Friday, 23 March 2012

UKIP and the Tory Refugee Problem

I note UKIP are continuing to gather escaped tories to its safe haven. The standad declaration goes something like:
"After having served loyally for (insert no. of years), knocked on doors, stuffed envelopes, driven old dears to the polling station etc. I realise there's no hope left. The final straw was (insert as appropriate). I haven't left the Party, so much as the Party has left me."
Many a sinner twixt stirrup and ground, as they say. This is, broadly speaking, a good thing for UKIP. They get some new members, a number of whom will come with a certain fire in their bellies, being new converts, and experience in local organisation. However, I think UKIP should be careful not to allow themselves to become nothing more than a refuge for rebellious tories. This will limit their appeal to a subset of a subset. Their goal has to be to widen their membership.

The UKIPers I know are all sound libertarians, and for long I've thought the Party's best interest would be served by consciously developing two antagonistic wings, one conservative, the other libertarian. There's no harm in factionalism per se. Indeed, the only way to escape it would be to remain so small it cannot become an issue. Even in this case, there are likely to be personality clashes and I would say it's better to clash over policy than personality.

Whereas I am happy to vote for the Party when the opportunity arises, I would not join under the present circumstances. It's not enough for Nigel to claim he's libertarian. I'll take the claim in good faith, but let the debate be heard, let the two sides within the Party acknowledge each other, acknowledge the division, and work out the common ground in an open and honest way. Then it may be possible for the Party to bolster itself with the numerous unaffiliated libertarians, who have plenty of energy and drive to contribute, and can appeal to a very different section of the population than the shire tory refugees, but will not engage as long as the prevailing message is skewed towards the latter.

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