As expected, the UKIP leadership election has proved controversial, as 11 sword-swinging candidates battle for a party that more closely resembles the burning rubble of Winterfell than the party that achieved nearly 4 million votes in the 2015 General Election.
One aspect of the election which is proving most controversial is John Rees-Evans, not just because of his spectacular ability to answer simple questions with bizarre references to gay donkeys and elaborate semantics, but because of the platform he’s pushing.
The failures of Direct Democracy are already on show
John Rees-Evans is a believer in so-called ‘Direct Democracy’. Direct Democracy is supposedly a system whereby ordinary, rank and file members have a far greater say over the direction of the party. Not a bad aim you might say, and for what it’s worth I agree, but as with all idealistic, pie in the sky schemes, things never turn out quite the way you expect.
It appears nobody foresaw that people beyond UKIP members would be interested in the ideas discussed. Unfortunately, some in UKIP have forgotten the rest of the country, the people who the party will need to win over to win any seats in Westminster, or anywhere else for that matter. Instead, some in the party appear to be suffering from a chronic case of internal cleansing syndrome, where the priorities are getting certain people out rather than bringing anyone in.
So when the leading proponant of Direct Democracy decides it’s worth the party’s while discussing armed militia’s of local people on the streets, or the latest ‘initiative’ to use our bloated £13Bn foreign aid budget on paying British citizens from other countries to go elsewhere, the media has a field day and the country both laughs at the stupidity and is appalled by the sentiment.
Direct Democracy will only make UKIP less relevant to the nation
We’ve already seen this today, with that well-known far-left rag Guido Fawkes jovially mocking John Rees-Evans and paying homage to the increasing irrelevance of the party.
Just imagine if John Rees-Evans became leader, he’s already known almost exclusively outside of UKIP circles (and even within) as ‘gay donkey fucked my stallion’ man, but additionally the party would no doubt have to deal with the quite reasonable assertions from the media that ‘UKIP leader supports armed street militia’s’, or ‘UKIP leader supports paying British citizens to move elsewhere’. These headlines would be completely accurate, so what would be the response?
This question I hadn’t answered myself, but had answered for me. It’s one of the main reasons why I now firmly believe that no serious thinking has gone into this ‘Direct Democracy’ platform. The response from John Rees-Evans and his supporters is always the same; “just vote against it”.
This spectacularly misses the point. Had John Rees-Evans been leader, these would currently be proposals for party policy, something the media would take great delight in covering. The country will have a conversation about the latest political event, report or whatever comes next and UKIP won’t be interested. UKIP won’t be interested because they will be talking about putting guns into civilian hands to patrol the streets, or repatriating immigrants with large financial incentives. The party will be hounded and rightly mocked for what it does talk about and become an increasing irrelevance for what it doesn’t talk about. The party will have one conversation as the country has another.
There are better ways of involving the membership more
I’m sure any member can get 5 or 10% of their fellow members to support some bizarre, unworkable and entirely disreputable policy, so what happens then? What happens when the 25,000 members of a political party advocate a policy that they support, but the rest of the country completely opposes? I’ll tell you what happens, you have a very happy, pat on the back membership with no representation or influence anywhere.
If I haven’t already dispelled the false accusation that those opposed to this idealistic and unworkable platform somehow dislike increased membership involvement then I shall do so again. There are many different and better ways to ensure that members have a greater voice. One idea I have put forward is a membership ballot on a range of policies proposed by the leadership. The leadership team works on 2 or 3 policies in a particular area and offers the members a vote on the best one.
This is by no means perfect, but it avoids many of the pitfalls of Direct Democracy, where it’s entirely plausible that a whole range of policies will be adopted that the leader and their team completely opposes. How can a leader stand up for his principles if the party he represents have asked him to hold different ones? Or is the principle of delegation enough for those at the top of UKIP?
Nigel Farage was a leader who inspired hope and trust in millions. My guess is that members have realised that UKIP is running very low on inspirational leaders, and in response wants to avoid needing one altogether. Unfortunately, what UKIP needs most is an inspirational leader with their own principles and direction, a person who can inspire trust that they’re doing the right thing. Direct Democracy is not a replacement for this, no matter how loud its proponents shout.