BY JOHN ISMAEL
When MEP Gerard Batten became UKIP Leader in February 2018 there was widespread renewed belief among the party faithful. An experienced and safe pair of hands had been chosen, after the disasters of the unbelievable Paul Nuttall and Henry Hard-on Bolton. A financial catastrophe was soon averted by Batten and his sound team of Chairman Tony McIntyre and Treasurer Sebastian Fairweather. Soon it seemed that the party had been saved and that a period of consolidation and internal reform could be embarked upon – much needed, after UKIP’s raison d’être of Brexit seemed, perhaps, it might be stolen from it by Brexit.
We are only four months down the line. The polls reflect a state of UKIP survival. There is little if any growth in numbers. Or is it that Batten’s actions are seeing some of the old guard drop off and some younger newcomers see the party as their route to anti-establishment, pragmatic politics?
Batten’s focus on Islam, albeit daring, has seen some party members cut up their membership cards. Islam is not a death cult, although it can be – yet Batten has publicly reiterated his belief that Islam is a death cult. Perhaps he has been hanging around Luton too much with his mate Tommy Robinson who heralds from that town replete with extremists and the kind of Islam that would be better off leaving the UK yesterday. Perhaps Batten should head over to Glasgow to spend more time with the family of peace-loving, hard-working Asad Shah, after looking up Ahmadiyya. UKIP were damn lucky to avoid the BNP bullet that was Anne Marie Waters when Henry Hard-on was elected. It would be a real shame for Batten to go down her one trick pony, bigoted route. Batten would be far better off sitting down with counter terror police and the security services and asking them both what new powers they required to deal effectively with Britain’s Islamist extremism problem once the ECHR can be escaped.
Now Gerard Batten seems to be enticing in the Intellectual Dark Web followers and internet caricatures, like Paul Joseph Watson, Milo and Sargon of Akkad, who are verbal entertainers (not dissimilar to how Labour sees Eddie Izzard) and have audiences who may join the party like they have, but at what cost? The problem with such entertainers – and the reason they find it so hard to get advertising – is that, every now and again, they overstep the mark and, as reactionaries, cause overreaction. The foibles of such web personalities, as with new UKIP member Mark Meechan (remember the Nazi saluting pug), are well-known and need not be repeated here. These speakers are generally sound (certainly not fascist or far right as their leftist detractors like to paint them) – but one hell of a political risk for Batten. Will they lead to a sudden increase in UKIP’s popularity with younger voters?
The way these social influencers have been welcomed into the party does not bode well. Tried and tested voter repellent personified by Neil Hamilton using shoddily-produced videos to cheer their arrival, using expressions like “dank memes” is enough to drive potential party members over to Vince Cable’s Lib Dem rabble. Massive cringe. The continuing amateurism of UKIP is why they are failing to escape the 3-point flatline, which still translates into zero seats at Westminster and, soon, zero seats in Brussels. Where is their cabinet in waiting? Milo and Paul Joseph Watson are hardly a future chancellor and home secretary, except perhaps in a Tracy Ullman sketch show. UKIP shooting themselves in the foot? Time will tell. Maybe Batten’s gambles are stemming from a genius that commentators are failing to distinguish?
As one senior UKIP official related to a trusted source a few weeks ago, “we need a bloody miracle”. So far, Batten, who was never going to be Jesus, is scoring a three out of ten as John the Baptist.
Early days, mind. Early days.