a fool would think that the Scots could ever be convinced to give up their parliament and the Welsh will cement the tenuous 51% yes vote for devolution in 1997 with a reasonable majority in favour of the Welsh government being given primary law making powers in this year's referendum.  And of course the Northern Irish Assembly was part of the Good Friday and couldn't be abolished without seriously damaging relations with the Republic of Ireland and risking a return to violence in the province.  That just leaves England unrepresented - the last colony of the British Empire.  Seven out of ten people want an English Parliament or at the very least a ban on MPs not elected in England voting on English laws according to four independent opinion polls in four years commissioned by three different organisations.

So with devolution quite obviously here to stay and supported by most voters, UKIP is going to contest elections in Scotland and Wales this year on a platform of abolishing the devolved executives.  This is lunacy.  We will be lucky to finish above the Monster Raving Loony Party in Scotland (just ask the English Democrats how embarrassing that is) and there is the very slightest chance we might get an AM elected in Wales thanks to the elections there being held under PR (an EU directive, naturally) and a very marginal shift to the right in Wales after decades of mismanagement by the rancid left.

In England, however, we stand a real chance of gaining from the distrust of the LibLabCon parties, the implosion of the Lib Dems, the displeasure at the ConDem "cuts" (in reality, just reductions in the increase in spending) which are primarily targeting England and the inherent conservatism (small "c") of England.  But how much of the election money will be left for English election campaigns once the Scottish and Welsh campaigns have been paid for?

UKIP is clearly going to be pushing hard for votes in Wales, judging by the addition of welsh party descriptions for UKIP to the register at the Electoral Commission.  Names such as "Abolish Assembly UKIP"  and "UKIP Scrap Assembly" will be appearing on ballot papers for elections to the Sennedd, presumably signalling an intention to mount a large and expensive campaign in Wales.  UKIP Scotland and UKIP Wales have been registered but no UKIP England or UKIP NI (more on Northern Ireland at the end).

Now clearly I'm biased on the subject of devolution - I could hardly claim to be impartial on the subject when I'm on the National Council of the Campaign for an English Parliament - but let me put it to you another way.  Is it a reasonable way of ensuring our money is well spent in the election to establish the principle that central party funds are only put into areas where we retained a deposit in the last general election, that money should be put into areas where branches put in the effort and where there was support for the candidate and that money shouldn't be frittered away on areas where we have no active branch and where there is demonstrably very little support for UKIP?  Does that sounds reasonable?  To me it does and the fact that we didn't retain a single deposit - didn't even come close to retaining a deposit - in Scotland or Wales is just a happy co-incidence.

I will be standing in the local election this year in my own ward but I don't expect and won't ask for any money from the central party.  Our branch has enough money in the kitty to fund all our candidates so I have no vested interest in how much money the party puts in to English elections - I just want to see UKIP do well in this year's elections and we are only going to do that by putting our resources into winnable elections.

I said I'd mention Northern Ireland at the end and I deliberately left it out of this argument because for UKIP it's a special case.  The NI branch is new and covers the whole of the province.  It has only one councillor who predates the branch's formation.  UKIP has never contested Northern Irish elections and Northern Ireland doesn't really feature in any of the discussions about the EU because politics there is so different to the mainland.  We have nothing to lose by dipping our toe into Northern Irish politics (particularly as UKIP NI is ignoring UKIP's daft devolution policy and supporting Stormont) as long as it's not a half-arsed affair with no money or effort put into it.

So, in a nutshell what I am saying is this: put our resources into areas where we have known support evidenced by retained deposits at the last election and not into unwinnable elections for devolved executives that we are committed to abolishing against the wishes of the electorate.