9 June 2017

Why we Ukippers should be ashamed of ourselves


We wake this morning to a hung parliament. The result of an act of astonishing hubris, of that excessive self-confidence which leads, as the Greeks taught us, to the inevitable fall.

Theresa May is to blame. She saw the opportunity to stick the knife into Corbyn’s Labour and went for it. Thinking that the deal was done she then loaded her party’s manifesto with all of the uncomfortable things which must be manifesto commitments in order to get through the Lords. Why not, the election is won after all? That Ben Gummer, who wrote most of the damn thing, lost his seat pleases.

However, the people truly guilty of overweening confidence are me and mine: us Leavers, us Ukippers.

We always were an odd party, a coalition of entirely disparate views held together by one pure hatred. I and many others – including Nigel Farage, sometimes, who I worked directly for for a time – belonged to something like the classical liberal wing of the Tory Party, possibly even with a natural home in the Liberal Party of old, before the Dems got there. Many others were rather more Old Labour – no, not the Momentum flavour – which explains that support in the old Labour Party heartlands. And, of course, a sprinkling of people who didn’t like foreigners but they were never anything like the driving force.

The hatred was of the European Union. No, not of Europe, absolutely everyone I worked with in the party, all those talked to at hustings (I was a candidate in the 2009 Euros), every conversation in the year as a press secretary, the continent and continentals were never the issue nor the problem. It was, instead, the system of governance which was opposed, not the place nor the people.

My own formulation has always been that I’m against the EU precisely because I love Europe so much. What have such lovely people, all myriad varieties of them, done to deserve Brussels being imposed upon them?

Which leads us to the hubris we are guilty of. It took 20 years of monstering the Tory Party from without and within to scare Cameron into a referendum. The continual creep of centralising power, the manifest idiocies of the euro. Finally, when the vote was counted we won. At which point we made our mistake, we declared victory and went home.

At the time that seemed entirely reasonable. We were one of the very few political movements ever which had one single goal other than the gaining and retention of power. And with that vote we had achieved it.

As it is turning out, democracy seems not to work quite that way, the vote doesn’t decide. Yes, Article 50 has been triggered, but the details of how the deal will be done are still to be settled. And it’s entirely possible for defeat to be snatched from those jaws of victory down among the details of trading relationships and intergovernmental relationships. We could still end up with a soft Brexit, where we’re still bound in to all of the rules but have no say at all in any of them.

As Nigel has been saying as he tours the studios, to have thought that winning meant we had won was a gross, hubristic, error. So now, with Paul Nuttall gone, we are going to find out whether there are second acts in political lives.

For our point is that regardless of who sits in 10 Downing Street, it is there and in Westminster that the power should be held. If we collectively decide to change – or lose – our minds then we should be at liberty to do so rather than be locked into governance from afar. The fight is far from over.

Tim Worstall is senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute