One of the things I was most pleased with during my tenure as UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s advisor at the last general election was a simple but effective poster I devised.
The party’s initially appointed campaign leaders had come up short on what they wanted UKIP’s campaign to look like. One of the party’s MPs was obsessed with Syriza-style social justice imagery. So Nigel himself intimated that a group of us, away from prying eyes, should assume control of the messaging.
We ditched the “MPs Pay Rises” poster. We ditched the “Unreal” slogan that had wormed its way in as a theme, opting instead for hard-hitting, tried and tested ways of getting the public’s attention. No, it wasn’t “shock and awful” as one journalist – aided by a pro-immigration campaigner who still hasn’t stripped and run naked down Whitehall – falsely attributed to me. It was hard-hitting facts.
I remember sitting in my office with a Chinese takeaway (cue cries of “irony!” from the Left), when I bounded up and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!”
The room of three others looked on in hope.
“What was the best European election campaign poster?” I asked.
“The escalator, obviously.” They all seemed to reply in tandem. They were right.
“Well, immigration is THREE TIMES what the Tories promised in 2010.”
“So… three escalators.”
There were cheers. I remember Nigel slapping his hand on the desk when we presented it to him and saying, “Brilliant. I love it.” One of the smaller mock ups of the poster still adorns my bedroom wall. And yes I know it was derivative, but with that one I was standing on the shoulders of giants. And seriously, you should have seen the other crap we very nearly put out.
The point is, we the voting public have known the Conservative Party is now incompetent on immigration for over half a decade. I’ll forgive the fact that we re-elected them. Because let’s face it: Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon.
But what I won’t ever truly grasp is why most people couldn’t see why it was so important that there are UKIP voices in the House of Commons. No, I don’t mean one, Gladstonian Liberal. I mean real UKIP voices like Tim Aker, Jamie Huntman, or Nigel Farage.
A lot of people lobbed grenades at Nigel’s “inner team” after the election, but the truth was simple: we were outgunned, outspent, and didn’t have the institutional experience that other parties had. We lost “fair and square” in the sense that we fought fair and square and the other parties and the political and media establishment rounded on us in a way that we couldn’t even fully comprehend at the time.
But alas – no amount of blame shifts a level of responsibility away from the electorate. And I keep asking myself… if there were just four of five prominent UKIP MPs right now, would we be having to wait so long for a coherent response to the Calais migrant crisis from this government?
Theresa May is set to meet her French counterpart this week to thrash out a “deal” on how to solve the Calais invasion. But it is nearly September. The air is becoming autumnal, and it will soon become harder and more perilous for the migrants to attempt to cross both the Mediterranean, and into Britain.
In a nutshell: the numbers may decrease naturally, and I bet you any kind of money that the British and French governments will hail whatever deal they come up with as the prime mover in this reduction. And we’ll go through this whole thing again as soon as winter comes to an end next year.
Once upon a time, even Conservative Party backbenchers would have been up in arms about a crisis of this magnitude, and the Home Secretary’s utter bungling of it. Now, we have to rely on a few British voices emanating from the European Parliament, and a handful of marginalised, small-c conservative commentators.
Well Britain, I hate to say I warned you. But I did try…