EU Referendum Live-Blog: Results

Polling Station - Voter Apathy - Voter Disengagement - General Election 2015

EU Referendum Live Blog – Results

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

08:55

That feeling in the pit of your stomach right now? That’s nerves, now that the training wheels are soon going to come off British government, and the decisions which we make as a people will (for the first time since 1973) be the first and last word. Soon there will be no paternalistic, supranational European government to hold our hand and steer us right. If we want to live in a safe, stable and prosperous society then it will depend entirely on us being conscientious, informed and engaged citizens. If we make wise decisions, we will stand to reap great benefits. If we make poor decisions, we will face the undiluted consequences.

My sincere commiserations to those on the Remain side who fought this EU referendum from a place of deep principle and honour. I extend to you the magnanimity and friendship that (I hope) you would be extending to me right now had the result gone the way we all expected. It is incumbent on all of us now to work together to achieve the best possible form of Brexit. In this blog’s view, and that of The Leave Alliance, that means moving toward an interim EFTA/EEA position (the Norway Option) in order to maintain our current preferential access to the single market. This will mean many Brexiteers compromising on their absolutist stance on immigration – an olive branch which Remainers should accept.

This need not be Farage’s Britain. The whole point of Brexit is that we can build whatever kind of country we want, without external adjudication over our democracy. We should remain an open, tolerant society, as befits the greatest country in the world. Be not afraid.

This semi-partisan live blog is going to pause for a couple of hours while its author gets some rest, before resuming later. Many thanks for following along – please do stay tuned.

If you have enjoyed and found value in this blog’s general coverage of the EU referendum and last night’s live blog, please do consider supporting Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

More soon.

08:25

David Cameron announces his resignation

David Cameron is saying a lot of the right things in his resignation speech. It should indeed be up to the next prime minister to decide when to trigger Article 50.

08:18

I’m with Brendan O’Neill:

This is democracy in action, in all its messy, beautiful, order-upsetting glory. Behold the steadfastness of ordinary people, their willingness to act on their conviction even in the face of the threats and barbs of people with power. We hear a lot these days about how gullible the public is, how malleable are our putty-like minds, play-doh in the hands of demagogues. And yet yesterday, the people thought for themselves; they weighed things up and they decided to reject received wisdom and the Westminster / Washington / Brussels consensus. Such independence of spirit, such freedom of thought, is stirring.

07:34

Britain stuns the world – let freedom ring!

New York Times - Brexit - EU Referendum

07:28

Will somebody other than Nigel Farage please come out and make the open, liberal case for Brexit now? Cameron’s silence is becoming spiteful at this point. The more moderate faces of Brexit are patiently waiting to speak until Cameron concedes, allowing Nigel Farage a free run to become the sole face of Brexit and to claim all of the credit.

06:55

The leftist campaign group Momentum is engaged in some hasty repositioning in order to realign itself with a core Labour vote which proved to be a lot more “Brexity” than the middle class clerisy who now run the Labour Party.

This is the text of their response to the EU referendum result, sent to everyone on their mailing list:

Yesterday, the British people voted to leave the European Union. Momentum, which campaigned to remain in the EU to transform the EU, respects the decision taken by the electorate.

We recognise that people voted ‘Leave’ for many reasons. Much of this vote reflected anger in communities which have experienced many years of industrial decline with the subsequent loss of secure employment. Many such working class communities have been utterly neglected for years by those in power. Millions appear to have chosen ‘Leave’ to vote against the unfettered globalisation that has seen living standards stagnate or fall, as the cost of living rises. We share this scepticism of big business dominance, austerity and distant elites, be they British, European or Global, and share that demand for a country where working people have control.

Many ‘Leave’ voters usually vote for Labour or are working people Labour should represent. Now the Party and the whole labour movement needs to show the country that it alone can offer working people genuine control over their lives, workplaces and communities.

Labour must clearly demonstrate how it will improve lives through policies that will increase wages, tackle the housing crisis, and give people a greater say at work and in their communities.

If we do not, we will not only be failing to advance the policies that will benefit working people but also could enable the populist right, who blame immigrants, not the powerful for the problems in our country. Part of the Leave campaign empowered these racist, reactionary forces, who peddle hatred and offer false hope. We must redouble our efforts to stop migrant scapegoating, focus our attention on the needs and desires of the overwhelming majority, and offer a real programme of hope for our people.

Although we will leave the EU, our movement remains an internationalist one. We must continue to work with our friends, partners and allies across Europe in the shared struggle against austerity, to tackle climate change and to build a sustainable economy with full employment for all the peoples of Europe.

06:26

Waiting for David Cameron’s statement, and then this live blog might take a short break while I recharge my batteries!

06:23

This BBC correspondent reporting from Warsaw is awful. Catastrophising Brexit beyond all restraint, talking about Polish people being “unwelcome” in Britain for no reason, based on absolutely nothing but her own virtue-signalling hysteria – showing the bias of the BBC at its most awful and blatant

05:26

Caroline Lucas on the BBC now, doing what all other prominent lefties seem to be doing – suggesting that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is about anything and everything other than a judgement on the European Union.

I appreciate the crushing disappointment, I really do. But this utter condescension toward the British people, assuming that they were essentially tricked and that Remainers were inherently intellectually superior, is appalling. And to the extent that Remainers refuse to accept the validity of the peoples’ judgement on the EU, they richly deserve their defeat.

05:23

Dr. Richard North, who has done so much for the Brexit movement (particularly the unsung intellectual heavy lifting), is elated as he signs off for a few hours of well deserved rest:

We’re on 15.2m to 14.2m  for the remains … we’re more than a million ahead, going up. Congratulations everybody … the team. You did us all proud. We did it.

05:16

This is the kind of magnanimity in unexpected victory which the Leave side must now show in abundance:

04:45

It is accomplished!

Both Sky News and the BBC project that the Leave campaign has won – that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, reasserting our status as an independent nation rather than the vassal of the EU’s supranational government.

This is astonishing, overwhelming. The deep wisdom of the British people has spoken, looking past the petty and increasingly desperate scaremongering (even bullying) of the Remain campaign

We may not have won this referendum for all of the reasons that the Leave Alliance would have wanted. But as responsible citizens we have a duty to make Brexit work well.

EU UK Britain Flags

04:43

Sky News speculating about when the government should serve notice to the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and set the 2-year clock running on Britain’s secession from the EU, with speculation that it could happen at the next EU summit next month. Absolutely not – doing so rashly, before any preliminary talks have taken place, would be an act of diplomatic and constitutional vandalism, plain and simple.

But will a chastened, defeated David Cameron do so anyway, out of spite? This must not be allowed to happen.

04:38

Britain Stronger in Europe’s director Will Straw is having a bad time…

04:23

Apparently a lot of lefty Remainers are getting upset about Nigel Farage’s declaration that:

“If the predictions now are right this will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals, against the big merchant banks, against big politics, against lies, against lies, corruption and deceit and today honesty and decency and belief in nation I think now is going to win.”

Apparently they are upset at Farage’s insinuation that Brexiteers have a monopoly on decency (while being more than happy to declare themselves the sole custodians of compassion). Oh, how quickly the tables turn…

04:14

Dr. Richard North, author of the definitive history of the European Union (“The Great Deception”) and the premier eurosceptic blog, eureferendum.com, finally allows himself to celebrate nearing victory:

I can see dawn from my office window – a new dawn on an independent Britain? Yay! Suck it up guys. The lights are on in the Berlaymont. Hillary Benn says “if you walk away from the world’s largest market, you crate (sic) a great deal of uncertainty”. Note to Benn … if we leave, the EU is no longer the world’s largest market!

Nigel Farage Eu Referendum victory

04:03

Nigel Farage is speaking: “The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom”

“This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals, we have fought against the merchant banks…”

And on the beaches, and in the streets…

03:56

One can only think that David Cameron’s decision to play a prominent role as leader of the Remain campaign has backfired massively. Cameron is only popular among Conservative Party supporters, the majority of whom want Britain to leave the EU. He is almost universally disliked by everybody else. And so he essentially contrived a situation where he is strongly disliked by the only people who would otherwise support him, and hated by everybody else who would normally hate him. And now, with his premiership in peril, he will find that he has almost zero support in the country and in the Conservative Party, save a dedicated rump of careerist sycophants.

Watch how quickly the commentariat switch gears to start talking about a Conservative Party leadership election. While many of the potential options are bad, they can hardly be worse than David Cameron’s weak Ted Heath tribute act.

03:45

Dr. Richard North is not getting too carried away:

We have 260 of 382 areas still to declare, so we’re not even halfway. But remain is still trailing with 49.8 percent on 4,149,554 votes and leave is still ahead (marginally) on 50.2 percent, with 4,184,849 votes. The country is split down the middle. Dimbleby is trying to pull in extraneous domestic issues and play down the EU element. He doesn’t get it.

Dimbleby is not alone. Nearly every Labour MP within reach of a television camera is engaged in the same act of pretending that this strong showing for Leave is anything but a repudiation of the European Union itself.

03:34

Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of people…

This is what happens when a political party treats its own core working class voters with dripping contempt bordering on outright hatred.

03:30

Significant news from Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian live-blog:

The Labour party is now working on the assumption that leave will win, according to a party source. The view in Labour HQ is that, if Britain does vote to leave, Jeremy Corbyn should call on David Cameron to resign, but senior figures believe that that may prove unnecessary because Cameron may announce his departure of his own accord.

The fact that the Labour Party are now operating on the assumption of a Leave victory is remarkable – almost unimaginable just a few hours ago.

If he had a shred of decency, Cameron would indeed jump quickly before he is pushed. But based on his conduct during this EU referendum campaign, sadly we know that the prime minister does not have a shred of decency. He may yet have to be prised out of 10 Downing Street. But one way or another, he is gone.

03:21

Okay, I’m confused. The Spectator reports that:

Unsurprisingly, Labour MPs are pretty darn miserable right now. There is great anger in the party about the leadership, and I detect a stronger appetite to move against Corbyn than previously. But there is also utter fury towards Ed Miliband that goes far beyond Chris Bryant’s ‘tosspot’ comments. One former minister, after watching the former Labour leader explaining what has happened on the television, said ‘how do I set up a JustGiving page for him to go back to Harvard? Or even to visit his constituency and listen to the people who live there?’

So the Labour Party, having been punished by their core voters for their slavishly pro-EU stance, are going to spitefully remove their leader because he did not campaign hard enough for Remain?

This is hilarious. These preening Labour MPs are not really angry at Jeremy Corbyn. They are angry at their own voters. They are angry at the British working classes for failing to sit down meekly and do as they are told by self-entitled metro-left Labour politicians.

03:15

The Spectator’s EU referendum results live-blog reports that Ed Miliband’s sanctimonious television appearances have gone down like a bucket of cold sick within the Labour Party, and without…

03:13

Haven’t heard a peep from David Cameron yet. He’s probably updating his LinkedIn profile.

Do you want to endorse Dave for “Strong Leadership” and “Conservatism”?

Er, no.

