I HAVE had lots of messages in recent days urging me to stand for UKIP leader should the position become vacant again in the near future.
I just wanted to explain to party members why I will not be standing should there be a contest soon or indeed at any point in the future. I am very proud of the work we have done in UKIP on getting our country to the verge of leaving the EU, which is the great patriotic cause that brought me into politics from journalism. This simply could not have been achieved without us acting as the primary catalyst for change.
But outside the overarching issue of Brexit, there are too many other issues where the stance I take is at odds with most senior colleagues for me to lead the party successfully.
For example, on economics I simply do not agree with the oft-stated claim that there “hasn’t been any austerity” and I fully support political arguments for much tougher clampdowns on aggressive tax avoidance, whether by multinational corporations or by very wealthy individuals. This led me as recently as December to vote against a UKIP amendment in the European Parliament which sought to argue that tax havens were a good thing. I am totally against any idea of moving away from progressive taxation towards a “flat tax” as is suggested by many of the more enthusiastic libertarians in the party. This would in my view lead to a wholly unjustifiable tax cut for the rich and service cut for everyone else.
I am also strongly opposed to those who wish to privatise the National Health Service, believing it to be the jewel in the crown of our welfare state and one of the benchmarks of civilised life. The idea that private insurance – which often cannot even pay out for flood damage in a timely manner – could be entrusted with healthcare is for me a non-starter.
I am no fan of Donald Trump either and hope a more considered political leader emerges in the US in time for the next presidential election.
On the issue of climate change, I am against arguments which seek to deny categorically that global warming is happening or that human activity could be playing a significant role in it. I would rather focus on the proportionality, cost and effectiveness of UK Government actions in this area given the tiny proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions that take place in our country.
I might as well also admit at this juncture that I am even a regular watcher of Channel Four News (though its obsession with bogus identity politics often frustrates me) and regard Cathy Newman as a fine journalist, though by no means an infallible one. Her interviews seldom leave me wanting to take up the online equivalent of a green biro.
There are plenty of issues in which I am fully in line with UKIP majority sentiment – the need for drastic reductions in the volume of immigration, for big cuts in the foreign aid budget, for more investment in our Armed Forces, for new grammar schools in working class neighbourhoods and for a much tougher approach to law and order, to name but a few. I also do not disregard libertarian arguments altogether, viewing them as often providing a valuable intellectual framework when considering complex issues.
But I know there are too many significant differences with the influential strong libertarian contingent in the party for the idea of me becoming its leader to be remotely sensible. Instead, I propose simply carry on doing all that I can as a UKIP MEP to further advance the Brexit cause and to pursue the “common sense centrism” in which I believe without, so far as is humanly possible, making life difficult for whoever has the honour of leading the party at any given time.