I have been a member of UKIP since 2001. I have never been a member of any other political party, and there is no other major Party in the UK which even comes close to representing my views. I have remained with UKIP through the good times and the bad, when the Party was polling less than 1% in 2007.
What I say today I do not say lightly. Out of loyalty to Paul Nuttall, who is a personal friend who has done an incredibly tough job in the most difficult of circumstances, and out of loyalty to the many hard-working UKIP candidates up and down the country, I remained silent during a General Election campaign with which I profoundly disagreed. I can no longer remain silent now. Paul has been badly let down by many people, including some of his most senior advisers.
I am saddened by his resignation but understand and respect his reasons for it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his service to the Party and wish him the very best in his future, whatever that might hold for him.
I fundamentally believe in what UKIP should be. A radical Party of low taxation, of direct democracy, of putting victims before criminals, of standing up and speaking up for the people who have been forgotten, abandoned, betrayed by the establishment. But this Party has lost its way in recent times. I did not stand at this General Election. There were many factors in that decision, but in the end there was one fundamental inescapable conclusion. I simply could not in all conscience support and propagate the policies that were being articulated.
The UKIP Manifesto was shown to the NEC at the very last minute, who had barely an hour to consider it and were therefore bounced into voting to approve a document that simply wasn’t good enough. They were presented with a bland fait accompli. This was not the fault of Paul Nuttall, the Party Leader, who was forced into the ITV election debate without ever having seen it. And often the policy spokesmen’s views were ignored. The UKIP Manifesto failed to be radical on economic issues. It watered down No Tax on Minimum Wage, it failed to truly show the advantages of Brexit and what we can achieve. We could have talked about replacing VAT with a fairer system. We have failed to be innovative and talk properly tough on crime. We have offered very, very little to hard-working families. We have said nothing of any substance for parents of primary school children, when education is the number one issue for them. We’ve watered down UKIP’s flagship Direct Democracy policy allowing the public to call referendums on key issues. If UKIP is not the radical, reasonable, reasoned alternative to the establishment then it is nothing. Huge pressure was put on Paul Nuttall to move the Party in a different direction.
The Party has taken a hardline position on terrorism. Do not mistake my words: the UK should be tough, incredibly tough, on terrorists. But as a Party we have fundamentally failed to make the distinction between the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, honest and good people, including those I am proud to call my friends, and the unutterable evil of the perversions of ISIS. Tough and robust policies to tackle extremism are absolutely right. The victimisation or demonisation of Muslims and Islam is not.
I do not personally support a complete burkha ban (it’s different in situations where there’s a security risk, just like I don’t like football hooligans wearing balaclavas outside a stadium to avoid being filmed by police). The policy of genital inspections of schoolgirls was crass and ill-conceived at best. FGM is an issue which is fundamentally about child sexual abuse, but UKIP’s clumsy blundering approach detracted from an important issue of child protection. Despite FGM being a cultural practice, UKIP allowed it to be seen and misrepresented as relating to Muslims specifically. Instead of talking about vital issues, of keeping our children safe, UKIP found itself defending accusations of bigotry. When I was General Secretary before, the Party was ruthless in kicking out those who expressed vile racist views. Whatever the media said, we did not tolerate it and those people rightly were shown the exit door. The role of General Secretary does not come with executive power, and I have been powerless to do anything about the most extreme of comments.
I don’t agree with hardline anti-Islam messages. Yet in the wake of the London and Manchester attacks, it was a ‘perfect storm’ for those who espoused such views. If it was ever going to win votes at the ballot box, it was on Thursday. It failed. It did not work and it can not work. I’ve expressed my views in private to the Party leadership and others over many months, to no avail. I must now say something in public. I will try to avoid naming individuals, but promote positive alternatives and policies for the Party.
The people pushing such an agenda need to reflect on the Party’s future. They need to stop making it difficult – impossible, even – for many people to vote UKIP. They need to understand that Theresa May has imperilled Brexit and that their actions are utterly corrosive not just to the Party’s cause but also to the cause of regaining our freedom from the European Union.
UKIP is now in a last-chance saloon, but it is needed more than ever. This election result is the last wake-up call that they will ever get.
It would be improper for the General Secretary of the Party to be as blunt as I need to be, or even to say what I have said in this statement. My position is therefore untenable and I must therefore resign as General Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesman. I have agreed with the Party that this will not take effect until after the emergency NEC meeting on Monday.