03:06

Sssh! Can you hear it? That’s the book closing on David Cameron’s weak, ideologically rootless and fundamentally un-conservative premiership.

Even if Remain manage to pull off a narrow victory, the fact remains that the prime minister has effectively lost control of the country, not to mention his own party. And no number of signatures on a sycophantic “Save Dave” letter can rescue him now.

David Cameron - Coke Zero Conservative - I Cant Believe Its Not Miliband

03:01

Racist!!

02:59

The denial is strong in the Labour Party…

To their blinkered mindset, Leave’s strong showing is about everything – and I do mean everything – except for the fact that people just don’t like the EU. Oh no, it couldn’t be that. The EU is wonderful! It means friendship and cooperation and rainbows and unicorns!

02:52

 

John McDonnell really is a one-trick pony, isn’t he? Faced with a stunning repudiation of middle-class metro-left stewardship of the Labour Party by its restive working class base, all Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor can do is witter on about “Tory austerity”.

Newsflash, McDonnell: this strong pro-Brexit sentiment is much less to do with the economy and much more to do with the working classes’ realisation that the wealthy, upper middle class people in charge of the Labour Party have been sneering at them, have not had their best interests at heart and have no intention of changing their ways. Oh, and the fact that they analysed the EU question like rational people, and decided that a failing, antidemocratic, supranational political union was not for them.

02:41

A major, bold prediction from Chris Hanretty’s live blog:

This is a big update, and I’m conscious that I may have made a terrible mistake somewhere in estimating differential turnout, but here goes:

  • Predicted probability of Britain Remaining: 0.03
  • (33 of 382 areas reporting.)
  • Predicted vote share for Remain: 47.5 percent.
  • (90% prediction interval: 45.5 to 49.6 percent)

02:21

John McDonnell up on the BBC now. This is the man who thought he had coined a brilliant phrase in “Tory Brexit”, the line which would drive people to support Remain out of fear that a democratically elected Conservative government might (shock horror) do the things it was elected to do.

Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t seem to be working…

As this blog warned, if we do now see a Leave vote then the Labour Party leadership (supposedly so moral and principled) will have sided with the establishment against the people. They will be no better than the “Evil Tories”.

I can’t wait to see Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell talk themselves out of that one.

02:15

Vince Cable on the BBC now, dialling back some of the Remain campaign’s most apocalyptic rhetoric about how Britain might be treated in the event of a Leave vote. Cable admits that there would be “no great anti-British feeling”, before stating the obvious – that we will not get free access to the single market. I don’t know a single credible person who suggested that we would… But paying for access to the single market while being free of the EU’s suffocating political union sounds good to me (and to many others, apparently).

If the unthinkable does happen and Britain votes to leave, a lot of senior British politicians on the Remain side are going to look pretty stupid as they desperately walk back some of their strongest, most cataclysmic predictions…

02:10

I guess I could wrap up my live blog now that Lindsay Lohan is on the case…

https://twitter.com/lindsaylohan/status/746133322779234304

02:09

Team Brexit are now favourites on the betting market, for the first time ever.

02:00

The BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg now asking about the implications of a Scottish Remain vote potentially keeping the UK in the European Union. This blog posed the same question about an hour ago. Semi-Partisan Politics, ahead of the pundits…

01:52

Some of the results now coming in are incredibly heartening for Brexiteers. Even Scotland so far doesn’t seem to be acting as a bulkwark for Remain to the extent that it should. Of course the fear, lurking in the background, is London. These huge margins for Leave in some north-eastern areas could be instantly erased once the capital’s votes are counted. Although anecdotally, turnout in London is apparently slightly lower than anticipated…

YouGov’s Peter Kellner’s Twitter timeline sums up the changing sentiment:

01:35

Well said by the Polish ambassador to the UK on the BBC just now:

“Britain will always remain our friend and ally” regardless of the referendum result.

A timely reminder that close friendship, cooperation and partnership are not dependent on the EU’s antidemocratic form of supranational government. Our closest and most important alliance, the special relationship with the United States, is maintained because of shared interests, values and culture, with no need for a common parliament, supreme court or executive.

01:26

Odd to see David Davis sticking up so gamely for David Cameron on the BBC, insisting that the prime minister could somehow limp on in the event of a massive blow to his authority in the event of a Leave victory. It is falling to Alex Salmond to remind viewers of the prime minister’s campaign of lies, trickery, intimidation and downright cheating.

01:24

Fair characterisation from The Leave Alliance’s Mr. Brexit:

01:05

Bristol’s mayor, quoted on Andrew Sparrow’s excellent Guardian live-blog, joins Angela Eagle and Ed Miliband in declaring that Brexit voters are vulnerable people essentially deceived into voting against their own interests by the “pied pipers” of the Leave campaign.

In Bristol Marvin Rees, the newly elected mayor of the city, told the Guardian that the “Brexit campaign has exposed the fragility at the heart of the system”.

He added: “We have people vulnerable to people coming along singing a simple tune. We have to change the way we do public services. We are not sharing the prosperity. We need to deliver the change that people need. We need a city that people can afford to live in.” Rees said that this was not just a message to the Labour leadership but “for everyone”.

Do these people not realise how unbearably condescending they sound? Is there to be no introspection of any kind from the pro-EU British Left?

00:54

Swindon result

Remain: 51,220

Leave: 61,745

The people in the know say that this is more in line with expectations, or possibly even slightly under expectations for Leave. We might be seeing some interesting variations by region. My increasing concern is that a surprisingly good result for Leave around the country will be overturned by the inevitable stonking Remain vote in London.

00:51

Now Ed Miliband is on the BBC, being condescending about Leave voters.

It is simply beyond his mental capacity to imagine that Brexit supporters might have voted Leave as the result of reasoned deliberation. It must always be because of trickery by evil UKIP types or an inchoate expression of frustration at the general state of the country (read: Evil Tory austerity).

These people will rationalise Brexit support in any way other than conceding that maybe the Leave voters are right – that maybe the European Union is indeed a poisonous, dysfunctional, anti-democratic and anachronistic relic best left in the past. From Ed Miliband’s perspective, the role of us “normal people” is to take as gospel the pro-EU rhetoric bandied about by our betters in the establishment, not to question their sacred judgement.

00:38

Angela Eagle on the BBC just now repeating that nauseatingly smug Remainer line that anybody who votes Leave – particularly if they happen to be working class – must have been conned by the nefarious forces of Nigel Farage & co into voting against their own interest.

One can see why this line is superficially appealing – particularly for Remainers desperate not to confront the weakness of their own case. But ultimately this “What’s The Matter With Kansas”-ism is a form of dangerous denial. Pathologising those people who voted Leave, treating them as though they are intrinsically disordered or gullible dupes, shows the chasm opening up between the political establishment and the people, particularly on the Left.

00:16

Sunderland result

Remain: 51,930

Leave: 82,394

Wow.

00:15

There has been a marked change in sentiment over the past fifteen minutes, since the Newcastle result (and with whispers of a strong showing for Leave in the upcoming Sunderland result).

One can still hardly dare to hope for victory – but those early concessions may have been rather premature. My gut instinct says that a narrow Remain victory will destabilise David Cameron and see his fairly early departure – as well as proving the country to be bitterly divided, of course.

00:01

Newcastle result

Remain: 65,404

Leave: 63,598

Much closer-run by Leave than predicted by many. This is a strong showing for Brexiteers. Surprising. Heartening.

23:56

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23:50

We do not “show respect for democracy”, as Douglas Carswell currently implores us to do on the BBC, by ignoring the brazen way in which the prime minister and the Remain campaign have cheated during this campaign.

This isn’t about disrespecting the will of the British people if they have indeed voted to remain in the EU. It is about standing up and saying that taxpayer funded propaganda, ignoring the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, bullying the voters with a mocked up “punishment budget”, violating purdah rules with a last minute impromptu Downing Street speech and extending the voter registration deadline to scoop up as many disorganised potential Remain supporters as possible amounts to an assault on democracy, not an expression of it.

23:47

Come on, Sunderland…

23:45

Nigel Farage was right about one thing in his television “un-concession” speech just now – the Brexit genie will not go back in the bottle. The desire for freedom and democracy will not be mollified or contained by whatever weasel words the prime minister comes up with in the event that the Remain campaign do win this referendum. The writing is on the wall for Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

23:39

Come together right now, over me

Apparently it is time for Conservatives to come together after the sound and fury of the EU referendum campaign. This seems to be an official line, soon to be as nauseatingly familiar as “stronger, safer, better off”. But from this blog’s perspective there will be no “coming together”, no rapprochement with the Conservative Party for as long as David Cameron and George Osborne remain in office. I will not be represented by liars, bullies and cheats.

Conservative MPs come together EU referendum

23:00

Dr. Richard North is in defiant mood over at his own unmissable EU referendum live-blog:

If we have lost, the fight goes on. This hasn’t been a free and fair fight, but one characterised by a Prime Minister who has elevated political lying to an art form, starting with his faux renegotiation and his non-treaty. I feel no obligation to take this result as final, and will continue to work for an independent Britain.

The immediate task will be to identify the reasons why we lost. The official Vote Leave campaign will already be polishing its excuses, ready to come up with the conclusion that its was everybody else’s fault except theirs. Pete North, however, has already published two posts, here and here, looking at some of the problem areas. It will come as not surprise for you to learn that he (rather like his father) is looking to the execrable conduct of the campaign for his answers.

The official Vote Leave campaign is singled out for much-deserved criticism:

There is good evidence to support a thesis that a substantial number of people do not actually make up their minds until they have a pencil in their hand and are looking at the ballot paper. It is then that the “fear” motivation is at its strongest. And it is my view that Vote Leave and the other main “leave” campaigns simply failed sufficiently to address the economic impact of leaving.

In fact, by specifically rejecting continued participation in the Single Market, Vote Leave seems to have gone out of its way to ensure that we would lose what I believe was a winnable contest. This crass intervention, in my view, will prove to be the single most important factor in driving voters into the “remain” camp.

22:51

Our glorious prime minister is already making his gruesome victory lap on social media, with no results yet declared:

David Cameron EU Referendum Facebook

And us evil, hateful people who voted to keep Britain weaker, more vulnerable and dirt poor can go hang ourselves, I guess?

22:33

Some Tories are already circling their wagons around David Cameron:

But many are not. The prime minister has enraged many Conservative MPs (and many small-c conservatives) not just with his stance on the EU referendum, but with the despicable way in which he has conducted himself during the campaign. And with a majority as small as that enjoyed by David Cameron, sycophantic letters of praise will do him no good if a small but determined number of real conservatives are determined to undermine him.

22:28

Truth from Andrew Lilico (in his second tweet):

22:25

And now, the long wait until the first results are declared. We should be neither heartened nor discouraged by the YouGov poll at this stage – it is but a re-contact poll, not an exit poll, and unprecedentedly high turnouts could do strange things to any polling models.

