Statement from UKIP Thurrock Group Leader on UKIP Leadership Election
Cllr Graham Snell
ONE of the questions I am often asked is “why did you choose to join UKIP?” . It’s a fair question, I had voted Conservative most of my adult life and, in debate, would always lean to the blue side of the spectrum. However, that started to change in 1997 when I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a John Major lead Government and thought that Mr Blair was all show and no substance (I got that right, I reckon). Instead, I took a slow walk to the polling station and spoiled my ballot paper with the thought that; at least I’d expressed an opinion. That was to be the way of it at every local and national election until 2010; when I voted, hesitantly because I wasn’t totally convinced, for David Cameron. He swiftly proved to be a Tony Blair MkII so it was back to spoiling ballot papers again!
This was a pretty sad state of affairs for me, I even skipped a local election or two because none of the main Parties interested me in the slightest. Then, in 2011, I became aware of UKIP. I mean, I had heard of them and knew of Nigel Farage but I’d never really given them a serious look. I came across an online tool that put up all the policies from different parties from the last election and, after pages of choosing which policies were in line with my thoughts it popped out the Party I was most suited to. It was a surprise to me at the time that I identified most strongly with UKIP. After nearly a year of going to Branch meetings to see if UKIP really was the answer, I decided it was and became a member; the first time in my life I had joined a political party. Of course, exiting Europe was one of the big reasons I became involved but it wasn’t the only reason. There were good policies on law and order, agriculture, fisheries and the armed forces to name a few but without a doubt I really liked the Party’s optimism and belief that our nation was still great and that, given the freedom from Europe to do so, we could make it greater still. To my mind, UKIP is the only Party offering something different from the old fossilised legacy Parties, without it I would still be spoiling ballots.
Leap forward to 2017 and I find myself Leader of the 17 Councillors that make up the UKIP Group on Thurrock Council and deputy Chair of the Thurrock Branch. Clearly, I have a lot invested in this Party so its future really matters to me. Most important right now is who we elect as our new leader. Much has been said about the comings and goings of recent leaders and I won’t add to that here, it’s history now and we have moved on. Our leadership elections are, I believe, hampered by our own rule book. It’s a nonsense that anybody who hasn’t held an elected post can stand for leader. Anybody that wants to lead should at least have been elected to an official post of Government, be that national, local or European. It’s one thing to be a Party activist, quite another to have to work within the machinery of governance. With no experience of working within Parliaments or Councils/Assemblies how can you expect to be head of a national Party that wants members elected to them? I don’t think you can so I would automatically discount for any leadership election any candidate that hasn’t held an elected position.
Our new leader should be undoubtedly UKIP in outlook. That is positive, proud and patriotic. Our manifesto from the last election was really very good (not that many got to see it or hear about it) and I would like to see many of the policies in it carried forward. What I don’t want to see is UKIP become bogged down by one particular policy or another. We have seen the damage done to us by sections of the electorate perceiving us to be a one issue Party, I don’t want to see that happen again. Our leader should be media savvy, it’s unfortunate that style often trumps substance these days but a leader that has no media experience is at a huge disadvantage. There are changes to be made to the way the Party is set up, the next leader needs to get a grip but must make sure that, whichever course is decided upon, all ‘Kippers are included. UKIP is akin to a large family. We have our ups and downs but, ultimately, we all want the same thing and whatever the final result and whoever the leader we must all pull together to make this great Party succeed.
So, to conclude, it would be cowardly to duck my head below the parapet and keep my leadership choice to myself . So, my choice of candidate that I feel most embodies what I am looking for in a new leader is … Peter Whittle.