UKIP had opened its doors to let fascists and neo-Nazis join the organisation, ditching a ban on former member of fascist groups that has been in place since the party’s earliest days. The move is part of a further rightwards shift by a party desperately trying to avoid collapse.
Membership rules before and after the recent change
UKIP has provision in its Rule Book which allows for former members of certain proscribed parties or organisations to be barred from membership. In the past, organisations specified under this rule included Britain First, the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front. Former party leader Nigel Farage frequently cited this ban as evidence that UKIP was not an extremist party.
However, at a meeting of the UKIP National Executive Committee on 15 April, this all changed. By an unanimous vote, the list of banned extreme right groups was removed completely, and replaced with a list of proscribed left-wing groups, including Antifa, Hope Not Hate, Left Unity, Extinction Rebellion and Stop The Oil (sic). (Hope Not hate was, in fact, already the subject of a ban voted through by the 2013 UKIP Conference).
UKIP has thus flung open its doors to fascist and neo-Nazis who, as long as they no longer actually belong to another extreme right organisation, are now free to join up.
The move is part of a long term rightwards shift by the former anti-EU party which foundered after the Brexit referendum. It was damaged by the departure of Nigel Farage in 2018, and the subsequent launch by him of the Brexit Party, now called Reform UK.
UKIP leader, Neil Hamilton, disgraced former Tory MP whose Parliamentary career ended when he was found to have taken cash for asking questions in the House of Commons
Farage left, he said, in protest at the appointment of Tommy Robinson as a UKIP adviser on “rape gangs” by former party leader Gerard Batten and support for the appointment from the UKIP NEC. Batten also allowed notorious conspiracy theorists to join. In 2021, the current UKIP Leader Neil Hamilton and Chairman Ben Walker attended the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)’s conference on Family Policy in Dresden.
But the party is in crisis and needs to find numbers somewhere: membership which four years ago stood at around 30,000 has now collapsed to under 4,000. In the recent local elections, it lost all its remaining local council seats.
Ann Marie Waters: Welcomed back into the fold and instantly appointed Justice Spokesperson and candidate for Hartlepool
Faced with such rapid decline, it is stepping up its courting of other right-wing parties. Three days after the April Rule Book change Anne Marie Waters, the founder and leader of For Britain, rejoined UKIP which she left in 2017 and was immediately appointed the party’s Justice Spokesperson.
Now UKIP’s Deputy Leader, Rebecca Jane, has been tasked with uniting the political parties of the populist radical right in Britain, namely the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom (ADF), Heritage Party, The Reclaim Party, Reform UK and the National Housing Party United Kingdom (NHPUK). Overtures have already been made to Lawrence Fox’s Reclaim party which now has an MP in the form of anti-vax ex-Tory, Andrew Bridgen.
How many of these will be tempted by UKIP’s advances remains to be seen, but one thing will certainly attract them and provides UKIP itself with a compelling reason to remain in existence in some form – there are a large number of significant legacies pledged to the party in the wills of elderly, right wing supporters which have yet to be harvested and will certainly catch the eye of groups it is wooing. Groups it does not formally approach may simply be tempted to join up en masse and try to take it over.