There's an interesting debate going on in this post over at Witterings from Witney. The main thrust of David's post and that of other bloggers is that whilst UKIP are making a big thing of their achievement in the Rotherham by-election there's a big question of whether it is anything like the crowning achievement it's being painted as. As both WfW and EUReferendum observe, UKIP have effectively (to use a football parallel) missed a sitter in front of an open goal. Officially they've come second in the race but if we include what Helen over at Your Freedom and Ours calls the sod off party, they came third.
I'm inclined to agree with their analysis if you take a cold hard look at it. They were handed virtually every advantage they're going to get in a bid for a seat. An election forced by an MP standing down in disgrace, their biggest threats about as popular as a fart in a space suit and some timely publicity that put UKIP on the front page of most national newspapers. Any political strategist worth his salt would probably have been considered this the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Furthermore given what we subsequently learned was another paltry turnout all of those advantages should have been magnified and as such more people should be asking the questions of UKIP than just Witterings from Witney, EUReferendum and other bloggers. The mainstream media should ask why they keep coming up short.
I don't plan on dwelling on it, but in short it should have been better and if they genuinely have ambition (either with or without Farage) someone needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The political landscape right now is about as fertile as Kansas for making headway from an organised UKIP. What's more although there are agendas progressing such as the Harrogate Agenda (HA), there is a need for a new force such as UKIP in the political arena even if it's just to show the electorate that something has changed and that the other three donkeys in the derby should be on notice. It needs something of that nature just to get the people of Britain looking around at options such as HA and giving them serious thought as to what's wrong with what we have now and what should be done about it
As the comments reveal however in WfW's post, the organisation both local and national is is the nub of the problem and it would seem David speaks from personal experience of having tried to help UKIP locally. Following on from that comment I took another look at UKIPs site and went to the local section.
When I got there I found three things. A name of the chairman, a phone number and an email address. Nothing more. It would also seem by googling the name, the chairman is also the candidate for the seat.
I almost don't know where to begin with this one. Not only does the available information suggest a one man band, there's just no suggestion anything is going on that points to organisation. There's nothing to suggest UKIP are active in my constituency let alone gaining any traction. It's a schoolboy error to not be getting your grassroots going and raising its profile, especially for UKIP. The common view is UKIP is a home for disgruntled Tories. If that we true, wouldn't you be making more of your local activity at a time when call me Dave appears hell bent on disgruntling his local Conservative parties? It would be like a siren call to them tempting them to jump ship.
They should have had a plan, especially with Rotherham. If they genuinely expected to make ground in Rotherham they should have had local groups across the nation on standby to start signing up newly interested people and their website should have been shouting that from the rooftops. Voting is a funny thing, in that many people will only start voting for a group when it looks like it's going places. They didn't make the most of it and they should have. It's not just my local group. I clicked on several other groups across the country and saw just as little from each of them.
The other schoolboy error is their social media strategy. I'm sure it's an effort to woo the younger UKIPer, which they probably see as vital if they want to lose their golf club image and increase their profile as having something for all age groups. Part of that I would presume is the bit on their homepage pointing towards Facebook and Twitter. I decided to click on the facebook logo to go to the UKIP page and see how switched on they were there.
It doesn't take you to the UKIP Facebook page. It takes you to what I presume to be Nigel Farage's personal facebook page. If you're like me who hears the constant rumour that the problem with UKIP is it's all about Nigel, this would only seem to underline such a rumour. If I were just another ordinary Joe I probably wouldn't go any further. When the button says "Do You Know Nigel - ask him to be your friend" - the reality for many is that this is a big stop button. You don't know Nigel. He isn't your friend in the old school mate sense, so you walk away. Added to which what I saw didn't look up to date.
At the very least that Facebook icon should have gone to a UKIP page. Even better UKIP should be developing a page for each constituency.
Local is where the future is at. There should be an edict coming of of UKIP HQ for every constituency to build a local presence. They need to gather volunteers, build a profile and start telling stories and getting involved. They need to tell a better story than the press are telling about them. If they don't start now they'll find themselves nowhere at the next General Election. If they do it right though, they could take some very large political scalps given the level of apathy in returning some of these folk to Westminster. You can't be 21 days away from an election and then decide to come out of the gates. It's no good. You need to have a plan to start now. The goal will never be as wide open as it is now