22:20

Roland Smith shares a potential yardstick for gauging the scale of a defeat for the Leave campaign:

22:13

Interesting analytical piece in the Guardian from Matthew Goodwin, discussing the growing gulf between the virtue-signalling progressivism of Labour’s ruling middle class clerisy and their traditional working class base:

Throughout the referendum campaign, between one-fifth and one-third of Labour supporters said they wanted to leave the EU; and the electorate in 59% of all Labour seats were predicted to have voted for Brexit yesterday. The strongest levels of support were in the places Labour and Corbyn are beginning to struggle the most – northern, left-behind and traditional Labour seats, such as Blackpool South, Dudley North, Walsall North, Rotherham, Doncaster North, and West Bromwich West. Indeed we already have evidence of how Labour’s hold over voters in these more traditional areas has been weakening.

By contrast, other Labour seats were predicted to deliver some of the strongest support for the EU – such as the leafy London seats of Hornsey and Wood Green or Hampstead and Kilburn, the young and socially mobile Bristol West, Cambridge and Manchester Withington.

[..] Euroscepticism is a complex problem for Labour, but immigration scepticism is more widespread among Labour’s traditional voters than anti-EU sentiment. Nearly two-thirds of Labour supporters say they are unhappy about how immigration is being managed.

Not all of these voters view Brexit as the answer, but 38% feel the government should have total control over who comes into Britain, and 30% feel Britain should stop EU citizens coming into the country to live and work, even if that restricts our access to the single market.

Corbyn has so far shown little understanding of what is driving this identity angst. He has said little that would resonate among those Labour-to-Ukip defectors. And there is no doubt that these tensions hold the potential to pull Labour in different directions and make a return to power virtually impossible, certainly in 2020 and perhaps beyond. It is not yet clear how Labour can reconcile this deep divide, but there is little doubt that this will be its biggest challenge for decades.

I don’t think that this divide can be bridged.

Labour increasingly appears like an intellectually and morally bankrupt party, a hollowed out shell of its former self, shrouded in the robes of virtue.

22:12

More unintentional side-effects of the EU referendum:

22:11

Nicky Morgan on the BBC, trying to appear magnanimous. Promising “lots more reform” of the European Union. Like the fundamental reform achieved by her boss? How can anybody now believe a single word that any minister in this rotten Conservative government says?

22:09

YouGov re-contact poll suggest Remain 52% / Leave 48%

If this is accurate, it is (while bitterly disappointing) a very very solid result for the Leave campaign, all things considered. If these figures bear out, it will be undeniable that but for the flagrant cheating of the prime minister (with his taxpayer funded propaganda and blatant violation of purdah with that last-minute Downing Street press conference), Britain would have voted to leave the EU. In other words, the prime minister and his tawdry remain campaign will have bullied and deceived Britain into remaining in the EU.

A result like this will settle nothing. It will embolden us Brexiteers beyond measure, not to mention blowing British politics wide open. Expect a massive UKIP resurgence (assuming they manage not to torpedo themselves) and punishment at the ballot box for all legacy parties in forthcoming elections.

Britain will be more divided than ever, and it will be squarely the fault of the prime minister, who has debased his office in his desperation to secure a vote for Remain.

22:01

Nigel Farage gives a statement suggesting that “Remain will edge it”. Unsurprising if true. But no votes have been counted yet…

22:00

Polls closed! The future of Britain has been in our hands today. Now, all that remains is to wait and see whether the accumulated wisdom of the British people is sufficient to withstand the Remain campaign’s onslaught of Project Fear…

21:58

One of the most sickening things about this referendum campaign has been the way that many on the Left have tried to present a vote to Remain as the bold and visionary option rather than the fearful, defeatist cop-out that it is.

One of the most guilty in this regard has been the Green Party, who have basically been insisting that everything wrong with Britain is the fault of the Evil Tories (despite the Conservatives having been in power only for six years, and just 1 year as a majority government) while the European Union is an unfairly maligned friend to Britain.

Failed leader Natalie Bennett has still been at it today on Left Foot Forward:

A Remain vote would direct the anger to the right place – not just at David Cameron, but the whole Tory party and the policies that have dominated in Britain for decades.

A Remain vote is not an end of this process of political change, but the start of a new kind of politics.

A shift to the rightful direction of anger towards the toppling of this Tory government, towards a fundamental transformation of the failed electoral system that allowed it to take power with the support of just 24 per cent of eligible voters, to the establishment of a new political common sense that ensure nobody has to worry about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head while we all collectively live within the environmental limits of our one fragile planet.

Vote Remain, then let’s turn with our fellow campaigners across the continent, our neighbours and friends, to build the real changes needed to produce a society that works for the common good, not for the  one per cent.

Together we’re stronger.

Vote Remain, in other words, as a cathartic exercise in public Tory-hatred.

It’s astonishing that at this late stage, even the Green Party is utterly unable to make a positive case for the European Union – not even the usual “friendship and cooperation” boilerplate. And so, in an attempt to motivate their core vote, they instead dangle the image of the prime minister in front of their supporters and urge them to give David Cameron a kicking.

The obvious flaw being that nothing would strengthen David Cameron in his potentially precarious position more than a resounding Remain vote…

21:46

Another side benefits of a Leave vote, if it happens: dashing the wishes of the sneering, virtue-signalling celebrity class who have piled in to demonstrate their right-on credentials by singing the EU’s praises (or at least dumping on Britain).

One of the biggest recent culprits has been British comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, who last week managed to spend fifteen minutes sneering at Brexiteers and the thought of Britain leaving the EU to his American audience, while failing to mention the D-word (that’s democracy…) even once.

21:29

While I have been generally pessimistic about the Leave campaign’s chances of victory in this EU referendum – largely driven by the utterly dismal campaign waged by the official Vote Leave organisation – nobody should be in the business of making firm political prognostications in an age when Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party and Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican Party nominee for the presidency of the United States.

And so one cannot help consider the immediate aftermath of a vote for Brexit. The biggest upside – besides the obvious one, knowing that Britain will have voted for independence from the EU’s stultifying political union – will be that David Cameron’s premiership will be holed beneath the waterline. A fitting political end for a snivelling, dishonest, fundamentally un-conservative prime minister who did not consider it beneath his office to deceive, bully and threaten the British public in order to coerce a Remain vote.

The media is floating word of a Save Dave campaign underway in the Conservative Party to prevent an immediate move against the prime minister if he manages to lose:

Senior ministers and MPs will attempt to calm the markets tonight by backing David Cameron to stay in office even if he loses the referendum.

A Save Dave operation to shore up the Prime Minister’s position and avert a currency collapse is also backed by senior MPs in the Leave campaign.

A procession of loyalists are primed to appear on TV and radio as soon as the polls close at 10pm to say there is no need for a messy leadership contest, regardless of the result.

A senior minister said: “The markets are jittery already — nobody wants the added uncertainty of a resignation.”

If Mr Cameron loses the referendum, ministers expect him to make an early statement outside No 10 tomorrow, promising Leave leader Michael Gove will have a key position overseeing the timing and terms of an EU withdrawal. If Mr Cameron wins, he will emphasise that the Government has four more years in power and must knuckle down to deliver on its promises.

There should be no such campaign. David Cameron will go down in history as one of the most pointless prime ministers in recent memory, having utterly squandered two Conservative terms in office with his New Labour Continued approach to government. Somehow, Cameron has managed to make the Tory brand as toxic as it ever was, while also utterly failing to manage even the appearance of fiscal conservatism. The deficit persists, the national debt soars ever upward, and all the while we small-c conservatives are derided as heartless persecutors of the vulnerable. And if things continue as they are, when Labour eventually get their act together and retake power (under a new leader) conservatives will have almost nothing to show from the years 2010 onwards, despite being nominally in power.

So no. Let’s not “Save Dave” if he manages to guide the Remain campaign to defeat after cheating, lying and threatening his way through the referendum. As he teeters on the precipice, principled conservatives should give him a firm shove.

21:11

Flexcit, the comprehensive and risk-minimising Brexit plan authored by Dr. Richard North with readers of the eureferendum.com blog, and championed by The Leave Alliance (including this blog), gets a surprising, belated mention in The Metro today:

Flexcit Metro EU Referendum Brexit

One can only wonder how much of a stronger position the Leave campaign might be in if only more journalists had used Google to search for “Brexit plan” and then written about what they found…

19:58

Paul Goodman of Conservative Home thinks that George Osborne is living on borrowed time whichever way the referendum goes:

In the event of that Remain majority, it isn’t hard to guess the most likely course that David Cameron will take.  One can almost hear the speech to the 1922 Committee.  “Divisive referendum campaign team…mistakes made all round…time for coming together…Labour, our common enemy…plenty to be getting on with…Trident vote…childhood obesity strategy…Heathrow.”  All this would signal more than the sum of its good parts.  It would be a sign that the Prime Minister intends business as usual, with Osborne in place at the Treasury – and the top Tory team going on more or less as before.

This site has long argued that the Government and Party need a more collegiate style of leadership, recommending that Michael Gove be made Deputy Prime Minister.  You may agree or disagree, but matters have reached such a pass that this political tug-of-war is almost beside the point – which is that if the Chancellor is still in place by the end of the summer, the Government is unlikely to get much of its legislation through when the Commons returns.  Many of its legislative plans will meet the fate of the academisation-by-2020 plan.  If Ministers found it hard to get their business before, they will find it harder still amidst the grudge-laden atmosphere that will follow a Remain win.

There is frenzy about the risks to the Tories of a Leave vote.  Less thought has been given to the risks of a Remain one.  The biggest is not that the Party would split, but that Britain would be left with a Zombie Government, unable to get its leglisation through Parliament at a time of domestic challenge and international crisis.

Moving the Chancellor from the Treasury to another senior post would not solve this problem, but it would ease it.  Who should replace him?  In our view, someone who takes a different view from ConservativeHome on this referendum.  The only senior politician who has not been compromised by the corners cut by both sides; the only one not to have accused colleagues of lying (directly or indirectly), the only one to have struck a balance between leadership ambition and political principle – in short, Theresa May.

Theresa May as the next Chancellor of the Exchequer? Thoroughly distasteful, but at least it would get the authoritarian Queen of the Surveillance State away from the Home Office…

19:35

A quick shout-out to my friends and fellow bloggers-in-arms of The Leave Alliance. These people have taught me much about the European Union, the developing international trade and regulatory environment, and the optimal way in which Britain should leave the EU if we vote Leave.

If you are not already following the blogs listed below, add them to your daily reading now – because which ever way this referendum goes, the campaign for an independent, democratic Britain will go on.

The Sceptic Isle

Pete North

Independent Britain

The Brexit Door

The EU Question

Red Cliffs of Dawlish

19:25

“I don’t think you’ve got it in you any more. I don’t think Britain is a strong enough country” – a phrase which was literally just uttered in the Hooper household. This is what we are fighting against. This is the corrosive, pessimistic view of Britain which pervades society from 10 Downing Street on downward. This is why we are likely to vote to remain in the European Union and continue our slow slide into global obsolescence.

