Winston Churchill once wrote "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop"
Of course nobody could legitimately argue that UKIP and its leader Nigel Farage haven't received more than their own fair share of criticism over the past few months and years, a great deal of which is entirely unreasonable; and often arising from an individual critics own personal antipathy for the party, or the man, or even perhaps both. However, that isn't to say the both UKIP and its leader are completely blameless when it comes to having giving its critics grounds for complaint, because believe it or not, they are fallible, they are human and they do make mistakes, as shocking as that might seem to some of its most fervent supporters.
But before anyone assumes that this blog article is just another critical piece, attacking UKIP for the sake of it, let me just say, I'm generally a fan of Nigel Farage; and a UKIP voter, but I'm not blind to the fact that he and they are not perfect, because if they were, he and they would now be sitting in 10 Downing Street, putting the finishing touches to implementing their election manifesto. No, the truth is that UKIP and its election candidates did fantastically well to garner nearly 4 million votes on May 7th 2015, taking around 13% of the popular vote, but still, one cannot help but think, that it could have been so much more, if some pretty basic mistakes and oversights had been eliminated by the party right from the get-go!
First of all and like it or not, one of the most common criticisms levelled against UKIP is that it's a one-man-band, something that the most recent piece of theatre involving Nigel Farage's resignation, or un-resignation, will have done little to dispel that particular myth amongst wavering or non-UKIP voters. Quite apart from the fact, that by linking his entire political future with electoral success in Thanet South, Mr Farage incentivised his opponents to throw everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, at the seat, making his task almost impossible to begin with. There was never any need to make such an offer, in a book, or in person, because there is no actual rule that says the party leader has to be a member of Parliament, unless of course there was a real likelihood that the party was going to help form the government, which even by UKIP's own electoral expectations wasn't going to happen.
But there is a wider point here, for me anyway. Quite whether it was personal vanity, or just a political miscalculation on his part, the fact that Nigel Farage inextricably linked himself and therefore the party's perceived success almost entirely to Thanet South was a mistake; and one that he was under no obligation to make. Don't get me wrong, I believe that Mr Farage is an outstanding politician, standing head and shoulders above the most of the political pygmies who now inhabit the House of Commons, but even our greatest parliamentarians have their personal flaws; and that is also certainly true of Nigel Farage, because he wouldn't be human if he didn't.
As regards the un-resignation debacle itself, it just seems to me that a new role might have been created by the UKIP national executive, which would have allowed Mr Farage to continue as the principal figurehead of the party, whilst at the same time allowing someone else to take on some of the more mundane and arduous aspects of promoting the party throughout the country. It is also true to say; and I don't imagine that everyone will agree with me, but Nigel Farage is fundamentally a "Marmite" politician, loved and loathed in equal measure by the British electorate; and for every vote he gains for UKIP he'll lose another one just as easily. That's just plain human nature for you, but not to recognise it, or to deliberately ignore it, does disservice to the party and will almost certainly continue to damage the party's electoral prospects going forward. Unless and until the UKIP members can resolve that particular dilemma, then the commonly used allegation of UKIP being a vanity project, or a one-man-band will continue to persist, probably right through to the next election and beyond.
Mercifully though, unlike the 2014 European Elections, the party's campaign this time round wasn't completely dominated by instances of new UKIP candidates making complete "tools" of themselves and the party, by making ill conceived and often outrageous statements via their Twitter or Facebook accounts, although the fact the mainstream media chose to try and make the party largely invisible to the voting public during this election campaign, ultimately proved to be a double-edged sword for UKIP. Overall and from a purely personal perspective, I thought UKIP's campaign this time around was very slick and highly professional, even though it obviously suffered from a lack of coverage in the media, most notably regarding its outstanding manifesto being generally ignored by the likes of the BBC.
However, on a small number of occasions in the print media there was a suggestion that UKIP would unreservedly back a Conservative budget, in return for an early EU referendum, which I would have thought would have been an immediate red line for any Labour voter who was thinking about switching their vote to UKIP this time round. After all, why would anyone who was implacably opposed to the Tories, consider voting for a party that was threatening to support or endorse that particular party's proposed austerity measures? In truth they wouldn't and although there is little doubt that some former Labour voters actually did lend their votes to UKIP this time round, who knows what will happen in the next election, with a different Labour leader, a different set of Labour policies, no actual SNP threat, with austerity just a distant memory (hopefully) and the question of our European membership having been resolved once and for all? Just as careless talk was said to cost lives during wartime, one would imagine that careless quips, or off-the-cuff remarks can just as easily cost a political party votes and for a relatively new party that loss of votes can prove to be particularly damaging.
One only has to look at the mileage that's been made by the British media today over the subject of what is referred to as "short money", public funds set aside for the smaller political parties to help offset their lack of civil service help. Although not a subject that is generally discussed in polite society, because of someone's personal involvement in the matter, it has now become yet another stick with which the Fourth Estate, the press and media, can beat the UKIP cause, in addition to the already discussed issue of Nigel Farage's un-resignation. And it is no use the party complaining about the heightened press interest in such matters, or the amount of negative publicity that it generates in the media, because that was entirely foreseeable, given that the British media have been so determined in their pursuit of anti-UKIP stories over the past five years. Surely it must have been anticipated by the UKIP leadership that such a highly emotive issue, the allocation and handling of public funds, would not only be picked up by the media, but would be ruthlessly spun by virtually all of them, in order to damage the UKIP brand?
Of course, purely as a UKIP voter my personal investment in the project is minimal; and if the party disappeared tomorrow I probably wouldn't bother voting at all, along with possibly hundreds of thousands of other voters, who lent their support to UKIP ostensibly on the basis of improving our country's current situation and its archaic electoral system. It would be a shame though if the poor judgement of a small number of individuals were to undermine the invaluable work that thousands of party members, up and down the country, have invested in the project, simply because some well placed person has not used good personal judgement and therefore has shown scant regard to the public's perception of the party as a whole. Only time will tell I guess, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens!