Friday, October 03, 2008

A Eurosceptic Alternative

In August I was voted top of UKIP's list of candidates in the North West by party members. Although honoured that they had put such trust in me I felt distinctly uneasy. Within a week I had made the decision to stand down and resign as the party's Regional Organiser for the North West. Many people have asked why.

Until 2004 I had never voted, let alone participated, in a European election. I followed the Powellite path that voting in their elections only gave them a veneer of legitimacy. In 2004 UKIP had a leader who I trusted, a party chairman who I trusted and a lead candidate in the North West who I trusted, so I accepted and followed the party line.

The party position was, and still is, that taking seats in the European parliament deprived a Europhile a seat. That seats in the European parliament would open doors to mass media coverage. That taking seats in the European parliament would attract the resources to really fight, and start winning, Westminster elections.

I had close friends in UKIP who, even then, would not campaign in the European elections on principle. I respected their views but felt that we had no alternative. So what has happened since 2004 for me to change my position on Euro elections?

Since 2004 our results in local elections, and parliamentary elections, have not improved. There have been isolated good results such as Hartlepool but, coming in the immediate wake of the 2004 Euro elections, we would really have had to try hard to get a poor result there. The final nails in the coffin of that argument were the Crewe and Nantwich and Henley by-elections where we got just over 2% in both. Results that were as bad, if not worse, than pre-1999 when UKIP had no MEPs.

Depriving a Europhile a seat, and gaining mass media coverage, are virtually the same argument. Even friends who are pro-EU admit that the role of MEP is virtually worthless with no power and little influence. As a consequence the media have little interest in covering the work of MEPs, preferring to remain ensconced in the Westminster political village. Therefore MEPs stoop to coming out with outrageous comments to gain a cheap headline, losing the party credibility with the wider public, or end up pleased to have appeared on some obscure satellite channel politics show at 4-00am watched by a handful of insomniacs.

I said in my speeches at the hustings meetings that the party had become too Brussels focussed and that we needed to look closely at our future direction. One possible scenario in June 2009 is that UKIP may find itself with a massively reduced number of MEPs, possibly back to the 1999 level of three. That may be the doomsday scenario to some, but let's look at the political scene now compared to October 2003.

In 2003 the Tories were down on their uppers, unfit for local government let alone Downing Street. Labour were still riding high and less than two years away from another general election victory. Unbelievably Blair could still do no wrong. The Tories were led by the uninspiring Michael Howard, who always had the air of a stop gap leader, never that of a Prime Minister to be.

These circumstances led to a huge protest vote by Tories against their party in the 2004 Euro elections, which gave UKIP a huge boost. And, sad to say, the UKIP vote was also boosted by the Kilroy factor. The Euro was also a big issue at the time and prompted many people, from all parts of the spectrum, to vote 'against the EU and the Euro' by voting UKIP.

As things stand in June 2009 the Labour party will still be led by Gordon Brown, one of the most unpopular and lacklustre Prime Ministers in living memory, and that includes John Major! Even if they have a change of leader before then it will still be seen as the second unelected Prime Minister Labour have foisted upon us, either way they will remian unpopular. Blair's wow factor has well and truly gone. Next year it is likely to be Labour supporters who protest vote against their own party, and they won't vote for what they see as a Tory Party MK II. And there is no Euro factor now for UKIP, having chosen to leave the fight against the Lisbon Treaty to others will have serious repercussions next June.

Tory supporters are unlikely to do anything to slow down or stop a Tory Party currently managing, somehow, to build a level of electoral credibility and the image of a party preparing for government. There will be hard core Tory Eurosceptics who will vote UKIP, but by and large the Tory vote will remain loyal to adminster a further kick in the guts to Gordon Brown, or his successor.

The third voter category is the floater with no real party loyalty but who votes pragmatically. My guess is that next year they will also want to administer a serious blow to an increasingly unpopular Labour government. Their idea by doing that will be to warn him that in a real election he will be out. So they too will signal that by voting Tory next June, knowing that the Tories will not actually be forming a government as a result of their protest.

Part of the problem for UKIP in 2004 was that most of us were taken by surprise at the scale of the success, there was almost a 'what do we do now?' feeling in the party in the immediate aftermath. In my view the party should now be having serious discussions on what the response should be if what I have described is indeed the scenario after June 2009.

Over the last couple of years I have believed ever more strongly that our position should be to either not fight European elections or, if we do and win, that we should refuse to take our seats. That may be a radical departure from the current path but, in my view, is the one that will garner us the most popular support. Even then that would be seriously hindered if the leadership does not start taking seriously the whole range of policies that members, through working groups, have worked so hard to produce. The last ten years have proven, if proof were needed, that single issue parties create a protest when the time is right, but no lasting political achievement

However with the current leadership, people making such suggestions are more likely to be labelled 'nutters' than to be listened to as sincere people with the party's interests at heart. Even if their views do not dovetail exactly with those of the leader it is healthy, in a democratic party, for alternative views to be looked at and considered. That is politics.