Obsolescence

19:15

Roland Smith, Adam Smith Institute fellow and author of the essay “The Liberal Case for Leave” – an eloquent exposition of the Flexcit approach for leaving the European Union – is waxing poetic:

Well, we Brexiteers have certainly been sneered at and patronised – when we have not been downright insulted. Some unverified reports are suggesting that turnout is so high that it is swinging back to favour Leave (normally, it is assumed that high turnout helps the Remain campaign), in which case the pro-EU establishment may yet hear us.

18:45

Pete North is pessimistic:

I believe voters will reject Brexit. I believe this is a rejection of the leave side and their campaign along with their thin gruel manifesto. It is a rejection of the dishonesty of Vote Leave and the weakness of their arguments. It is a rejection of the hyperventilation over immigration. It is a rejection of the Brexit vibe. A movement of people who want change but present no clear idea of what they want or how they envisage getting it.

It is a defeat that collectively we deserve. We had every asset at our disposal. A sour and conniving establishment, a patronising and weak remain campaign and of course, the deeply unpopular European Union. And this time, if the BBC is to be cursed it is not for their bias but their profound ignorance.

But at every stage we have failed to answer the question with clarity as to what Brexit looks like. Only when the fantasy notions put forth by Dominic Cummings were comprehensively demolished did the mainstream leave campaign look elsewhere for ideas, by which time it was already far too late.

I fear that he is right. Though we have seen a number of positive steps in the past few weeks, with the likes of Allister Heath and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard embracing the interim EFTA/EEA (Norway) option as the obvious safe way to extricate ourselves from European political union with minimum economic risk, the breakthrough likely has come too late.

The official Leave campaign – indeed, the entire Westminster bubble, who seem to actively scorn any thought or initiative which does not originate or carry the imprimatur of one of their own – will be to blame if Britain votes Remain when polling closes in three hours.

18:15

It’s hard to disagree with Brendan O’Neill’s excoriation of the British Left for dutifully lining up to sing the praises of the European Union, trampling on their principles in the process:

Leftists always give the same two knackered reasons for their campaigning for this rotten outfit. First they say that the people opposing the EU — Boris, Farage, fat blokes who watch football — are so vile that our most pressing task is to keep them in check by voting with the other side, with the EU. What cowardice. They’re elevating their reputations over their consciences; their desire not to rub shoulders with Ukip people over the small matter of principle and what is the right and good left-wing thing to do. What’s more, the only reason the eccentric right has been able to become the No1 critic of the EU’s anti-democratic, economy-strangling behaviour is because the left vacated the field, bottled it, and in the process handed the moral authority of being anti-EU over to the right. They wonder why the right is leading the anti-EU charge, not realising that it’s their sorry, sheepish fault. Goodness, they’re dumb.

And the second reason they give for their bowing before the EU is that Brussels acts as an above-politics guarantor of certain rights: workers’ rights, maternity-leave rights, etc. Let’s leave to one side the (massive) fact that the EU is no friend of working people. What’s ultimately being said here is that we need a distant authority to guard our rights and our wellbeing because we can’t always trust our own governments to do so. Wow. This shatters everything — everything — the left once fought for. It lays to waste the ideals of the Chartists, and the Levellers, and other radicals, whose cry can be summed up as: ‘We can look after ourselves, thanks. Give us the right to do that.’

Benn summed up the folly of leftists looking to Brussels for justice and rights. ‘They believe that a good king is better than a bad Parliament. I have never taken that view’, he said. In a nutshell, the left’s worldview used to be that people power is always preferable to external forms of authority. And now that worldview is dead, done in by a left more concerned with its feelings and standing than with the hard business of fighting for what’s right, and which is now so estranged from ordinary people that it views the good king of Brussels as preferable to the bad parliament us plebs might one day elect. The EU might survive today’s events, but the left won’t. It’s dead, and not only dead but buried. It has thrown its lot in with the very people it was founded a few hundred years ago to challenge: kings and tyrants and other benign guardians of the stupid people.

This blog’s article on Tony Benn and the left-wing case for Brexit has been getting very high traffic for the past few weeks – clearly many British left-wingers instinctively realise that the clinical, europhile party line being parroted by the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn (for shame) is incompatible with democratic values.

18:05

Over the past few months Semi-Partisan Politics has attempted to outline the Christian case for Brexit – or at least push back against the lazy, trendy-lefty Christian view that remaining in the EU is automatically a good thing.

The Archbishop Cranmer blog today published a stirring call for Christians to vote Leave. The conclusion:

This Referendum is not only about Christian values, but about national identity. Are we really so feeble that our aspiration to wholeness may be apprehended only in the anti-democratic space? Are we really so fooled that our language of community may only be expressed in terms of political union? Are we really so blind that our morality may only be conceived in the secular Enlightenment conception of man, with his inviolable rights and perfect moral standards? Today is a watershed: Remain, and we perpetuate the self-congratulatory illusion of the abolition of nationalism and the death of God; Leave, and we move beyond myopic Euro-nationalism, spreading our vision upward, downward and outward into the world. There will be upheaval, but nothing that a new mode of thought and sensibility to new nations cannot withstand. Some say this is retrospective illusion: it is, rather, the true globalism of the catholic Christian.

If the Christian ends of peace and reconciliation are to be realised in and by the United Kingdom, our moral outlook must change. The Enlightenment European Union is not the Promised Land, for EUtopia erodes the cosmic order, denies self-determination, keeps the poor in famine and inflicts suffering on its own people. If we seek universal benevolence and justice, they are not found in haughty declarations of subjective rights of immunities and benefits, but in an apprehension of divine dignity; of man created in the image of God for a life of grace, love and service. This is not monkish ignorance or superstition: it is, whether we believe it or not, the truth. You may demand tyrannical impositions of trans-national equality, but God’s blessings flow only from humility; security comes only from self-government; and peace comes only from Christ, with whom believers are exhorted to walk in spirit and truth.

This isn’t a game of point scoring: it is about the moral culture of our civilisation. There is a prideful illusion of a Godless European Empire with its unaccountable omnipotence and infallible dreams of universal justice, equality and rights; or there is the subtler language of the nation under God, within which the unrighteous may be removed and the immoral corrected, rebuked, reformed and restored. You may not agree with this ‘parochial’ view of human nature in the created order, believing instead that political man is moving toward the zenith of moral perfection and that justice is about to flow like a river. But when empires impose their laws and enforce their creeds by natural authority and the people do not obey except out of cynicism, the only solution is the restoration of the true political authority which chimes with the mores and traditions of the people.

So, forget the finger-jabbing niggles of elite establishment politicians sanctified by ecclesial negativity: there is nothing to fear in leaving the European Union. On the contrary, there is hope in liberty; morality in democracy; and prosperity in the restoration of a global outlook. Today is about national self-belief and self-determination. It is about taking back control of our national destiny. Today we vote for freedom. Let today be and hereafter forever be known as UK Independence Day.

17:55

Well, I have cast my ballot and (obviously) voted for Britain to leave the European Union. And that means it is now time for a semi-partisan live blog of the EU Referendum.

Dr. Richard North also has an unmissable live blog over at eureferendum.com

Stay tuned for commentary throughout the night, into the morning, and the afternoon, and the evening, and the next night…

 

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Live Blog: UKIP Conference 2015, Day 2 – Saturday 26 September

UKIP Supporters - Douglas Carswell

Below is the live blog of the UKIP 2015 conference in Doncaster, Day 2

19:00

End of watch

And that’s a wrap from this live blog of the UKIP 2015 conference.  Full comment on the events of the past two days will follow tomorrow.

Thanks for reading this live blog from #UKIP15! And if you have not already done so, please follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

17:30

Nigel Farage’s closing address

Here is the closing address by Nigel Farage, bringing the UKIP 2015 conference here in Doncaster to an end:

15:52

London mayoral candidate selection – reaction

Here’s the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman on the choice of Peter Whittle over Suzanne Evans to be UKIP’s candidate for London mayor:

This isn’t as much of a surprise to Coffee House readers as it might be to others. In August we reported rumblings that Nigel Farage might be trying to stitch up the race to exclude Evans, who he regards as a threat (she was Ukip leader for a few days in between him resigning and un-resigning). The party’s London MEP Gerard Batten also told Coffee House that the process was ‘undemocratic’ and that he wasn’t getting involved in it.

If Nigel Farage intends to focus on the EU referendum to the exclusion of everything else (as his keynote conference speech suggests), he really can’t afford to marginalise other high profile senior Ukippers because they represent a potential “threat”. Rather, he should choose someone to take the lead on all other matters than the Brexit referendum, including developing a manifesto for 2020 and determining the future strategic direction of the party.

15:45

The end is in sight

Final tea (or real ale) break before the closing of UKIP’s 2015 conference here in Doncaster, and Nigel Farage takes the opportunity for a beer and a smoke before giving the closing address:

Nigel Farage - UKIP 2015 Conference - Closing Address

14:48

“Who do you think got us this referendum?”, asks Ray Finch MEP. “Simple answer, it was this party and Nigel Farage”.

Finch is eager to hit back at claims that UKIP should take a back seat in the “Out”campaign: “UKIP have got the foot soldiers to win this war”.

14:44

Hope this isn’t a bad omen: Roger Helmer MEP has just exhorted UKIP conference delegates to “go back to their constituencies and prepare for independence”.

14:26

What about Defence?

Curious that there has been no specific speech or section of this conference dedicated to the topics of Defence and national security. UKIP have been slowly and effectively building up a positive reputation in this area, with a strong offering in their 2015 general election manifesto which rightly took the Tories to task for their lack of commitment to a strong national defence and expeditionary capabilities.

And only today, we see another sadly typical story where uniformed members of our Armed Forces are persecuted and discriminated against by virtue-signalling, self-censoring PC types:

A hospital that made an RAF sergeant move out of sight of other patients in case his uniform caused offence has been forced to apologise.

Aircraft engineer Mark Prendeville was relocated twice by hospital staff who allegedly told his family “they didn’t want to upset people” and “have lots of different cultures coming in”.

Sgt Prendeville was taken to the Accident and Emergency unit of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent after chemicals from a fire extinguisher got in to his eyes during a training exercise.

This is a clear area where UKIP can rightfully boast not only to be on the right side of an issue, but also to be steps ahead of the other main political parties. The Tories equivocate on Defence and only meet Britain’s 2% of GDP target by classifying all sorts of miscellaneous spending as “military spending”. And now Labour are toying with the idea of joining forces with the SNP to oppose the renewal of Trident, Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent and one of the cornerstones of our status as a major power.

But despite the opportunity to win positive headlines and consolidate an already strong reputation, Defence does not even merit a dedicated speech of its own at UKIP’s 2015 party conference.

This is what I mean when I say that UKIP are in danger of succumbing to EU referendum “tunnel vision”. Yes, the Brexit referendum is vitally important. But if UKIP is to be taken seriously as a going concern rather than a single issue party, they can not afford to stop speaking out – and developing policy – in other important areas.

14:15

Here comes the formidable Diane James MEP, talking about the importance of reclaiming sovereignty from the UK.

