The idea that UKIP is in the midst of an existential crisis is one very satisfying to the Establishment. There’s nothing they would like more than for the party that actually threatens them to wither and die – it’s why they push the viewpoint relentlessly.
Unfortunately, for once, the Establishment are correct. UKIP is in quite a mess. With Nigel Farage gone, Diane James in and out, and twice leadership favourite Steven Woolfe now departed from the party, UKIP lacks not only direction, but credibility. How can we, the salesmen, sell a party that doesn’t know what its stock is?
UKIP needs a fresh, passionate driving force that recognises our strength isn’t in the wishy-washy centre ground, but as the brash, bullish outsider that stands for no bullshit. We are witnessing a global revolt against Establishment politics, as seen here by Brexit, across the pond with Donald Trump and even as far as the Philippines with Rodrigo Duterte. UKIP must harness this frustration and cash in.
With this in mind, it’s clear to me that there is one definitive choice for leader: Raheem Kassam.
An accomplished media performer, Kassam has shown he is a fiery debater while maintaining the personality and likeability of Farage. Yes, he will be marmite too, but isn’t that the point? You can’t please everybody in politics, nor should you try to. UKIP’s potential is in speaking for the left behind.
I doubt there’s any single Ukipper universally liked by the party, so that Kassam has painted as a troublemaker is not only false, but a moot point too. However, what I have been seeing is a candidate who’s coming up with logical plans to clean up and grow the party.
UKIP has a strong, dedicated collection of activists – the problem is there aren’t enough of them. It’s a direct result of awful organisation and a party that’s too expensive and difficult to join.
Unless you’re eligible for concessions, membership is £30 a year and, once you’ve joined, you’re chucked in the ocean without armbands. Great, you get a card, but little information about how to become active in your area. That needs to change. If Labour can mobilise with a crap message, imagine what a well-oiled UKIP could achieve with a good one.
In the last two national elections, the party has won four million votes. If just one in 25 joined the party, we would have 100,000 members. At that point, we would also have a ground game.
UKIP has been British politics’ best pressure group, and we need to keep that pressure up to ensure no Brexit backsliding. More than 17 million people voted to leave the European Union, and that’s a huge market to tap into if Theresa May’s government lets them down.
Extremist Islam will continue to be a sensitive yet must-tackle topic, and it’s vital UKIP strikes the right chord and balance here – you can’t go making policy up on the hoof. It’s also essential that “security measures” to “protect” western civilisation don’t breach the freedoms that western civilisation is meant to offer. Kassam’s keenness to take on Shariah courts in the UK is, however, encouraging.
And hey, anything that’ll make it harder for the media to shout “racist” or “Islamophobe” must be a good thing, right?
Recapturing our economic roots is also important, with Conservatives and Labour often being indistinguishable. Pressing home on the failures of big government as part of the anti-Establishment drive, and highlighting the benefits of allowing people to keep more of their money thanks to a lower and flatter tax system are forgotten stances in British politics. Kassam and Bill Etheridge, who finished a solid third last time, are both strong on this issue.
The internet has given political parties the chance to be more accessible and transparent than ever, but they aren’t taking advantage. Italy’s Five Star Movement is perhaps the sole prominent example of a party doing it, while Arron Banks’ Leave.EU movement – which has garnered over 200,000 more Facebook likes than the official Vote Leave campaign – has showcased the potential of online activism in the UK.
Being Editor at Breitbart London, Kassam knows what works on the internet, as has been demonstrated by the early stages of his Make UKIP Great Again campaign. His regular live streams are a great way of connecting with party members and recruiting new ones, and addressing their concerns. It’s something I would be keen to see continue if he becomes leader. With the right steps, UKIP can transform itself from the most technologically inept party to the most advanced.
UKIP succeeds by different, and Raheem Kassam is offering something different. We’ll get smeared. So what, we already are. The Establishment will mock us. So what? They already do.
But do you know what? There will be a hell of a lot of people who agree with us. And as their old, broken parties continue to let them down, they’ll keep looking for alternative. It’s our job to offer that alternative, and Kassam is the man to do it.