Friday, 14 March 2014

Ukip smears: they doth protest too much

Ukip: Up in smoke
If a racist bigot says something racist and bigoted, and the media reports it, is that a smear?  If a drunken sexist buffoon says something sexist and buffoonish while drunk, and the media reports it, is that a smear?  If a homophobe says something homophobic, and the media reports it, is that a smear? If a philandering crook is a philandering crook and the media reports it, is that also a smear? If a ridiculous manifesto is withdrawn on the basis that it is ridiculous, and the media reports it, is that then a smear too?  Yes to all of the above apparently, if you belong to the Ukip tribe. It's so unfair! is less than impressed (when is he ever?).  But you know, most of that really doesn't really bother me as much as it should.  It should, but it doesn't. There is a certain amount of "let he who is without sin" about this, and I don't think I'm entirely innocent given my more robust political views in my not-so-distant youth.  I will have some explaining to do if any of my old blogs ever resurface!  And in spite of Ukip's legion of idiots, their "Nope, not hope" blog demonstrates that if you take a cross section of councillors from all parties, you will find benefit cheats, thieves, fraudsters, thugs, Lib-dems, perverts, child-molesters and a myriad of other unwholesome types that make Ukip's clowns look like saints.

It's quite clear, even to "Ukip-haters" like me, that there is a media agenda to rough up Ukip by disproportionately reporting these things, and the BBC bias against them was always brazen and unashamed.  But as I remarked yesterday, the Telegraph is broadly sympathetic to Ukip and the Daily Express is pretty much a Ukip newspaper.  The BNP never had this kind of exposure, and had a daily barrage of bad press, yet diligently ignored it and carried on winning votes, even eating into Ukip's activist base in the North.  It was water off a ducks back to the BNP.  But it seems to stick on Ukip.

There is a good reason for this. Discipline, ideas and strategy.  No revolutionary movement has ever succeeded without.  Not at any point did anyone have to question what the BNP stood for. It had an intellectual foundation (albeit a profoundly disagreeable one), a web strategy, a media strategy and it bent to no-one, never compromised, and never softened its message to woo new members.  For a time, it was a highly organised, professional outfit and was outstripping Ukip's influence by a country mile even though it was the smaller party.  Their website hits were more than all of the other parties combined.

The way they did this was by having a decent website updated twice daily, with a relevant counter-view to the establishment on the news of the day.  It had its core values and built all of its activities around them.  It included selected members blog posts and some of them were pretty good.  Exceptional by Ukip standards.  They understood what their website was for and how to exploit it.  Ukip does not.

There have been attempts to professionalise the Ukip back office operation but they have fallen flat time after time, largely because of Farage's command and control mentality - and his galactic ego.  To look at their website on any given day they have speeches by the leader (big who cares?), obscure stories barely relating to the news of the day - and Youtube videos as their lead stories, without even posting explanatory text. This fails to take account of the fact that most people browse news sites at work, where they don't have audio.  The whole web operation is ill-considered and amateurish, and it is a first port of call for no-one.  Ukip, rather than creating the news, it is reacting to it, or making the news for all the wrong reasons.

A political party communications operation should essentially be run like a newspaper and central to its activities.  It needs to be up to date, relevant and of higher quality than the media.  And as himself over at EUReferendum points out, that does have to be research driven, and it must all weave into a consistent philosophy. Through tireless research, has broken a series of major stories in the last twelve months alone, from STOR generators to the EU's hand in flooding Somerset.  One man, in one office, far from London or Brussels with no budget. And yet what has the Ukip website accomplished lately? or ever?

Ukip's web and media operation has always been lacklustre, and still shows no sign improving.  The frank and startling admission by Farage just recently that he didn't know what was on the Ukip website, and had precious little idea what was in the manifesto, speaks volumes about the man's ignorance, arrogance and incompetence.  We are dealing with a party that sees a website as an accessory rather than central to the communication strategy.

Because of this, when one asks what Ukip stands for, it's difficult to tell because it fluctuates from month to month. If you ask four different activists in twenty-four hours, you will get four different answers.  How are its activists supposed to know what Ukip stands for if Ukip iself does not know?  It no longer even has a manifesto. But Ukip will not commit to hard and fast values because that would reveal a serious strategic blunder. Were they to stand firm on their original libertarian leanings they would scare away half their members.

Many will argue that the party has broadened its appeal, but by "broadening appeal", it has quietly dropped is founding ideals and essentially taken the pressure off the Tories (so to shake off the "pressure group" mantle), but in so doing has cashed in its only bargaining chip. They have even shifted their focus away from primarily being an anti-EU party, morphing into something else entirely, having deluded itself that it can take power in Westminster.

By gearing for rapid expansion, and bending to the needs of that agenda, rather than having sustained growth of a committed activist base loyal to an idea, it has created a catch-all dustbin vote, with nothing to unite its members and activists other than a distaste for "establishment parties" in the wake of their corruption.  Meanwhile Farage, with a first class ticket on the gravy train, is bedding his aide and hushing her with public money.

The piss-poor performance of Ukip's back office and the complete lack of policy, substance and strategy means that Ukips growth is based on the Cult of Farage and his tub-thumping pub speeches, and that means when he finally crashes and burns, which was always an inevitability, the party will have nothing to unite upon and will disintegrate.

The party has absorbed the life work and devotion of many good people over the last twenty years, and it has taken a mammoth effort for it to enjoy the position it has, but soon will have been undone entirely, through just one man's actions, leaving the eurosceptic movement back at square one to watch Ukip's vote evaporate, just as the BNP's did (for similar reasons).

For Richard North it might be personal, but for me, and anyone else who has waited all their life to see Britain leave the EU, it should be personal too.  Our movement has been systematically sabotaged and destroyed by an incompetent charlatan who was only ever interested in power for himself while lining his own pockets. Remind me again why Ukip is the anti-politics vote?

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