UKIP’s internal tensions have been obvious for some time. As the main party has gathered points in the opinion polls by picking up kneejerk reactionary positions on gay marriage and the burkha, the youth wing – Young Independence (YI) – has seen its own surge on the back of libertarian activism.
As I tweeted a month ago, after witnessing a debate on gay marriage between an old guard member and Olly Neville (a leading member of YI):
— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) December 14, 2012
All parties – and the country at large – have that growing generational difference, particularly when it comes to the understanding of individual liberty. The test of their character is how they deal with them. And that’s where UKIP are now in big trouble.
In what some have inevitably dubbed the #Ollyshambles, Neville – who recently became the popular Chairman of Young Independence – was last night sacked from his post by the party’s leadership. His crime? He dared to disagree with them over gay marriage and on the idea that European Elections were more important than Westminster – both perfectly sensible positions for a libertarian eurosceptic to take.
So why should anyone care? After all, I hear you say, he was just the youth leader of a political party which has no Parliamentary representation. That’s true, of course, but the Neville affair does have some important ramifications for UKIP and for our wider politics.
Consider the context: UKIP are at 16% in the polls, widely touted as headed for first place in the 2014 European Elections and according to the Mail on Sunday set to deny David Cameron any chance of a General Election victory, all at a time when the EU is an increasingly important issue. Whether they convert their current polling into votes, and how they campaign matters a great deal.
The implications are numerous.
First, there’s the impact on UKIP’s effectiveness. The party’s youth wing had been signing up activist after activist from Conservative Future, based on its message of good humour and libertarian politics. That is now shattered, as the leading proponent of both is roundly duffed up. UKIP have already had resignations over the scandal, meaning they are losing energetic young activists as well as the gloss which an active youth organisation gives to a brand.
Then there’s the damage this does to UKIP’s message that it is a different kind of party, one that rejects top-down control and the enforcement of toeing the line. They have made great hay with this – look, for example, at the comments given by former CF Deputy Chair Alexandra Swann on her much-publicised defection to UKIP:
“As a member of Conservative Future, with no real power, I was monitored and forced to stick rigidly to the party line. The Tories stifle debate, and no one gets along, whereas UKIP encourage debate and they all get along fine.”
That sounded great for them at the time, but now rings extremely hollow. Small wonder Alexandra was looking rather uncomfortable on Twitter last night in the face of the news.
Given that the Conservatives allow MPs to break ranks on leaving the EU or opposing green taxes, while Labour keep Frank Field, Lord Adonis and plenty other outspoken rebels in their ranks, UKIP risk their anti-politics reputation by sacking people for simple disagreement.
Perhaps most serious for Nigel Farage is the impact this has on his own core messages about what UKIP believes. Time and again we’re told it is a libertarian party, and yet it seems that speaking your mind in favour of libertarian positions is a sackable offence.
The same goes for the question of who their leader backs or sacks. When Winston Mackenzie, the UKIP candidate in the Croydon North by-election, became the latest official representative of the party to say something horrendously bonkers by announcing that gay adoption was a form of “child abuse”, we were told that UKIP is a party that lets its people hold their own opinions.
As recently as Monday, Farage was on the Today Programme defending his troops from the Prime Minister’s allegations of oddness on the grounds that:
“…we’re eccentrics, and we tolerate eccentricity.”
So either it’s acceptable “eccentricity” to insult gay people, but unacceptable to suggest they should be allowed to marry, or this is an overnight change of position. If it’s the former, then that’s pretty horrendous. If it’s a change of position, presumably UKIP will now sack anyone who breaks from any policy at all. That would be awkward for them, given a) the tendency of their candidates and MEPs to do so and b) the fact that Nigel Farage himself has publicly gone on record as opposing their policy on drugs.
Next time (and there will be a next time) a UKIPper says something genuinely awful, how will Farage fight off the demands to sack him or her?
All in all, this is a pretty mess: young activists alienated, a libertarian and anti-politics reputation fundamentally undermined, and a total inconsistence with their own leader’s attitude to sacking and policy cohesion. Anyone acquainted with the history of UKIP will know that they are no strangers to arbitrary purges – indeed, they are probably the only political party with far more ex-members than members. It’s fair to say a return to that bloody heritage is not the road to political success.
2012 may have been UKIP’s year to party, but the Ollyshambles suggests 2013 may be the year of the hangover.
When the ludicrous news that the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize was first announced back in October, I compiled a “Nomination in Pictures” exploring the supposed peace that Brussels has brought to the streets of Portugal, Spain and Greece.
Herman van Rompuy, Martin Schulz and José Manuel Barroso collected the award yesterday in Norway – a country which is outside the EU, and therefore presumably riven with civil war and cross-border aggression. A reader has produced the following video tribute to the most absurd Nobel award to date:
Six months ago, the EU was forced to withdraw a racist video using stereotyped foreigners to portray international trading partners as a violent threat to Europe’s safety. Today, in a video highlighted by the Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield, they’ve repeated their mistake in a clear sign that Brussels hasn’t learned a thing.
This time the topic is the energy markets, and your friends in the European Union are claiming credit for the, ahem, innovation that you can change supplier. Having had to apologise for protecting you from kung-fu fighting Chinese people and sword wielding Indians back in March, now they are the only thing that stands betwen you and greedy, fez-wearing Arabs.
How long will it be before Brussels apologises for this new racist piece of propaganda?
When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, comedy songrwiter Tom Lehrer declared that satire had become obsolete. Today we learn that the Peace Prize has been given to the European Union - accordingly, satire has now been dragged out of her retirement home and beaten by riot police.
In case you were wondering why the EU could possibly be given the Nobel Peace Prize, here is a short, pictorial summary of the peace Brussels has brought to Greece and Spain in the last 18 months:
So the European Court of Human Rights has once more trampled over our sovereign right to set our own laws – this time ruling to outlaw the extremely popular ban on convicts being able to vote.
Technically, the ECHR has not said that we must allow all criminals to vote, though there are certainly some who think that they should. What the Court ruled is that a blanket ban is supposedly illegal.
Plenty of people would be delighted if the British Government simply ignored the ruling, and refused to pay any fines it might levy as a result. However, if the Government is really keen to ensure we obey the rule of law – even absurd Strasbourg law – then there is another solution.
Why not do as the ECHR asks, and abolish our blanket ban by allowing some prisoners to vote – but only those convicted of one very specific and very obscure crime which is unlikely to be committed and even more unlikely to be prosecuted?
A good example would be the offence of “Impersonating a Chelsea Pensioner” – a historic crime for which no-one is currently in jail. We would technically be ticking the box for Strasbourg, while in reality thumbing our nose at them.
If they can act ridiculously to thwart our intentions, then surely we can do the same in return.
The paper claims:
25 UK Independence Party members were handing out fliers when some apparently went crazy after being asked to leave a quiet boozer.
They allegedly began threatening bar staff and police had to be called.
I’m told, though, that what really happened in Skegness was rather different than the Mirror’s account.
Rather than “handing out fliers” at the Wetherspoon’s pub The Red Lion, the group had ordered drinks and food, sat down and started chatting to staff when they asked permission to put UKIP “save the pub” beermats on the bar. The manager understandably said it wasn’t his call and agreed to call his Area Manager to check.
In the meantime the group’s food was delivered – hardly something a pub would do for customers who were “going crazy” on a “night of shame”.
When the manager returned a few minutes later, he apologised and said he’d not only been told by his superior that the beermats couldn’t be handed out, but that the group couldn’t touch their food, would be given a full refund and would have to leave immediately.
All this suggests a wrong call by an overzealous manager in a regional office, a far cry from the Mirror’s portrayal of something just short of an EDL riot.
I can’t imagine Wetherspoon’s would stand by such an overreaction against UKIP members, either, for two reasons.
First, the company has a long and honourable history of euroscepticism – see here for a recent article by their Chairman Tim Martin about the “economic folly” of the Euro and the “incredibly stupid” “load of baloney” of the current Fiscal Union proposals. Wetherspoon’s isn’t a UKIP-supporting company, but it has a sensible eurosceptic head on its shoulders (unlike, it would seem, the Skegness Area Manager).
Second, Wetherspoon’s are in touch with their drinkers. They know perfectly well the fact that your average pub-goer is no great fan of the EU, and are therefore unlikely to have some kind of UKIP ban. As evidence, just look at the ale being served at the time of the incident by the Red Lion, the pub in Skegness at the heart of this non-story:
Rather says it all, doesn’t it?
Dan Hannan MEP draws attention to the latest propaganda video from the European Union:
As he points out, there are some pretty dubious racial undertones in the way that the non-European blocs are represented.
But there are other insights into the Brussels mindset here, too.
The first is the EU’s view of trade. When these snarling attackers advance on the innocent white young lady representing the EU, they are waving swords, spinning roundhouse kicks and yelling. They are, of course, meant to represent China, India and Africa’s economic growth. That’s right – far from viewing the rise in prosperity and the improvement in industrialisation in the developing world as an opportunity to trade, share innovations and collaborate, the EU views them as a threat.
When Brussels sees the rest of the world as would-be assailants rather than a route to further prosperity, it is small wonder that a protectionist Fortress Europe has been constructed, to our great cost.
The second is the shift in the way the EU is trying to make its case to the disengaged and unenthused peoples of Europe. Ten years ago, the EU’s propaganda was all sweetness and light, absurdly saccharine promises of the sunlit uplands of federalism. Now, as I predicted back in December, they are shifting their rhetoric to one of fear and scaremongering.
Fundamentally, this is because people have realised there is little to love about the EU project. Endemic corruption, overbearing regulation, arrogant and out of touch technocrats and – worst of all in these tough times – devastating economic harm done to member states and ordinary citizens, all these factors have dispelled the myths the EU elites once peddled.
All Brussels is left with is a message of fear. Internationally, that means videos like this, stirring up fear of the foreigner in a return to the loathsome “yellow peril” rhetoric of a century ago. Domestically, it will mean predictions of civil war and a return to genocide in Europe if anyone dares to question why Brussels should be so powerful despite its lack of democratic mandate.
When a political movement – and the EU, for all its pretensions to superhuman impartiality, is a political movement – resorts to lashing out like this, it is a sign that it is in its death throes. The worrying question is how much harm it will do to all of us before it finally expires.