UKIP announce new ‘Shadow cabinet’ – should have gone to IKEA?

As regular visitors to this blog will know, I resigned from UKIP a couple of months ago after becoming despondent at the shambolic way it was being run by certain people in positions of influence.

However, I still have many good friends in the party and believe in the core messages of its constitution and basic principles.

Henry Bolton deserves for those remaining to give him a chance but I can’t say I have been bowled over by his media appearances so far – I also realise that in the post Farage era that the party needs a decent team around the leader to make a solid impact. With this in mind I was very interested in the announcement scheduled for today of the new ‘shadow cabinet’ where he had a chance to stamp his own personality on to the leadership – however, I have to say it is more deckchairs on the Titanic than Nelson advancing on Trafalgar.

Below are my opinions on the appointments from my inside knowledge of those within the halls of power at UKIP –

 

Deputy Leader/Aid & International Development – Margot Parker MEP

I have to say that is not a bad decision. ‘Dame’ Margot (As she is affectionately known by some of the membership)  is forthright, honest and street smart. Henry could also raise some much needed funds for the party by having a swearbox at any event where she is chairing it! (Only kidding Margot)

Carries a bigger handbag than Maggie.

Assistant Deputy Leader – Jim Carver MEP

Midlands MEP whose main claim to fame is being only the second ever elected British politician to visit British Somaliland on an official engagement. Nice enough chap but not a great media presence and is known to have a wandering attention span and penchant for interrupting at meetings with irrelevant questions.

Assistant Deputy Leader/Fisheries/Veterans – Mike Hookem MEP

Mike ‘Left Hookem’ is a blunt Yorkshireman with a short temper, infamous for the Brussels ‘punch up’ with Steven Woolfe MEP.

He keeps his fisheries portfolio (Which was originally given to him as a way of boosting profile in Grimsby where he was going to stand for Parliament, a poor decision by Paul Nuttall considering the great job Ray Finch MEP had done on it previously)

The Veterans portfolio is by dint of his former service in the Army.

If Bolton wants a peacemaker or inspirational figure, not the man for the job although Mike is a decent enough sort when you chat with him one on one.

Interim Chairman – Paul Oakden

Major blunder. Oakden has been Chairman since Steve Crowther stood down and has done precisely nothing apart from avoid phone calls, avoid decisions and take a fat salary for doing not a lot. According to The Guardian is currently suspended from his EU Parliament job as assistant to an MEP due to ‘irregularities’.

Oakden is great fun to have a drink with and has a quick wit but the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘fireguard’ come to mind with regards to management ability, especially in such a key role.

Despite being a decent enough public speaker, a total liability.

Political Advisor/Treasury spokesman  – Jonathan Arnott MEP

Another poor appointment. Despite having a high IQ and allegedly being both a maths and chess genius, Arnott has the presentation skills and charisma of a dead Cod.

As North East MEP he has had a region that should be fertile ground under his purview and done nothing with it. Works in the shadows and should have stayed there

Leader of UKIP in Wales – Neil Hamilton AM

What can you say? Wales was built through the hard graft of Nathan Gill MEP and his team, once they got 7 AM’s in to the Welsh Assembly the genial Hamilton was up to his old tricks and sewing division to get the top job, shafting Gill and those who crafted the success. Wales has been fractured ever since. Again, lovely guy in social company but a total liability and carries too much baggage.

Leader of UKIP in Scotland – David Coburn MEP

Great guy, tremendous sense of humour and good company – but extremely gaff prone and very ‘marmite’. We saw in London when he was LRC Chairman that he was great fun but couldn’t organise and sometimes let his ego get the better of him – Scotland is a mess and he has been the leader up there since 2014. Could have been better utilised elsewhere

Spokesman for UKIP in London – Peter Whittle AM

Intelligent, highly cultured and a sure footed media performer. Bit of a step down for a man unfairly vilified for the problems under the Nuttall leadership. Will do a good job but deserves better

MEP Delegation leader/Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs – Ray Finch MEP

The popular Scouser will do a good job – when fisheries spokesman he was second to none in the post.

Wrote the housing manifesto for the 2017 election which was absolutely superb but got no promotion by the upper echelons – should have kept that portfolio which surprisingly was not announced today despite being a top concern for the electorate.

Home affairs/Police & Fire – Jane Collins MEP

Keeps her previous post – didn’t do a lot in it and looked out of her depth compared to her eminently more qualified predecessor, Gerard Batten.

Feisty, opinionated and passionate but ultimately not of the calibre to take on a highly important portfolio – has made mistakes before that have cost her dearly when not choosing her words carefully. Didn’t endear herself during the leadership debates by arguing with the audience at the official London hustings

Justice – Peter Jewell

Former party treasurer, uninspiring and was involved in the promotion of an alleged pyramid scheme to branches against the instructions of the NEC.

Immigration & Integration – John Bickley

Another who is great company in the pub who keeps his post, suffers in comparison with his far more eloquent and informed predecessor Steven Woolfe MEP.