14:02

And we’re back from lunch. This should be an interesting session – entitled “The Brexit Bonus: Britain After The EU”

It’s important that this is discussed. Being pro-UK and against the EU is not enough – it’s important that UKIP also stands for a clear vision of a post-EU Britain. More importantly, an “Out” vote in the coming EU referendum cannot be secured unless the electorate is shown that a vote to leave the EU is not a leap in the dark, that it actually represents the safer option as opposed to the “undiscovered country” of deeper EU integration and absorption into a federal United States of Europe.

First up is Jonathon Arnott MEP, UKIP’s EU budget spokesman.

13:15

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12:56

BREAKING: Nigel Farage to address Conference again

Groans in the media room, as it is announced that Nigel Farage will address the UKIP 2015 conference again, delivering the closing remarks. Not because they don’t want another speech, but because it makes it harder to leave early! Lots of early train tickets back to London are no doubt being hastily rescheduled.

Good – it’s important that Nigel speaks again at the end of a conference which as raised more question than it has answered. It will be interesting to see what Farage chooses to focus on – drawing a line under yesterday’s late spat of infighting, or issuing the troops with some inspiring new marching orders.

12:52

Blast from the past

Jeffrey Titford, UKIP leader from 2000-2002, is addressing the conference.

Funny: back when I was a starry-eyed, hardcore europhile student at Cambridge, Titford represented everything I loathed about politics. It’s been quite a journey since then – for everyone involved.

Seems like a good time to plug my recent piece for Conservatives for Liberty, entitled “Why I’m A [small-C] Conservative“.

12:41

UKIP’s culture spokesman and newly selected London mayoral candidate, Peter Whittle, is delivering an eloquent tribute to HM the Queen. Whatever other aspects of UKIP may be in flux – libertarian or authoritarian, capitalist or statist, single issue party or going concern – UKIP’s traditionalist image is secure at least.

12:01

Nigel Farage is currently roaming the foyer of the conference venue, speaking with supporters and kiosk exhibitors. Lots of people requesting selfies, but no word on whether UKIP’s leader will address Conference again.

11:58

“Scotland should play fair with our biggest trading partner and our oldest friend”, says David Coburn MEP of Scotland, advocating English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).

Corburn gave a good, crowd-pleasing speech on the need to take the fight to the SNP.

11:35

Nigel must address Conference again

More and more I feel that Nigel Farage needs to address this Conference again before everyone goes home this afternoon. Yesterday was overshadowed by the Douglas Carswell / Arron Banks argument, and now Suzanne Evans has effectively been snubbed by only being selected as third candidate for the London GLA elections next year. This is not the confident, unified mood which the leadership would surely want.

The worst possible thing would be for delegates (and the media!) leaving Doncaster having witnessed party infighting, and with the prospect of more hanging over them. When Godfrey Bloom’s behaviour cast a shadow over UKIP’s conference in 2013, Nigel Farage rightly took the stage in an unscheduled speech to “steady the ship” and reset the tone of the gathering – and the mood of the crucially important party activists. He needs to do so again.

11:31

London Assembly and Mayoral election candidates announced!

Suzanne Evans is only number 3 on UKIP’s slate of candidates for the London GLA elections. The number 1 candidate, and London mayoral candidate, is Peter Whittle. Quite a snub for Suzanne Evans.

11:25

Paul Oakden, UKIP Party Director, is acknowledging all those delegates who stood as candidates at the 2015 general election.

And now he’s about to announce the candidates who will represent UKIP in the local elections in London next year. UKIP chose its candidates via an “assessment panel”, of course, rather than an open primary. Less democratic, but perhaps understandable from a smaller, still fledgling political party.

11:20

Does UKIP effectively need two leaders for the duration of the “Out” campaign?

Just a thought. UKIP need to identify someone in a senior and prominent role to represent the party on all matters beside the coming EU referendum. Nigel Farage clearly sees the Brexit referendum as the number one priority, as it should be. But UKIP now claim to be a “going concern”, not a single issue party, and this conference has given too little indication as to what type of party UKIP will be by the time of the next general election – whether the referendum is won or lost.

You can only get so far being the self-anointed Party of Common Sense. Clearly you can win 4 million votes and upward, but real power requires a real, in-depth platform. UKIP’s 2015 manifesto, written by the very able Suzanne Evans, made a good stab at this. It was the only party manifesto to be independently assessed and costed, which added real legitimacy. But this work does not seem to be carried forward, at least if the 2015 conference is a guide.

Nigel Farage wants to play a prominent role in the “Out” campaign, and who can argue that he should not? We would not even be having a referendum on Brexit were it not for him. But Farage’s laser focus on the EU referendum should not be at the expense of the future strategy and direction of the party. The UKIP leadership has a duty to its supporters to make clear the type of party it wants to be in 2020 and beyond – so that the current kaleidoscopic support base of social conservatives, libertarians, disaffected Labour types, “left behind” coastal town voters and others know whether they will still have common cause once the EU referendum is in the past.

10:58

Three cheers for Douglas Carswell

Ten minutes on stage, and already Carswell has given us more serious, measured and optimistic policy to cheer about than we heard the whole of Day 1. Electoral reform, the right of recall, free trade, reforming capitalism and more – this is the keynote speech which Nigel Farage should have given yesterday.

And this is good too, on the fact that we should be angry about career politicians in Westminster, not immigrants or other outsiders: “Let’s never blame outsiders for problems caused by political insiders in Westminster”.

But Carswell, like Farage, is focused on Brexit and the coming EU referendum above all. “Let everything we do be about winning it. Let’s do it” he closes, to a standing ovation.

10:54

“It’s groupthink that says we should stay tied to the world’s only declining trade block .. we need to leave the EU” says Carswell, before going on to reiterate his support for Real Recall and the right for constituents to recall MPs who let them down.

10:50

“Far from rejecting modernity, modernity has made the emergence of UKIP as the third force in British politics possible”, says Carswell, before going to win applause for railing against “career politicians” and “cartel politics”. “Too many have trodden the path from Special Advisor to safe seat.”

“Westminster encourages groupthink. And groupthink has run this country for too many years, and has run this country into the ground. It was group thinking about banking before 2007 that helped cause the financial crisis. The single biggest driver of income inequality .. is a monetary system which has artificially driven up the price of assets. It is now the central bankers who fix the price of capital. That’s not capitalism – it’s crony corporatism”.

10:48

“What’s it like being UKIP’s only Member of Parliament, I’m often asked? Well, being an MP for UKIP is so much more fun than being a Conservative”, says Carswell. “For one thing, our meetings of the parliamentary party are fairly short”.

Cue much laughter.

But then a serious point: “how can it possibly be fair” that 56 MPs from the SNP sprawl on the Commons benches while Carswell is the only representative for four million voters?

10:42

Time for Douglas Carswell MP to shine on “the case for political reform”.

Introducing him, Mark Reckless says that their political journey “has taken [them] both to two political parties” and that they “found [their] way sooner or later to the UK Independence Party, which is going to get our independence back”.

Mark Reckless praises Douglas Carswell’s great achievement in being the first UKIP MP to win his seat at a general election – and Carswell rightly gets a standing ovation from delegates.

10:36

What was Nigel up to yesterday?

White Wednesday speculates:

Farage’s dissing of the idea of a further referendum post-2020 suggests he is betting everything, including UKIP’s very existence, on the 2017 vote.

And yet UKIP won’t dissolve —or to put it more accurately, many key members within it don’t want it to dissolve. Paul Nuttall separately argued, when pushed on this point by the BBC’s Justin Webb, that UKIP will still be fighting elections over the coming years on a full policy platform.

Which then begs the question of what Farage was doing yesterday.

My suspicion is that he probably thinks this really *is* it, along with him realising the end of his colourful UKIP career is approaching. I suspect he’s read the runes and realised that UKIP has served its purpose for him personally, never mind for getting a referendum. The two just happen to coincide. He’s making (or has made) the mental commitment to junk UKIP as part of this referendum campaign or its outcome.

10:31

Mark Reckless clarifying that UKIP favour a more proportional voting system which maintains a constituency link, such as STV, though there are other potential systems which would also meet their goals.

But given the difficulty that UKIP are having coalescing around their single preferred “Out” campaign group to support, perhaps the party ought to hold off choosing a new electoral system for the time being.

“My grandfather was elected as an Irish member of parliament under STV”, says Mark Reckless.

10:29

“I know you often feel the system is rigged against you .. together we can fix our establishment and build a better democracy”, says Katie Ghose from the Electoral Reform Society, building common cause with Ukippers.

10:22

A Nigel Farage encore?

Speculation over whether UKIP leader Nigel Farage might make a surprise second appearance and speech in the main hall of Conference today. UKIP’s press team are denying any knowledge, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Farage’s keynote speech yesterday, while well-received, was not one of his finer efforts. And the UKIP conference was nearly bumped off the television news agenda altogether by scandals at FIFA and Volkswagen.

A second Farage speech would be a great opportunity for the party to go out from Doncaster with a bang rather than a whimper, to put the petty squabbling of yesterday afternoon behind them and move forward with more confidence.

Watch this space.

10:20

Good point from Katie Ghose about how the political landscape has changed since Britain voted against changing the electoral system in the AV referendum. Ghose points out that back then, smaller parties like UKIP, the Greens and the SNP, while vibrant, were nowhere near as big as they are now.

10:17

Up next, Katie Ghose from the Electoral Reform Society, who is being very complimentary about UKIP and party members’ support for changing the voting system. Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell are “champions of political reform”.

“Even Douglas would say he could do with a few more colleagues to help him represent fourteen per cent of the voting public”, says Ghose to applause from the hall.

“UKIP and other small parties were effectively cheated by first-past-the-post”.

10:13

Fighting words about Jeremy Corbyn: “He has rejected an English Labour Party, he has rejected an English parliament”, says Eddie Bone. Labour’s votes are “up for grabs if UKIP speak the same concerns as the English people”.

10:11

A parliament for England and a PR voting system go hand in hand as far as Eddie Bone from the Campaign for an English Parliament is concerned. And it’s hard to disagree, if the goal is parity and symmetry between the home nations of the UK.

But what of fears that an English parliament would unbalance the United Kingdom?”All a federal system would do is protect the other countries of the UK as well. We need clear constitutional boundaries. We need only look at the United States as an example. The US has some states of 38 million, and some much smaller”

10:07

“I want to see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland work in harmony with England” says Eddie Bone. “Who doesn’t want to see England regionalised, balkanised, into nine EU regions?”

“The English question needs to be answered before the SNP calls for another referendum”, he continues. “Just think what could be accomplished if England is given its own voice on domestic matters, just like Scotland and Wales”.

10:05

Mark Reckless is kicking off the first morning session on electoral reform, and introducing Eddie Bone from the Campaign for an English Parliament.

09:55

UKIP are currently announcing the winner of their Sovereign Draw fundraising lottery, in a rather long-winded way. The hall feels very empty compared to yesterday as the main agenda for the day is about to get underway – delegates are gathered at the front and centre of the seating area.

