Putting our country first

Published Apr 23, 2017

UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall writes, "What does a party leader go into a general election hoping for? That’s normally a pretty easy question to answer – as many votes as possible for his party at the expense of every other party and every other candidate in the field.

"But at this general election it is a lot more complicated than that. Because UKIP was set up to restore Britain’s status as a self-governing democracy and this election comes with that ambition tantalisingly within reach.

"Generations of UKIP activists campaigned and leafleted through wind and rain with the ambition of getting our country out of the EU. And some never lived to see the glorious day when our magnificent referendum victory was confirmed.

"In memory of such people and to be true to the founding principles of my party I must ensure that we work at all times to advance the practical cause of Brexit in Parliament, in the country at large and in the negotiating chambers of the European Union.

"That means, to put it in shorthand, adhering to the principle of country before party in the changed political circumstances that pertain today.

"Surprisingly enough, Theresa May did not consult me about her decision to hold a general election three years before she needed to. She did not make a pitch to me about why she needed a bigger majority to give her the political momentum necessary to secure a full and clean Brexit.

"So I am left to make a series of judgments based on imperfect information. Is the biggest Tory majority possible actually in the interests of Brexit or might it place too much power in the hands of Mrs May who was, after all, a Remainer during the referendum?

"If UKIP were to stand everywhere on June 8, might we risk damaging good Brexit MPs and allowing Remainers to oust them? Might we also risk allowing incumbent Remainer MPs to cling on when they do not deserve to?

"There are some who would like me to implement a cast iron rule that says UKIP will not stand against any incumbent MP who campaigned for Brexit. And yet that would let off the hook lots of what I call “five to midnight” Brexiteers – careerists who could have gone either way and happened to reach the conclusion that backing Brexit at the last moment was the best thing for them personally.

"I could not possibly order UKIP branches not to stand against such people if they wanted to. The shallow careerists have switched one way before and could easily switch the other way in future.

"Equally, this election is not only about Brexit. There are stacks of other issues from the ridiculous foreign aid bill to the parlous state of the NHS, from the cuts to our police force to the continuing lack of control over the volume of immigration. I know that if UKIP does not speak for common sense on such issues then nobody else will.

"I also know that the broadcasters will at least in part base their future coverage of UKIP on our vote share at this election. So the fewer seats we stand in the lower our share will be and the less coverage we will get in the years ahead.

"So what am I going to do? The answer is talk to my party grassroots and treat every constituency on a case by case basis. If, for example, the UKIP branch in St Albans decides it does not wish to oppose Anne Main who worked with them so well during the referendum and yet now faces a Lib Dem challenge, am I going to insist that they do? Probably not.

"If our branch in North Norfolk decides that standing against the Lib Dem Remainer Norman Lamb will actually help him hold the seat against a Tory Brexiteer, will I force them to? Again, probably not.

"Were I a UKIP member living in Vauxhuall would I be busting a gut to field a candidate against Kate Hoey? I rather doubt it.

"So over the next week or so, many conversations will take place between UKIP HQ and our local branches. It will be as much an art as a science. In some cases I will argue for us standing aside. But I will not order it if our local branch is unpersuadable. After all, they will know the lie of the land better than I do.

"I expect that in the vast majority of cases we will reach a consensus about whether to stand or whether to step aside. Because in the end I have the privilege to lead the most patriotic party of modern times. Our members will always put their country before party and their country before themselves."

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