Immigration is a key post for UKIP but Bickley does not inspire confidence and interviews poorly. An open goal missed

Cyber & terrorism – Richard Bingley

A new post and a new face. Bingley is a security expert so on paper this looks good – however, he has not been in the party long and I had never seen him before the Thurrock campaign in 2017 and then his appearance on Peter Whittle’s campaign team in the leadership election. Former Labour man who speaks well. The jury is out on this one but could be a pleasant surprise.

Business – Christopher Mills

A major party donor and self made businessman. Don’t know him well enough to comment but keeps his position

Small Business – Ernie Warrender

Not had personal interaction apart from on my Facebook friends list. Hails from the South West and do not hear good things from my contacts down there.

Trade & Industry – William Dartmouth MEP

Another who keeps his portfolio, the Earl launched a series of very useful publications before the Referendum on business post BREXIT. Not a good public speaker and allegedly is prone to fits of temper according to those who know him better than I

Employment – Andrew Charalambous

A former housing spokesman and byelection candidate, Andrew owns an eco friendly night club in London. Quiet and unassuming, jokingly referred to as ‘Dr Evil’ in an affectionate way by some of the members due to his personal appearance. Always been a perfect gentleman and host when I have met him, this could be an interesting choice.

Transport & Infrastructure – Jill Seymour MEP

Deservedly keeps her position, Jill has been a dedicated campaigner against HS2 and is highly knowledgeable on the road transport industry. Likeable and approachable, Jill is also one of the better listeners when the grass roots bring an issue to her.

Energy – Jonathan Bullock MEP

Having taken over the MEP seat from recently retired Roger Helmer, he now takes over his portfolio. Big shoes to fill, may need to keep Roger on the speed dial

Agriculture – Stuart Agnew MEP

Another portfolio holder retained, Aggers is a Norfolk farmer who knows the brief inside out. A no brainer for this important post.

Environment/ Health – Dr Julia Reid MEP

Likeable but very quiet, Julia is not a great media performer and may be overawed by the post, especially when confronting militant ‘green’ activists in the environment brief.

NHS is a key battleground area that UKIP have been badly misrepresented over, needed somebody with more presence.

Defence – Henry Bolton

With his background the leader should do a decent job – but surely a Party Leader should not have a cabinet brief as well? Suggests a lack of trust in colleagues if he can’t or won’t give this to somebody else. On the plus side, must be a kick to the ego of Ben Walker who has been not so subtle on social media lobbying for this post.

Culture & Arts – David Meacock

Likeable enough but has never been above local activist level. A talented musician, replacing Peter Whittle in this role is like replacing Lionel Messi with Robbie Savage.

Communities & Local Government – Tim Aker MEP

The best man for the job, Tim knows local politics inside out and has turned his Thurrock branch in to the most effective on the ground campaign team in the UK. Full marks

Equalities & Disabilities – Cllr Star Anderton

Star has a wealth of knowledge in the area and has been a big help to us in Hillingdon on issues surrounding Work Capability Assessments and benefits withdrawal. Needs to work on her media presence though – if that is sorted then could be a secret weapon

Exiting the EU/BREXIT – Gerard Batten MEP

The obvious choice – knowledgeable, media savvy and forthright, Gerard will scare the living daylights out of those wanting a ‘soft’ BREXIT

Electoral Reform – David Allen

A former leadership contender, if you want to bore somebody off of the idea of shaking up the system then David is the man to do it. The best cure for insomnia I have ever seen.

Sport – Bill Etheridge MEP

Bit of a strange portfolio for ‘Big Bill’, as a Wolves fan he probably doesn’t get to see much real sport! Could probably have been used in a more senior position, especially when you see far less established people in areas where they will be subjected to scrutiny without the same level of experience.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

Positives – Gerard Batten, Ray Finch and Tim Aker. Also the omission of Suzanne Evans, Steve Crowther, Lisa Duffy, Peter Reeve and Patrick O’Flynn from positions , let’s hope it stays that way (All decent enough on a personal level but with a track record of either failure or division in previous posts)

Negatives – Housing and education are both huge roles, why were they not filled as a priority? Supposedly, the new leader wanted time to get his team right but surely these vital posts that are high on the public list of concerns should have been addressed promptly?

Why also is there no position for David Kurten AM, a hugely talented and popular figure who is always reliable in media interviews? Hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised and he will get one of the aforementioned missing portfolios in the coming days. Likewise with Nathan Gill MEP.

Keeping Paul Oakden on is a massive error – UKIP is in disarray at present and needs a dynamic organiser who can revitalise the branches and inject the enthusiasm back. Thankfully, the rumours I heard of a certain London Chairman lobbying for the position came to naught but for UKIP to succeed then a replacement must be found and quickly.

Personally, I would approach somebody with a business brain to get this done who would brook no nonsense – maybe a quiet word with Arron Banks would be in order?

 

Time will tell if this new ‘shadow cabinet’ will work, but I can’t say I am enthusiastic about major parts of it.

The Country needs a strong UKIP to make sure that BREXIT is delivered properly and then our own constitutional and democratic deficiencies are dealt with afterwards by being a viable threat at the ballot box – I fear that this is the last chance saloon.

 

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