Ukip has been especially quiet over the last few months. Following the party’s disappointing result in the general election, Nigel Farage’s ‘unresignation’ and the briefing wars, the party has purposefully kept its head down. With Farage’s return to the spotlight last week, Kippers are gearing up for the fight of their lifetime. This is what has been going on inside Ukip in recent weeks and what you can expect to see from the so-called ‘people’s army' over the next few months.
Give peace a chance
Since the internal turmoil and the 'break' Farage was urged to take by his colleagues, much of the party’s tensions have calmed down. Some attribute this to the pressure cooker atmosphere of the election ending. Others say the death of the Tea Party faction — something we’ve written about in the Spectator — has cooled down tensions.
Everyone I’ve spoken to over the last week seems optimistic about the party’s prospects in the future — believing the party has a long future, regardless of the referendum outcome. This is what some of the key Kippers are up to.
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Chris Bruni-Lowe has remained in place as the party’s Head of Campaigns. He is masterminding the party’s referendum strategy as well as planning the autumn 'Say No' tour around the UK with David Soutter, the party’s former head of candidates.
Douglas Carswell has repaired relations with Ukip HQ and is in the process of setting of the party's Parliamentary Research Unit by hiring a £60k per annum speechwriter. He was vindicated in the Short money row as Ukip’s NEC went against Farage’s recommendation to not take any public money.
Suzanne Evans also appears to have repaired her relationship with Farage after a falling out after the general election. She is focusing on becoming Ukip’s Mayor of London candidate, as well as representing the party in the media.
Michael Heaver has taken over from Raheem Kassam in the Leaders' Office, working directly for Nigel Farage. He is dealing with all press for Farage as well as working on planning the autumn tour.
Nigel Farage has taken a long holiday since the election and is reemerging into the media spotlight. He told Coffee House last week that the Greece crisis has been a turning point in EU perceptions.
Paul Nuttall continues as deputy leader and is expected to play a significant role in the party’s ‘No’ campaign over the new few months — particularly in the North where Ukip came second in over a hundred seats at the election.
Patrick O’Flynn has returned to simply being an MEP. The party's former director of communications and economics spokesman is avoiding the national limelight after his public criticisms of Farage in the Times. Instead, he will be focusing on regional efforts for the referendum.
Mark Reckless is the party’s Head of Policy, after losing Rochester & Strood at the general election. Reckless is focusing on manifestos for the regional elections as well as referendum strategy. He is expected to play a significant role in cultivating the party’s ambitions in Wales.
Matt Richardson 'unresigned' as Ukip's general secretary and continues to advise party HQ on legal matters.
Gawain Towler is now the party's Head of Press and runs the press office following the sacking of Paul ‘Gobby’ Lambert after the general election. Alongside him, Alexandra Phillips is dealing with broadcast media while John Gill continues as a press officer.
No time for renegotiation
The election of a Conservative majority government has delivered Ukip what it has spent 20 years campaigning for: an In-Out EU referendum. Despite failing to breakthrough in Westminster, the party is more enthused than ever with the prospect of the referendum before 2017. ‘Everyone is totally fired up for fighting the referendum and very much looking forward to starting the campaign’, says Suzanne Evans, the party’s deputy chairman.
There are two ‘No’ independent campaigns gearing up: Ukip donor Aaron Banks’ ‘No Thanks – We’re Going Global’ and the cross-party ‘Exploratory Committee for the No Campaign in the EU Referendum’. Both are vying for the official designation from the Electoral Commission but neither are particularly keen to have Farage as their main representative.
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Ukip is still keen to seize the moment and so Farage kicked off his ‘Say No — Believe in Britain’ campaign last week, where he lambasted Conservative Eurosceptics for doing nothing while announcing his own plans for a grassroots tour to promote a 'No' vote, kicking off in September.
The whole party is currently focused on planning these Autumn events, through which it hopes to gain traction for the ‘No’ side; traction the Kippers feel has been sorely missing. As a party source puts it:
'Challenging the renegotiation as its a farce, lighting up the campaign trail with big public meetings that capture the imagination, playing a critical role on the ground so No can win.
‘Some on the No side can bitch about Nigel all they like, but who else can fill packed halls with potential No voters who will come out and on a Wednesday evening to hear them speak?’
Details of the tour remain sketchy but it is likely to run for several months in venues across the UK, with some big Town Hall meetings hosted by Farage and smaller events with various MEPs. There are whispers in the party that David Cameron — or ‘Heath MkII’ as some have taken to calling him — is set to announce the date of the referendum during his speech at the Conservative conference in October and want to have the groundwork ready.
Alongside preparations for the referendum tour, Ukip is in the process of choosing its candidate for 2016 London mayoral election. Suzanne Evans, the party’s deputy chairman, has announced her candidacy and is the favourite inside Ukip to win the nomination. Her media profile and public image has made her one of the three most best known figures in the party. Plus, Coffee House understands that she is working for the party in a paid part-time capacity, preparing its London manifesto.
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Ukip currently has no representatives on the Greater London Assembly and took just two percent of the vote in 2012. Evans has acknowledged she is unlikely to win, 'I don’t think London is going to have a Ukip mayor any time soon. But I think it’s time for London to have a different view, a different approach.’ But given the party's rise in support across the UK since 2012, campaigners are hopeful they might return Evans and a few others as Assembly Members next year.
Evans will have competition: Ukip’s culture spokesman Peter Whittle is also running for the nomination, as is Richard Hendron, a Ukip LGBT activist. As with many Ukip matters, the process itself is a little unclear. Interviews will be conducted at Ukip HQ over the next few weeks and a vote will be held among the party’s London membership. No details are clear about when this vote will happen, or when the candidate will be announced.
The third priority for the party is Wales. While Scotland and Northern Ireland are unlikely to yield many votes for Ukip, campaigners have high hopes and even believe they could become the official opposition party after next year's Assembly elections. At the general election, Ukip’s vote share rose almost 11 per cent since 2010 to 13.6 per cent, putting it in third place behind the Tories and Labour and ahead of Plaid Cymru.
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Although the party has no seats on the Welsh Assembly at present, the party has 'very high hopes' of making a breakthrough. Ukip has appointed two figures to work on the 2016 Assembly election: Mark Reckless will be Director of Policy Development for Ukip Wales and Sam Gould will be its campaign manager for the election. As ITV reported, the party will be focusing on vetting candidates thoroughly to increase its chances of getting members through the regional list.