Wednesday, January 09, 2013

UKIP splits

Last night saw the UK Independence Party sack the chair of their youth wing, Olly Neville. His crime? To publicly take a different position from the party policy to oppose equal marriage. He sets out his side of the story at The Independent: Exclusive: So much for the libertarians! How Ukip sacked me after I said I support equal marriage. Others in the youth wing have resigned in protest.

Yet UKIP has not sacked others who've spoken out controversially in recent times, most notably Winston McKenzie, their candidate in the recent Croydon North by-election and spokesperson on the Commonwealth, in spite of his public homophobia. And then there's the party leader who openly disagrees with his party's policy on drugs. It seems there's one rule for Nigel Farage and bigots, another for libertarians.

This exposes the fundamental contradictions at the heart of UKIP as Farage has tried to construct it. On the one hand it pretends to be a libertarian party and has attracted members as such. On the other hand it has also accumulated social authoritarians. Inevitably the two were going to clash at some point.

And this just adds to the long history of vicious splits in UKIP. Let's not forget the long list of others who've fallen out, including:
  • Alan Sked, founder and first leader
  • Michael Holmes, the leader under whom they first won election to the European Parliament
  • Roger Knapman, the only leader to serve even a single full term and under whom the party was put on the map with help from...
  • Robert Kilroy-Silk and His Ego, who drew huge publicity
  • David Campbell-Bannerman, former deputy leader
  • Nikki Sinclaire, former leadership contender
And that's just some of the highest profile. Quite a number of MEPs have dropped aside as well. For a party that's only been around twenty years that's quite a legacy of viciousness.

Relatively little has been written on UKIP's history, especially on the pre-Kilroy era, and many of the splits passed the wider political world by. In the case of Holmes, relations between the party leader and the national executive got so bitter that eventually the membership forced them all to stand down. It truly is the case that the smaller a party, the more vicious the internal feuds. There have been several other parties formed as splinters of UKIP, including Veritas, We Demand a Referendum, and no doubt others formed by even more obscure people.

I suspect Olly Neville's sacking in itself will soon be forgotten. But once again it has exposed the mess that is UKIP and why it is all anger and no delivery.

Update: Nikki Sinclaire confirms that of the 18 UKIP MEPs there have been to date, Nigel Farage has fallen out with no less than 9 of them.

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