UKIP's changing road to Doncaster


When I turned up to report on my first UK Independence Party annual conference I was handed a biro, a piece of card and told to write out my own ID badge.

I even had to recycle a clear plastic wallet and safety pin still in my pocket from the previous week's TUC Conference.

The venue, a relatively small conference hall off a back street in Bristol, had been a bit difficult to find but following a line of late middle aged men in blazers looking like they were heading down to the pub for a Sunday lunchtime pint did the trick.

Len Tingle's Handwritten ID Badge at 2004 UKIP Conference Do-it-yourself name tag at 2004 UKIP Conference

What a difference a decade has made.

Digital Doncaster

Instead of leaving a box of blank ID cards by the door on the off chance of any media turning up, I have had to log on to a website and complete an online application form for this year's conference to be held at Doncaster Racecourse in September.

Confidence that reporters and camera crews will be queuing up for seats is clearly running high as there is a warning that failure to apply at least a month in advance will incur a £500 penalty.

Though I suspect it was more oversight than expectation that the default country in the electronic application address box popped up as Afghanistan.

There are likely to be other signs of change when UKIP rolls into Doncaster .

It was an emerging difference pointed out to me by the former Yorkshire and the Humber MEP Godfrey Bloom in a car park next to the conference centre in Southport where the party held its annual gathering a couple of years ago.

"It used to be Skodas and ten year old Fords with the UKIP stickers in the windscreen," he proudly told me. "It's Beemers, Mercs and Jags now. We are attracting a much wider range of support".

Not amused

Unfortunately, for the outspoken Bloom, that drive to widen the appeal of the party led to his undoing.

From his breakthrough as UKIP's first elected politician in Yorkshire at the 2004 European polls the jovial former city gent and territorial army officer used his talent for quick-witted humour to push back the rise of what he considered pointless political correctness adopted by the mainstream political parties.

Even last year he claimed UKIP supporters listening to his speeches found it funny when he "jokingly" used terms like "sluts" and "Bongo Bongo land" to illustrate his points.

Party managers were not so amused.

The backlash to what was widely interpreted as casual racism and sexism completely overshadowed what was meant to be a triumphant 20th anniversary conference deliberately held at a venue within a stones throw of their next target - the House of Commons.

A line from party leader Nigel Farage's speech to the conference showed just how much the party had changed.

"The trouble with Godfrey is that he is not a racist, he's not an extremist or any of those things, and he's not even anti-women, but he has a sort of rather old fashioned Territorial Army sense of humour, which does not translate very well in modern Britain"

Despite being a long time friend, Bloom was dumped as a candidate for the upcoming European elections.

So, far more than my ID badge will have changed by the time UKIP arrives in Doncaster.

Len Tingle Article written by Len Tingle Len Tingle Political editor, Yorkshire

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    You can't tell much from a the results for a single local seat Ukip lost two in July for example but polled 15% of the overall vote cast in July. Labour won 5 and the Lib Dems 2 and Tories lost 7.The Kippers put up.34 candidates just slightly less than Labour..

    Of course the biased BBC should have reported UKIP's losses lasst month, don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Lies,lies and more lies is all we get from the Conservatives,Labour and Libdems.
    Is it really any wonder that so many people who are still interested in politics are turning to UKIP.
    If only those who oppose UKIP would take the trouble of reading the facts about them instead of listening to the lies and half truths they would see why people like me are turning to UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Well journo, that's the only recycling I've heard ukip favour. From their local manifesto:

    "Drop the EU Landfill Directive to cut refuse disposal costs"

    They said earlier that meant the costs of recycling. So much for "protecting the green belt".

    Welcome to drongo-drongo land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    At the time of the euros, the low turn out was pointed to by the libdems as an indication of the lack of electoral credibility of UKIP wins.
    Fine, but you can only get the votes of those that can be bothered
    And the libdems managed to attract even less support. About 2% of the electorate I seem to recall.
    Sour grapes from the electorally insignificant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    What a marvellous and informative report this is.
    Is it the ability to detect the subtle nuances of the political scene and then so precisely and economically encapsulate them whilst skilfully omitting any relevant content that makes Len Tingles (Political editor, Yorkshire) a complete waste of space?


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