I hope that this post will also allay rumours that I withdrew because of 'poor health and a lack of energy' or 'because I only expected to come third', as one rumour merchant has suggested. My health has never been better and I always fight to win.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

You let all those people down who voted for you Greg

Anonymous said...

I think standing down was the principled thing to do. If you realise soemthing is bad you should not continue with it just because that is the easy route to take. By standing down you have highlighted issues that are of concern to anyone with an interest in UKIP. I just wish more would take the same stand

Gregg Beaman said...

It's Gregg actually, double 'g' at the end.

I would have been letting them down, and a lot of other people, by being a hypocrite and fighting for something in which I had ceased to believe. Or like some, by just carrying on for a bumper five year salary for doing litle.

Judging from the level of support I have received from so many in the North West, and elsewhere in the UK, they don't feel let down, although there is some disappointment at ending up with the second choice at the top of the list.

Interesting to note you have nothing to say on the substance of the post.

Gregg Beaman said...

To the second 'anonymous' thank you for that. I have been amazed how many people are in agreement.

Anonymous said...

Gregg (note the double g!!!)
You are the first politician I have heard of that has actually jumped OFF the gravy train. Well done.

Lurch said...

Good for you mate. I pretty much agree with what you said.
I was really dissapointed with the lack of media impact from our MEPs. The perception (not necessarily the facts) was that our MEPs were doing nowt but playing the EU game. Witness for example the way that the Liberal MEP Chris Davis only has to fart and he's in the news, yet our guy never got in the local rag at all.
Frankly I feel that UKIP is a busted flush.

Gregg Beaman said...

You know Lurch, we used to laugh at Chris Davis for being a media whore, but he was right, he bucked the trend in 2004, the Lib-Dems got thumped elsewhere but in the North West got a second MEP in.

UKIP never would do what was needed. Makes you think.

Anonymous said...

Is there any truth in the story about you sending out letters to increase the vote for you in the NW?

Gregg Beaman said...

Absolutely not. However, Nigel Farage , Paul Nuttall and Michael McManus tried to claim that by being Regional Organiser, as opposed to a puppet of the European Commission, I had an unfair advantage in the election. Of course they realised their stupidity and withdrew their concocted complaint, as you can see if you look at the UKIP website.

I take it then that you are one of Farage's sycophants? Or are you one of the above?

Gregg Beaman said...

Correction. The UKIP website did have words to the effect: "A complaint was receieved but withdrawn. Gregg Beaman withdrew for unrelated reasons".

What now appears is: "Gregg Beaman has withdrawn".

Draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Be careful, Gregg, there are more people who know the truth about your resignation than you realize -and by the way, I am one of the many who received the letter you have just denied sending.

SponPlague said...

It feels great once you finally make the break, doesn't it...

Gregg Beaman said...

I haven't denied sending any letter. Throughout August and September I sent invitations, in my role as RO, inviting members to a meeting to be addressed by the chairman of the North West Counties Committee.

These meetings had been approved by the NWCC and, as RO, my job was to invite the members. If I did anything wrong why was the complaint withdrawn?

Why wasn't the complaint made against the chairman of the NWCC who is on the Euro election list for the North West? Why were the regional committees restructured in the first place, leading us to organise members' meetings to explain why? Now there is another tale.

If you received 'the letter' phone me and discuss it and stop hiding behind anonymity. Or are you too spineless?

Gregg Beaman said...

Yes sponplague but I'm tired of toerags like 'anonymous' making cackhanded threats. But that's the nature of the beast, as you know.

However, I am heartened that so many people have contacted me wishing me well and asking me how we can put UKIP back on the right track.

Best wishes to you.

Gregg Beaman said...

Perhaps this post by 'anonymous' on an anti-UKIP blog says it all:

Anonymous said...
In a newspaper poll UKIP has been voted the 16th biggest waste of space in the UK sandwiched between Peaches Geldof and The Cheeky Girls. "Biggest waste of space" eh? I always thought UKIP was the UK's smallest waste of space

Dearie me 'anonymous' not very clever there eh?

Anonymous said...

"These meetings had been approved by the NWCC"

At which meeting of the NWCC was that?

Gregg Beaman said...

'anonymous' really is becoming tedious now and, going against all my libertarian tendencies, I may have to start rejecting his/her posts.

You obviously have my contact details, as you said you receieved my letter to members which included my mobile number, so either ring me, but I know you don't have the bottle, or stop being a nuisance.