First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations to Henry Bolton on winning the UKIP leadership election. His will be a difficult, and in many ways unenviable, task.
We must now get back to showing what we stand *for*, not what – or who – some wish us to stand against. The Party has made its decision. Barely one in five Party members supported the ideology which would have dragged this Party into the gutter. I am glad that this is the case.
There is a huge amount of work ahead for our new Leader. He will be given a window of opportunity by the media, because his election was unanticipated by them, in which to define his position.
He now has a huge challenge, and I’ll limit my comments for space reasons to just five of the biggest ones:
1. To persuade the many good UKIP members who left the Party over the last year to return.
2. To prove that UKIP is relevant to people across the country. That means that we need to start talking about the issues which people raise with us on the doorstep, not the other way way around: not just Brexit, but jobs, the economy, health, education, crime, housing, and everything that people care about which affects their everyday lives.
3. To put together a ‘top team’ which is able to appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate, a team with the talent, ability and drive to make a difference.
4. To organise and professionalise the Party. This means that we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, as we have already done many times in just the past few days. It means that we need to take firm action, kicking out of the Party those who deserve to be kicked out. It also means that we need to become a credible and effective fighting force at elections once again.
5. To motivate our activists to get out and campaign. The lifeblood of any political party is its activists, and in UKIP perhaps even more so than most because we cannot rely upon a tradition of a century of past successes, of laurels to rest on. We need to enthuse our people with a drive and determination to go out there, work hard, and to succeed.
I have not agreed with everything which Henry Bolton said during the election campaign, but there are many things which I could support.
He has vast leadership experience, but this is not political in nature and it will be an incredibly difficult and steep learning curve for him to transfer these skills to the leadership of a political party.
This Party has been given another chance, one final opportunity to bounce back from the mistakes that have been made over recent times.
I truly hope that Henry Bolton will prove himself to be equal to this task. Please, Henry, deliver a party which I can once again feel that absolute sense of pride in representing. It’s felt so distant of late; please give us a future.