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From UKIP to the Libertarian Party: A Journey

James Goad Chairman, Worcestershire Branch


I let my UKIP membership lapse last year and joined the Libertarian Party straight away. I felt happy to do so and relieved to boot. I had been a Kipper for six years.

Bit of background – in early middle-age I’d become truly engaged with politics. It was post-financial crisis and onset of the Euro crisis. The coalition government were making tiny, insignificant adjustments to the state budget and being excoriated for it in the media. Intellectual titans like Will Hutton were semi-permanent fixtures on Newsnight, talking of spending our way out of the mess we were in and the need for Greek ‘haircuts’. To counter-balance the madness, and from out of the blue, came Martin Durkin’s ‘Trillion Pound Horror Story’. A simple explanation of government spending and a televisual primer for small government and laissez faire. It inspired me to pick up Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and dig into libertarian philosophy. In the wake of this enlightenment, I felt determined to contribute to putting an end to the Big Government gravy train. I looked for an electable hook to hang my hat.

I let my UKIP membership lapse last year and joined the Libertarian Party straight away. I felt happy to do so and relieved to boot. I had been a Kipper for six years.

I signed up with UKIP on the back of their 2010 General Election manifesto which, whilst eccentric, boiled down to a classical liberal model of government. Aside from the principal policy for exiting the European Union, the proposed small-government model comprised, in summary; radical tax-simplification including a flat tax, devolution of much central government power to county level, ditching employer’s national insurance, ditching regulation, reducing the public sector, denationalising universities and further education and re-structuring the NHS in a more free-market direction. Whilst not a libertarian manifesto as a whole, there was a lot in there for a libertarian to like. Aside from the manifesto, the clips from YouTube of Nigel Farage and Godfrey Bloom openly insulting the EU Commission and fellow MEPs in the EU ‘Parliament’ was quite excellent. I signed up and embarked on a journey that saw me develop into a political activist and candidate in seven elections; six local, one General.

Put behind you for one moment the self-parody that UKIP have become in the last couple of years – the revolving door of leaders and libidinous ex-Lib Dems dumping their wives by text message at Christmas. This was a surging, energetic movement filled with quiet revolutionaries. It was the birth of a citizen’s revolt. My joining coincided with that growth. Though a lowly result, the local elections in 2012 showed a small growth in support. From that point the Kippers went on to an electoral high in 2014. Off the back of the vote which saw them come first in the European Parliament elections that year, our local branch came second in eight of the 11 wards we contested in Worcester that year. I fell just 41 votes short of winning a city council seat. It was one high after the other.

In the wake of that success that things changed fast, and in my opinion for the worst. Political expediency took precedence. Godfrey Bloom, the leading libertarian in the party, was kicked out for ostensibly annoying Farage. The chairmanship became a position from where top-down diktats enforced politically-correct behaviour. Grassroots involvement in the party’s direction were watered down or cut off. If it was outside the Overton Window, you were history. Prospective candidates for the 2015 General Election were heavily-vetted and discarded if they even so much as touched on a truly controversial issue or liked the ‘wrong’ post on Facebook. Nigel Farage even described the 2010 manifesto, on the back of which I had signed up, as “total crap”. Thanks Nigel.

The party’s urge for respectability, perhaps grounded in an understandable dislike for being bombarded with media ordure, became part of its undoing. They started pandering to the political and media establishment and stopped being radical. Even Farage moderated his tone. No more lambasting grey, faceless Eurocrats as being “damp rags” and “low-grade bank clerks”. The journey to the sticky centre had begun.

The Kipper’s rhetoric on immigration could have been better, too. As Bulgaria and Romania approached the end of their EU transition periods in 2013, their citizens became eligible for EU-wide labour. UKIP were opposed to mass immigration, not individual migrants. It was sometimes easy to forget that with the way many voices in the party couched its opposition and singled-out citizens from these two countries. It was sometimes ‘shock and awful’.

UKIP was, and still is, a broad church. Many of the original members were Labourites, and from the Noughties through until the European elections in 2014 it drew support from across the party-political spectrum. Its present leader (will he be gone by the time you read this) was a Liberal Democrat General Election candidate in 2005. Many voters hitherto unaligned also lent the party their votes. The only glue holding them all together was a belief in leaving the EU, the issue of open borders and perhaps disdain of the modern political class and group-think political consensus. These were the unifying themes. There were those who argued their case for this policy or that, with others criticising them for being “not what UKIP is all about”. Well, what was UKIP all about? By this time it seemed totally subjective to me, beyond the central themes mentioned.

In the wake of the 2014 success it was clear the 2010 manifesto and its libertarian underpinnings were not what UKIP was all about. Far from it. David Coburn, the extrovert MEP from Scotland still says UKIP “are a libertarian party”. Nonsense. Furthermore, there was little support in the party from its newer members for the more libertarian policies. In short order came the 2015 General Election and the centrist UKIP manifesto. One that, as a GE candidate, I was duty-bound to defend. It seemed designed to avoid any controversy whatsoever. Now, that’s not what UKIP was all about. By this time, the significance of our EU membership was the factor that overrode all others to my reasoning. I tolerated the soft-soap centrist policies on the NHS et al as long as the party focussed on its core purpose; forcing an EU referendum.

The Libertarian Party is the party that I wish to be a part of and contest local and national elections with in the future. It’s the only real alternative to the mess we’re in…

It worked. UKIP’s role in the events of 2016 can never be under-estimated. I stayed a Kipper, because seeing the referendum home was the next big thing. The disappointing 2016 local election results told a story though. In retrospect, I wish I’d binned the membership then. It was a joy being part of the following Vote Leave team, the pop-up party which did a sound job in delivering the historic referendum result, despite many Kippers sticking the knife in it.

Nigel departed after the referendum. Who can blame him. I’d heard stories about the mangler he’d put himself through with his health issues and couldn’t begrudge him pulling out. I wanted to stick it out, waiting for UKIP to turn the corner and re-discover its radical edge and keep piling the pressure on the Tories to deliver a clean Brexit. It never happened. The farcical leadership contests exposed the lack of talent at the top. The 2017 manifesto was the dampest of damp squibs. I often have trouble sleeping, and that document really helped me when I needed to get my head down. Having renewed my immersion in all things Austrian and Friedmanite, I finally pulled the plug on the Kipper-stuff. I’ve not looked back, with the exception of this article. My only regret is not doing it a year or so earlier. To now be a part of a party that really believes that government is the problem, not the solution, is refreshing. The people I’ve met in my short time with the party are an amazingly clever and diverse crowd. The company is stimulating to say the least, and my progression to a more informed and committed libertarian is underway.

The Libertarian Party is the party that I wish to be a part of and contest local and national elections with in the future. It’s the only real alternative to the mess we’re in – the boggy morass which the political class of this country have led us into. By standing in elections we can use the candidacies as platforms to can plant seeds in people’s minds. These will take root and flourish as the current political, financial and welfare systems continue their slow-motion collapse. It might seem a tall order now, but the Libertarian Party can be the future of this country. Just as people would have laughed 10 years ago if someone had predicted a UKIP win in a national election, the Libertarian Party can confound expectations as the populace is red-pilled into reality. The Libertarian party are that medicine.

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