UKIP 2015 Conference - Sovereign Draw

09:30

ConservativeHome say that Nigel Farage’s “iron grip” on UKIP is strangling the party. Finding unusual common cause with the Telegraph’s Dan Hodges, Henry Hill of ConHome writes:

In the past year, two of the UK’s biggest political insurgencies suffered major setbacks: the SNP went down to a ten-point defeat in last autumn’s independence referendum, whilst UKIP were smashed on the rocks of Thanet South in May.

Each party had been built up and led into their respective Waterloos by a similar sort of politician: charismatic, larger-than-life, driven, divisive, and male.

Yet where the SNP have since rebounded to deliver the largest delegation of separatist MPs the Commons has seen since Ireland seceded, UKIP is in the doldrums. And I suggest that a significant factor in this is how their leaders handled defeat.

I don’t buy it. Yes, there is the obvious symmetry of both populist parties surging in the polls followed by painful electoral defeat / setback, but these setbacks were of a very different nature. UKIP’s sole seat in the Commons belies the fact that the party massively increased their vote to nearly 4 million, while the impact of the SNP’s swivel-eyed supporters was magnified due to being geographically concentrated.

More to the point, there is nothing to suggest that Nigel Farage’s leadership is the cause of any real dissatisfaction among the party faithful. You could argue that Farage’s continuing “iron grip” is bad for the long-term strategy and direction of the party looking beyond the Brexit referendum – something which I have been exploring in these live blogs – and have a plausible case, but to suggest that Farage is currently driving any fall-off in support for UKIP seems to be quite groundless.

09:25

Seems to be an air of shoulder-shrugging acceptance about the row between Douglas Carswell and donor Arron Banks which partially overshadowed the end of Day 1 of conference. A reminder of that story:

Ukip’s autumn conference has turned into yet another war between Douglas Carswell and other parts of the party. Speaking to a huddle of journalists this afternoon, the Ukip donor and founder of Leave.EU campaign described Carswell as ‘borderline autistic with mental illness wrapped in’. Banks appears to be disgruntled at Carswell’s comments to Coffee House that he is more likely to back the Matthew Elliott-Dominic Cummings Leave campaign.

 There’s a sense of resignation that it probably cost the party a few good headlines yesterday evening, but I think this is tempered now by the realisation that UKIP’s fortunes are not inexorably tied to the ups and downs of the 24 hour news cycle, and that tales of political intrigue tend not to faze their supporters. If anything, the more the media focus on the personalities and the political aspect, the more committed many of the supporters become.

08:45

Some impromptu karaoke underway in the empty main hall this morning, before the majority of delegates and media show up. Certainly looks like less of a media presence at Conference today, judging by the quieter media room overlooking the racecourse.

08:40

Here we go with live coverage from Day 2 of the UKIP conference here in Doncaster.

Yesterday was a decidedly mixed day. The party faithful who showed up seemed happy enough, but conference was decidedly less busy and without the pre-election buzz of 2014’s gathering – though perhaps that was only to be expected.

You may recall that I went into Day 1 of the conference looking for any hint of an answer to the following two questions, which I think are key for UKIP in the medium and long term:

  1. UKIP’s role in the coming Brexit referendum campaign. At present, UKIP are leading the charge with their Say No To The EU tour, large American-style rallies featuring Nigel Farage as keynote speaker but with UKIP branding otherwise minimised. This tour is partly borne out of frustration that no one else on the eurosceptic side seems to be doing anything, with the Tories dutifully awaiting the outcome of David Cameron’s pointless renegotiation effort. Unwilling to grant the hardline europhiles carte blanche to campaign unopposed, UKIP have stepped into the void. But what role will they – and Nigel Farage – seek to take in the broader “Out” campaign once it finally gets underway?
  2. How to keep the UKIP coalition together. For a party that some opponents accuse of being divisive and polarising, UKIP is actually a remarkably broad church at present, comprising young libertarians, ex-Tory social conservatives, “left behind” swing voters and ex-Labour northern voters. And this just about works, so long as everyone has a big target to focus on – namely the coming EU referendum. But once the referendum has taken place in 2017, UKIP will have to adjust either to having won the battle and being close to achieving their primary political aim, or else having lost the election and seeing their primary political goal rejected by the electorate. In either case, the many faces of UKIP will have quite different – and possibly irreconcilable – ideas about how to move forward.

It’s fair to say that neither of these questions were comprehensively answered yesterday. And in some questions they were downright avoided. Nigel Farage’s speech in particular made clear that the emphasis from party leadership is on winning the coming Brexit referendum above all else, quite understandable from a party founded for the purpose of engineering Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, but potentially risky from a political party with more permanent aspirations.

I was able to speak with both Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell – before the latter became embroiled in an unfortunate spat with major donor Arron Banks. Since there were no dramatically positive developments to report, and since the end of the day was very much overshadowed by this quite unnecessary row, UKIP will probably not be too disappointed that they were bumped down to third in the running order in most of the TV news.

Today should see a greater focus on policy, and long sessions focusing on electoral reform and life after the EU. The latter will be particularly interesting, as voters will never vote for the unknown, the undiscovered country, if they perceive the status quo as less of a risk. There are plenty of post-Brexit ideas floating around, but hopefully these are not promoted or discarded with the same partisan clique-ish attitude that we are seeing with the contest to be named official lead group of the “Out” campaign.

Yesterday’s live blog of Day 1 here.

This blog’s UKIP conference previews are here and here.

Complete coverage of UKIP here.

Main Stage - UKIP Conference 2015

#UKIPConf15

#UKIP15

With thanks to Poached Creative for the provision of photographic equipment

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Live Blog: UKIP Conference 2015, Day 1 – Friday 25 September

Nigel Farage - UKIP Conference 2015 - Silhouette - 3

Below is the live blog of the UKIP 2015 conference in Doncaster, Day 1

17:55

That’s a wrap for Day One

It has been an interesting day at UKIP’s party conference here in Doncaster.

Much lower-key than 2014, and a strong sense that the party (or at least Nigel Farage) is conserving all of its strength to fight the upcoming Brexit referendum. Others have picked up on the fact that Farage admitted during his speech that his first priority is winning the referendum, not securing the long-term health and viability of UKIP – though why this should be so surprising coming from a party dedicated to the independence of the UK is less certain.

But the fact remains that the two burning questions facing UKIP going into this conference remain pointedly unresolved at the end of the main day of action. We are still no closer to knowing for sure how UKIP will fit into the broader “Out”campaign, though we certainly know Nigel Farage’s preference. And we are light years away from understanding what the party will stand for in a post-referendum landscape, or what will keep UKIP’s disparate group of supporters together once the unifying goal of an EU referendum has been and gone.

Back to the hotel now, and a full write up on the day’s events will follow later this evening.

Thanks for reading this live blog from #UKIP15! And if you have not already done so, please follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

UKIP 2015 Conference - End of Day One

17:15

The Arron Banks Saga

It seems obligatory to make mention of the row between Douglas Carswell MP and UKIP donor Arron Banks, which has greatly excited the media room this afternoon.

The Telegraph’s Kate McCann provides an overview:

A bitter row has broken out at the top of Ukip after one of the party’s biggest donors threatened it’s only MP with deselection unless he backs a new EU out campaign.

Aaron Banks, the man behind the Leave.EU group that Ukip leader Nigel Farage backed today, warned Douglas Carswell he must also get on board or risk being thrown out of the eurosceptic party.

Mr Carswell, the party’s only member of parliament, hit back as the row became public when the two men exchanged cross words in full view of the media at Ukip conference in Doncaster.

There, I mentioned it. Personally, I don’t find it that fascinating. Arron Banks has little more power to order the deselection of Douglas Carswell than I do, and if a rich donor wants to blow off steam and overshadow the media coverage of their own party’s annual conference then they are entitled to do so – though it’s hard to see whose cause this unseemly spat has advanced.

Far better to stick to stories about policy and long-term strategy rather than process and tactics.

17:05

The Great Escape

Lots of people in the media room are making noises about heading for the station. Looks like tomorrow will be a much quieter day here in Doncaster…

Media Room - UKIP 2015 Conference

16:55

The Paul Nuttall Rebuttal, continued

UKIP’s deputy leader is looking more and more impressive as a potential future leader of the party by the day. Paul Nuttall is probably UKIP’s next best public speaker, after Nigel Farage. He is not going into any great detail on policy in this speech – talking up UKIP as the Party of Common Sense above all else – but one can imagine Nuttall forging a coherent political platform for UKIP in the future.

He concludes his speech: “In two years time I believe I will be on this platform and Britain will be stronger, better, richer outside the European Union”.

A well deserved standing ovation for that effort.

16:50

The Paul Nuttall Rebuttal

“Is this the end of the road? No!” roars UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall. It’s almost as though he had read Dan Hodge’s dismissal of Nigel Farage’s speech.

UKIP’s deputy leader is keen to point out that there would not be an EU referendum at all were it not for UKIP, and that any predictions of UKIP’s demise are premature. It’s hard to disagree with that. This blog has its reservations about UKIP’s apparent unwillingness to focus on anything other than the coming Brexit referendum, leaving questions around what type of party UKIP wants to be and what kind of supporters they want to attract left unanswered. But the party has overcome setbacks before, and it would be a foolhardy person who writes them off so early in this new parliament.

Nuttall is scathing of the first-past-the-post electoral system: “I think we can all agree that four million votes and one seat is nothing more than an unprecedented electoral disgrace .. We need electoral  reform ladies and gentleman .. we need proportional representation”.

16:40

Nigel Farage Speech Reaction

Dan Hodges thinks that Nigel Farage has outstayed his welcome, and that deep down, the UKIP conference delegates who clapped and cheered his keynote speech know it, too:

Nigel Farage has hung on too long. Ukip’s annual conference, which has just opened in Doncaster, is a conference too far. His colleagues know it. The delegates know it (though they won’t necessarily admit it). And deep down, he knows it.

Think back 12 months. Think about why Nigel Farage and Ukip were relevant to British politics.

Firstly, they represented an existential threat to the political status quo. The era of two party politics was over. People had had their fill of the two lumbering political tribes. They wanted to smash the cozy Westmister consensus. Ukip would be the hammer they would use to do it. This time the mold of British politics really would be shattered.

It didn’t happen. The combined share of the vote for the two main parties increased. The traditional party of government found itself back in government, with an overall majority. Ukip failed to win a single new seat. The general of the people’s army couldn’t even win his own seat.

This would be a powerful critique if its political memory extended back any further than one year. But it doesn’t. There is no recognition of the huge strides that UKIP has made since 2010, and the records the party has broken since then – UKIP’s first and second MPs. UKIP’s first MP elected in a general election (as opposed to a by-election). UKIP’s victory in the European elections last year.

To write UKIP off based on the mixed general election result this year – and in spite of the overall trend of the past five years – is like panic-selling shares in Microsoft in the 1990s based on one solitary bad day’s trading.

However, this blog shares Dan Hodge’s concern that the party are too focused on the present and the Brexit referendum, with insufficient regard for the future:

This conference could have been a moment of renewal for Ukip. A fresh, more moderate leader. A genuine commitment to work constructively with the “Out” campaign, and use the forthcoming referendum as a platform to relaunch the party. An opportunity to reach out to working-class Labour supporters disillusioned by Jeremy Corbyn’s own toxic brand of middle-class Trotskyism.

