Ben Walker has announced his campaign to be the next Leader of UKIP on a platform emphasising the grassroots of the party. #GoGrassroots is a call back to basics, where UKIP would focus on rebuilding, supporting local branches, and electing councillors.
On the 8th of June, I spoke to Mr Walker regarding his campaign and his plan for the future of the party.
Walker was in the Royal Navy and served a tour in the Middle East. I asked him whether or not any of Britain’s foreign interventions over the past two decades had been in the national interest.
He responded by saying “No, in fact, none of them has. Even with Afghanistan, the reasons for going in were not the reasons we were told.”
UKIP needs to make it clear that it opposes the foreign interventions which the major parties have continuously supported. With the exception of a few MPs, such as John Baron, hardly any have been consistent in their opposition to Britain’s adventurism abroad.
Walker continued by saying that he wants to “bin Capita, support the Military Covenant, and increase funding.” These are common sense proposals and should resonate with veterans.
One could hardly discuss the military and security without addressing radical Islamism. Anjem Choudary was released from prison in 2018 after serving only half of his sentence. Mr Choudary admitted to encouraging British Muslims to fight for the Islamic State.
None of the Tory leadership candidates has properly addressed radical Islamism. Walker wants “prison to be harsh” for criminals, and cited Choudary as an example of what is wrong with the British legal system when he said, “Choudary should not be given twenty-four-hour protection by the police.”
Terrorists and their supporters should never have any protection from the authorities. Moreover, these fanatics should not be granted early release from prison.
While Mr Walker has addressed radical Islamism, we have heard absolutely nothing from The Brexit Party or the Tories on their plans to deal with these terrorists. Perhaps this is because many of their candidates are more concerned with placating to certain demographics than addressing threats to the general public.
When it comes to recent elections, UKIP had some key areas of success in the locals this year. Derby, Hartlepool, Sunderland, and Tendring are authorities where UKIP candidates were taking more than 40% of the vote in some wards.
Yet on a national level, UKIP has had a history of failing to properly target seats in local elections. If elected Leader of UKIP, Walker said that he would “absolutely target these areas”, and that “the North West, in particular, is an area where we are strong.”
Walker has served as both a local councillor and a mayor in Gloucestershire. However, he is not currently an elected official. He said that not holding elected office is not a concern of his. Walker elaborated by saying he will “continue to fight elections in his local area” and that he will not parachute himself into a constituency in another part of Britain.
In London, UKIP members were denied a democratic vote on the UKIP list for the 2016 elections to the London Assembly. I asked Walker whether or not he would address this in his campaign, and commit to a democratic vote on the placement of the candidates for the 2020 Assembly elections. Walker said that he would “absolutely allow members to choose their own candidates.” He also said that under no circumstance would he be parachuting anyone in from other regions.
This is refreshing to hear from a leading contender to take over UKIP, given that the party has had a history of parachuting in candidates, and denying members a say on who candidates are for assembly elections in London.
Nigel Farage, Paul Oakden, and Steve Crowther did not give the UKIP membership any say on the UKIP list for the 2016 London elections.
According to the UKIP Constitution, the Leader of UKIP is not provided with a salary. While this may hinder members from seeking the leadership, Walker says he would not require a salary from the party, and that “we probably do not have the funds to pay one anyways.” This confirms he comprehends the state of affairs that UKIP is in financially.
Now while UKIP suffered as a result of internal splits, conservative nationalist parties in Europe have continued to grow rapidly. Many of these parties are led by successful women.
UKIP has struggled immensely among female voters, and in the EU elections only managed to field seven female candidates for the 73 British seats to the European Parliament. Some people may dare to even say that the party has been misogynistic in the not so distant past.
Walker told me that he wants to improve UKIP’s appeal among women, and would promote females within the party based on merit. In particular, Walker mentioned Elizabeth Jones, as someone who is an asset to the party. Ms Jones serves alongside Mr Walker on the UKIP National Executive Committee. She is also the Chairwoman of UKIP Lambeth.
Walker has committed to staying on for a full four-year term if elected, and said that he will “stay as long as the members want me”. UKIP’s credibility has been shattered by leaders with brief tenures.
We have witnessed surreal incompetence at the top of UKIP from MEPs and former leaders since the referendum. UKIP would need a competent leader who could stay on for a full term to have a chance of becoming viable once more.
Whether Walker is victorious in the leadership election remains to be seen. What we do know is that The Brexit Party voters will need somewhere to go once Farage’s fiefdom proves to be a disappointment at the polls. UKIP will also perform horribly in a snap general election.
UKIP will need skilled leadership if it expects to be a political party worth even discussing once The Brexit Party is gone.
Ben Walker may be able to bring UKIP back from the ashes.
Time will tell.
Mr Walker’s manifesto for his leadership bid can be found at