Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Looking back to see what the future holds for UKIP

I see from my inbox this morning that the divisions within the United Kingdom Independence Party show no sign of healing after the UKIP Grass Roots Conference at Bournemouth last weekend. An open letter to Nigel Farage asking for more openness was dismissed by the UKIP boss with a curt, "Best of luck with your new party" put down.

In our conference week, UKIP's internal difficulties take me back to 1979 and the National Front's AGM that year held on Great Yarmouth pier. I travelled by train from Worthing and it was a long journey which took most of Friday but after booking in a room in a seafront hotel, I arrived in time for the Friday late afternoon and evening sessions.

The Saturday morning saw Great Yarmouth under siege. Police had closed off most of the promenade in an effort to keep 1000-odd opponents away from the pier and delegates had to go through three or four police checkpoints to get to the venue. There was a good turnout, around 500 if my memory serves me correctly, but what went on the meeting was thoroughly demoralising.

First of all there was the faction called the Constitutional Movement run by Paul Kavanagh which was critical of the party's leadership. Their supporters handed out a pamphlet to delegates listing their concerns. A lot of them were probably valid but most of us who were officials had already been briefed that these people were only interested in destroying the NF so I didn't give their leaflet a second thought. I do remember one of their spokesman giving an impassioned speech but his proposals were voted down.

Then their was National Front chairman John Tyndall, who told the Conference that he was the only person that could lead the Party through these difficult times and asked to be granted dictatorial powers to be able to do this. I voted against his request as did a slim majority at the Conference and that rejection led to John Tyndall forming another party, the New National Front, the following year. There was real division over this especially in my branch in Worthing and along the whole South Coast. I remember one evening making my way to the Foresters Hall in Newlands Road for a Worthing Branch meeting only to be refused entry and told that I was no longer the organiser. The whole region just started to disintegrate.

Nearly thirty years on, I can foresee a similar scenario being played out within the ranks of UKIP. There can only be one end for that Party and I just hope some of its good people don't waste their time fighting a fruitless battle within that dying vessel but jump ship now to the BNP and use their energies to fight the real enemy - the old gang parties that have sold this country to the Eurocrats in Brussels.

For me personally, the Great Yarmouth Conference was a turning point. Up until then I had just been a political activist and local official and apart from the monthly Worthing newsletter to members hadn't put my hand to writing anything much at all. At that Conference someone gave me a bulletin called Newham Front Page which was a local NF newsletter but aimed at a more public readership. I liked the idea and went back home and started work on the first edition of Sussex Front which started me on the very road that I still find myself on today.

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