I’m not sure that Nigel Farage has done anything to explicitly discourage these disaffected Labour voters – in fact, Mark Reckless’ speech praising public sector workers suggests the opposite – but the question of what kind of party UKIP intend to be after the Brexit referendum remains pointedly unanswered today.

16:25

“We will win because we have got Nigel Farage on our side”, says Rupert Matthews of campaign group Better Off Out. No running away from UKIP’s supposedly “toxic” or “divisive” leader here..

16:20

How are the Left reacting to this year’s UKIP conference? It’s rather hard to tell. There has of course been the usual trolling and mockery of kippers on social media, but Nigel Farage’s speech – and the conference as a whole – seems to be causing barely a ripple on the left wing media and blogosphere.

It is understandable that Labour are preoccupied with the drama around their own party as they prepare for their first party conference of the Jeremy Corbyn era – but with UKIP now the main opposition in over a hundred mostly Northern constituencies, can left-wing activists and commentators really afford to take their eye off the ball?

I’m sure I spotted the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush walking around downstairs earlier – will The Staggers have anything to say about today’s events, and the threat posed to Labour by UKIP?

16:15

“We must be ready [for the referendum], because this is our best chance” says Richard Tice of TheKnow.eu.

The new campaign group has been asking visitors to choose which reason excites them most about the prospect of independence from the EU, and here are the results of this unscientific poll:

TheKnow.eu

Perhaps unsurprising that “control our borders” tops the list, but it does rather contradict the “Out of the EU, into the world” message of this conference.

16:10

The last session of the day is going to be “a monster session”, we have just been told by party chairman Steve Crowther. Buckling up now for Richard Tice (The Know.eu), Rupert Matthews (Better Off Out) and Paul Nuttall MEP (Deputy Leader).

16:00

Recognition!

Nice to see Semi-Partisan Politics get a shout-out from the Guardian’s politics live editor, Andrew Sparrow, who is also covering the UKIP 2015 conference. Sparrow’s excellent take on Nigel Farage’s keynote speech is essential reading.

Guardian Shout-out 2

15:55

The main stage here in Doncaster, between sessions:

Main Stage - UKIP Conference 2015

15:50

It’s tea time here in Doncaster, as delegates take a break, Or should that be Beer o’clock?

Beer Time - UKIP Conference 2015

15:15

Nigel Farage Speech Reaction

I may have beaten the Spectator’s Sebastian Payne to an interview with Nigel Farage (forgive the bragging), but Payne’s take on the UKIP leader’s speech is well worth reading:

Nigel Farage’s keynote speech to the Ukip conference was duly lapped up the 1,500 attendees in Doncaster. The Ukip leader was keen to give himself a new job: the de facto leader of the Leave campaign. In the absence of someone heading up the Leave campaign, the Ukip leader said it’s time for the party to prioritise the referendum over its own future.

Again, the self-sacrificial tone of the UKIP conference comes through most strongly, as Sebastian Payne notices too. I’ll write more about the potential consequences of this “Brexit above all else” approach later this evening.

Payne also draws our attention to Nigel Farage’s pick for which eurosceptic grouping he wants to be given “lead campaigner” designation by the Electoral Commission in the coming referendum:

Farage stated the Eurosceptic movement has ‘very often been fractured, it has very often been divided’ and ‘run by egomaniacs’. But Leave.EU, one of the campaigns vying for the official Electoral Commission designation for the Leave campaign, and its leader Arron Banks have ‘massively impressed’ him and said they have managed to bring ‘every single of of those groups together’. Coffee House understands that those who have come under the Banks umbrella include The Bruges Group, Global Britain, the Democracy Movement and the Campaign for an Independent Britain.

At this point, we should be grateful for any group which is willing to start campaigning immediately, rather than dithering and waiting for the outcome of a fruitless renegotiation attempt by a half-hearted David Cameron.

14:58

Nigel Farage Speech Reaction

Sky News also pick up on the self-sacrificial undertones of Nigel Farage’s keynote speech to the 2015 UKIP conference:

The UKIP leader told activists they had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the country back.

Mr Farage said an exit from the EU was “dearer to my heart” than UKIP, and urged party members to put all of their energy into fighting the “no” campaign ahead of the vote, which is due to be held before the end of 2017.

He told the party’s annual conference in Doncaster: “I have to say to you, as the leader of this party, as somebody who has given over 20 years of his life to helping build this party, while of course I want us to do well as a party and succeed in those elections there is something that is actually dearer to my heart than party politics, even if it’s UKIP.

There is definitely a degree of Matthew 6:34 to this particular conference (“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”). And one can understand the strong desire to strive onward to the long-cherished goal of gaining independence from the EU. But I can’t help wondering if UKIP might not pay a price in 2017 or beyond for failing to pay enough heed to the type of party they want to be – and the type of supporters they want – by the time of the next general election.

14:27

Mark Reckless: “Why do the Conservatives so dislike those who work in the public sector? And who will stand up for them if not Labour?”

This is interesting. The UKIP of old (libertarian, focusing on Brexit above all) would never have waded in to the “austerity” debate in support of higher pay for public sector workers. And yet here is Mark Reckless, UKIP’s economic spokesman, complaining that the public sector need a “long deserved pay rise”. Looks like UKIP are trying to triangulate – reap the benefits of their reputation as a fiscally conservative party while reaching out to disaffected Labour voters with full throated support for the public sector.

Whether this strategy is right or wrong, the UKIP of today is certainly not the UKIP of several years ago, at least in terms of economic policy.

14:25

Over half way through the first day of UKIP’s 2015 conference and this speech by Mark Reckless is probably the first “traditional” conference speech we’ve heard. Mark Reckless is speaking well, but when his brief consists of talking about “overseas remittances” and other dry economic topics, he has little opportunity to delight the conference delegates with YouTube-friendly zingers and slogans.

14:19

Here comes Mark Reckless, whose political courage in defecting from the Tories to UKIP and forcing (and winning) a by-election in Rochester was punished at the general election. Now he speaks in his new guise as Economic Spokesman.

Interestingly, he seems much more relaxed in this speech than he did twelve months ago in his “I can’t do that with the Conservatives, I can as UKIP” defection speech.

14:15

Nigel Farage Speech Reaction

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow was underwhelmed:

Farage can rabble-rouse as well as anyone but this speech was uncharacteristically underpowered. The peroration was non-existent, the argument was often cursory and a key argument was pivoted around a dodgy joke. It wasn’t a speech to alarm the pro-Europeans.

The delegates I spoke with lapped up the speech happily enough, but Sparrow’s points are well made – there is no doubt that this was a more muted speech. Perhaps Nigel Farage is conserving all of his energy for the coming Brexit referendum battle, and the “Say No To The EU” roadshow tour that UKIP is organising.

14:10

And we’re back from lunch, with guest speaker Andrew Allison of The Freedom Association.

Rather awkward here in the press room, as Allison rails against the BBC – both the license fee and the perceived bias of their news operation.

“You could be forgiven for thinking the creative industries of Britain would burn in the fires of hell if the BBC was not allowed to extract direct debits from our bank accounts for the license fee .. They [the BBC] have nothing to fear about leaving the license fee and moving to a subscription system”.

14:05

INTERVIEW WITH NIGEL FARAGE

Nigel Farage is unsurprisingly bullish about UKIP’s prospects in the wake of 2015’s good-yet-disappointing general election result and looking ahead to the coming EU referendum.

I asked Farage whether he is happy with the 2015 conference so far, and how he thinks UKIP’s diverse coalition of different voters can be kept together once the EU referendum has been and gone. His answers are well worth watching:

13:45

INTERVIEW WITH NIGEL FARAGE

What have I been doing for the past hour, you ask? Just interviewing Nigel Farage for Semi-Partisan Politics. Stay tuned for the video and transcript…

12:40

And here’s the man himself – Nigel Farage preparing to give live TV interviews overlooking Doncaster Racecourse, following his conference speech:

Nigel Farage - UKIP Conference 2015 - Doncaster

12:34

And that’s it. Quite short, very light on policy and the future direction of UKIP beyond the immediate priority of winning the coming EU referendum. Delegates seem fairly happy, but this was far from the explosively enthusiastic reception that Farage received last year, or that which greeted the defection of Mark Reckless MP.

It really feels like all other issues – economic policy, healthcare (to a lesser extent), defence (where UKIP were starting to gain some real credibility) are being put on the backburner now, as the party focuses with laser precision on fighting and winning the coming EU referendum. This may well make good tactical sense, but by failing to align UKIP for a future beyond the referendum, is Nigel Farage missing a trick?

12:33

Farage is now talking about which group will get “lead group” designation from the Electoral Commission. Pledges that UKIP  supports Leave.EU, and will work with any and all eurosceptic groups.

“I believe the tide is changing. I believe we are on course to win the most historic political outcome in any of our lifetimes”.

12:30

Nigel Farage: “Let’s make the positive argument for trade with Europe, for positive engagement with Europe, for being good neighbours with Europe .. but surely we should be able and capable of negotiating our own trade deals on the world stage.

“If Iceland are strong enough to make their own trade deals, I’m pretty damn sure that we are big enough and strong enough to make our own trade deals.”

“What [europhiles] are saying is not that we are not big enough to make our own trade deals. What they’re saying is that we are not good enough” – this is good stuff. Taking the fight to the europhiles, and pinning them down on exactly why they think one of the greatest countries in the world would founder and implode if we stopped pooling sovereignty with the antidemocratic EU.

We need lots more of this from the Brexit campaign – positive, optimistic and continually asking the europhiles precisely why they think that Britain is not a good enough country to do what every nation outside Europe does – namely, face the world as a sovereign and independent nation, open to trade with all.

12:26

Nigel Farage: “If you vote to stay in the European Union, you’re not voting to stay in the same union we have now” – Nigel Farage making the point that the EU is moving toward fiscal and political union, and that a vote to stay is essentially a vote to get swept along with the integrationist current.

“We are voting to remain part of an integrationist project” warns Nigel Farage, saying Cameron “isn’t asking for anything substantial at all” from the renegotiation. “Nothing at all”.

12:25

Nigel Farage’s message to soft eurosceptics waiting on the outcome of David Cameron’s renegotiation before committing themselves to campaigning for Brexit: “you are fundamentally wrong”.

“To wait would be a terrible, terrible mistake. It would be to play into the hands of the PM, who would set the terms for the renegotiation .. and by the time the Leave side had mobilised, the referendum would be over.”

12:20

Nigel Farage: “There is something even dearer to my heart than party politics, even if it is UKIP. I want us to summon every resource and energy .. I want us to devote ourselves solely to the referendum, and breaking the link with Europe.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put party before country”

As expected, UKIP are throwing all of their mental and physical energies toward the EU referendum, possibly at the expense of other pressing issues that the party may need to work on. Entirely understandable, but UKIP must ensure that they continue to offer a coherent political message on issues not related to Europe if they are to survive and prosper beyond the EU referendum.

12:17

Nigel Farage: “Within a week of being in charge of a Labour Party that is becoming obsessively europhile in every way and under pressure from his backbenchers, [Corbyn] had capitulated”.

“I now believe that a whole new flank of the Labour vote is there for UKIP. I think that Corbyn is a gift for UKIP”.

12:15

Time to address the Labour Party’s implosion, and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. “What we saw was UKIP tearing chunks out of the Labour vote. We hurt the Labour Party far more than we hurt the Conservative Party”.

“It was put about the day he was elected, by Diane Abbott I think, that Jeremy being in charge of the Labour Party would mean all those voters who deserted Labour and went to UKIP would come back. Do you honestly think that Labour voters in Doncaster who came to UKIP want to get rid of the Queen?”, or “hand the Falklands over to Argentina?”.

“On all those issues, Corbyn is 1000 miles away from Labour voters who came to UKIP”.

12:12

“If you had said that UKIP would get 4 million votes in the general election, I would have bitten your arm off – and I think we can be very proud”, says Farage, insisting “we need electoral reform in Britain, though I suspect we should not hold our breath”.

12:07

Nigel Farage: “There are times in elections, there are times in life, when you cannot change the cards you are dealt. And there was a swing to the conservatives because of a fear of that woman north of the border and the belief that Ed Miliband would not make a good prime minister”

12:06

Farage makes reference to his un-resignation, saying that after the general election he did not think he would be addressing this UKIP conference as leader.

References UKIP’s “amazing run” of last year, with the defections of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless from the Conservative Party.

12:04

“It’s the final countdown” plays as Nigel Farage prepares to take the stage.

Very apt – the one thing that Ukippers have been working toward for so many years is nearly within reach – an EU referendum and the prospect of an “Out” vote

12:02

UKIP conference delegates are being warmed up for Nigel Farage with old clips of David Cameron saying there was no need for an EU referendum, as well as Farage’s greatest hits from the European Parliament.

The hall is much fuller now:

UKIP Conference Doncaster - Hall 2

11:57

Almost time for Nigel Farage…

Given that this year’s conference was always going to be a more low-key affair than the euphoric 2014 meeting, it’s strange that Nigel Farage would choose to give his speech on Day 1. It’s likely to mean that a lot of the energy – and possibly the delegates – start to ebb away by Friday afternoon, with a day and a half of the conference left to go. It may make sense from a TV audience perspective, but less so from a conference management standpoint.

11:50

Time to bash the BBC – this always goes down well with the crowd.

“The BBC was biased then [when Britain was considering joining the euro] and the BBC is biased now” says William Dartmouth MEP, International Trade Spokesman.

“A country does not have to be a member of the EU for its businesses to trade successfully and to have full access to EU markets. And that’s another fact you won’t hear from the BBC”.

“We in the UK are the European Union’s biggest market .. we pay them much more than they pay us. The EU has trade agreements with Mexico, Madagascar… it follows that a trade agreement with the UK is absolutely inevitable” – a fair point dispelling the myth that the UK would somehow be frozen out of global trade if we left the EU.

11:46

“We should not be giving other countries the power to influence our health service” says Louise Bours, railing against the potential impact of TTIP on the NHS. Shame to see this reflexive NHS-worship from UKIP, who once were open to more fundamental market-based reform of the health service.

Legislation to protect the NHS from TTIP “is needed, Mr. Cameron, because we don’t trust you.”

11:41

Louise Bours MEP on stage now, talking about various sinister threats to “Our NHS” from Europe.

“We are not training enough” nurses because “we refuse to accept that not all those entering the nursing profession need a university degree”.

“Let us also encourage and enthuse those who see nursing as a vocation. Let us see the return of the state enrolled nurse.”

“I will do everything to ensure the public know we have to leave the EU to protect the EU”

At least Bours acknowledged that she “can be shouty” – lots of us in the press room getting a bit of a headache…

11:30

Here’s my interview with Douglas Carswell MP, who was in very good spirits as he roamed the area outside the main conference hall here at Doncaster Racecourse, speaking to fans and party activists.

I asked Carswell what would constitute a success for this year’s party conference, given the extraordinarily successful 2014 gathering (when UKIP had just won the European elections and were about to gain their second MP), and also asked how UKIP can keep its broad coalition of young libertarians, older social conservatives, disaffected Tories and patriotic Old Labour types together once the unifying goal of a Brexit referendum has been achieved.

11:20

Here’s the Telegraph’s Asa Bennett, outlining the challenge facing Nigel Farage as he prepares to deliver his keynote speech to the UKIP 2015 conference in Doncaster today. From the Telegraph’s Morning Briefing email:

As Ukip prepares for the EU referendum, it faces the challenge of maintaining credibility and party unity. The Times reports thatExpress owner Richard Desmond was “furious” to discover part of his £1m donation to the party was used to pay back a six-figure loan, while the BBC reports that the Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosby turned down a £2m offer to work with a Ukip-linked pro-Brexit campaign.

Nearly four million voters backed Ukip and its flamboyant leader, often seen chuckling over a pint, in May. Farage initially was Ukip’s Heineken man, reaching parts of the electorate other parties couldn’t. But now Labour has its “craft ale” leader in place, Ukip has to remind voters why they liked their brew in the first place.

11:12

In the meantime, here is the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow’s live blog of the UKIP 2015 conference here in Doncaster.

Ukip’s annual conference gets underway properly in Doncaster today (after a training day yesterday) and Nigel Farage, the party leader, has been giving interviews this morning. Thanks to first-past-the-post, his party had a relatively disappointing general election, but now Farage is thoroughly focused on the opportunities offered by the referendum on EU membership, which many expect to be taking place at about this time next year.

11:00

Protesters seem to have dispersed – nothing on the scale of last year’s anti-UKIP hysteria.

However, I’ve gone one better – just been speaking with Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s sole MP. I asked him about what will constitute a successful conference this year, and how UKIP’s coalition of different supporters (libertarians, social conservatives, Old Labour types, “left behind” coastal town residents and more) can be persuaded to stick together once the unifying goal of an EU referendum is no longer on the horizon.

Video to follow shortly.

10:45

Apparently there are some anti-UKIP protesters outside the venue. Going to talk to some of them now, while the conference takes a coffee break. Stay tuned…

10:42

“In Sweden I would say Nigel Farage is like a God, more or less .. we are a big fan of UKIP, and not least Nigel Farage” says Peter Lundgren MEP, guest speaker from the Sweden Democrats. That went down well in the hall.

He’s boasting about having Farage’s private mobile phone number too… Looks like the cult of Nigel extends well beyond Britain.

10:30

Unlimited immigration from the EU is limiting Britain’s ability to help those in true need, says Mike Hookem MEP

“Let’s get our country back – vote for exit”

10:25

Lots of merchandise for sale..

UKIP 2015 Conference Merchandise

10:20

It’s still early in the first session, but there are a number of empty seats on both sides of the conference hall here in Doncaster, though a number of people are milling around outside rather than watching the opening videos.

UKIP Conference Doncaster - Hall 1

UKIP Conference Doncaster - Hall 2

10:02

This conference is headlined “Out of the EU, Into the world”. But the first part at least seems more devoted to keeping the world out.

Delegates are now watching a video entitled “The migrant crisis in Calais and beyond”, which will be followed by Mike Hookem MEP talking about securing our borders. Important topics certainly, and a worthy subject to kick off the conference – but it doesn’t exactly send the “open to the world” message that the Brexit campaign will need to adopt if it is to have any chance of victory.

10:00

“We need to get out into the streets and say that getting out of the EU is nothing to be scared of” says Louise Holliday of UKIP South Yorkshire, in between awkward references to Donny Osmond.

Early indications suggest that the focus of this conference will be on Brexit over and above all else, with other questions as to the party’s future direction pushed to the side for now.

09:51

Rather tone-deaf version of the National Anthem…

“That’s how you do it, Jezza” says Judith Morris, opening the conference

09:50

Sebastian Payne from the Spectator is rather disdainful about UKIP’s standing in the post-Corbyn political landscape, asking whether UKIP or the Lib Dems are less relevant:

Now that an In-Out referendum is on the horizon and the main parties are leading the way, Ukip faces a simple question: why should anyone listen to it? It’s hard not to see them as a throw back to the pre-general election days, when Jeremy Corbyn was still an obscure backbencher. Despite the lack of media attention, Ukip is steady in the polls — on 16 per cent of the vote share according to the latest YouGov tracker. The Lib Dems meanwhile are languishing on just six per cent.

[..] Ukip has yet to define where it fits in the New Politics and it looks unlikely this conference will answer that question.

This part is very apt:

Once the vote is over, Ukip will have to transform into something new, or fade away. If Britain votes to remain in the EU, Ukip can continue to campaign for a Brexit and another referendum. But if the public votes to leave, there will no longer be a purpose to the party. Some in Ukip hope it can be remodelled as a small-state, anti-globalisation movement that can appeal to disaffected blue collar workers. But judging by the agenda for the Doncaster conference, the party is only thinking about the near future.

My own take is here.

09:45

Agenda for Day 1 of the conference:

UKIP Conference Agenda

09.30

Nice vantage point from the media room:

UKIP Media Room

09.25

Can’t say that traffic was gridlocked with people arriving for Day 1 of the UKIP conference, but it seems reasonably busy.

UKIP Conference Arrival

07:10

It’s fair to say that this year’s UKIP party conference has not been hyped to anywhere near the extent of last year’s gathering in Doncaster, when UKIP had just won the 2014 European elections and were about to welcome their second MP to defect from the Tories.

The Daily Mail is making much of the fact that tickets to this year’s conference were not selling well, prompting steep discounts:

A party spokesman admitted that there had been ‘some concern’ over the low numbers and confirmed prices had been reduced in recent weeks.

Without a pickup in numbers, there is a risk Mr Farage’s could be forced to address an audience at Doncaster racecourse with rows of empty seats visible on camera.

Happily, I submitted my request for press accreditation prior to 14 September, and so avoided having to pay the £500 fee.

UKIP Conference Tickets Available - 2

07:05

Comments, criticisms, tips or suggestions?

Or are you at #UKIP15 and want to grab a coffee while sharing your thoughts?

Please use the comments section at the bottom of this article, tweet @SamHooper or email semipartisansam@gmail.com.

07:00

Hello and welcome to this semi-partisan live blog of UKIP’s 2015 national conference.

UKIP are going into this conference with their ultimate goal – the possibility of an “Out” vote in a referendum on Britain’s EU membership – closer than it has been for forty years. This simply would not be the case were it not for the party now gathering together in Doncaster for their national conference, and especially their polarising leader, Nigel Farage. That’s just a fact. There are many principled eurosceptic Tories and others who may go on to play a crucial role campaigning for Britain’s secession from the EU, but their role in bringing about the referendum in the first place, against the political establishment’s every wish, has been marginal at best. This is a UKIP achievement, plain and simple.

And yet what should in many ways be a valedictory party conference is instead very mixed in terms of tone and expectation. UKIP were punished incredibly harshly by the electoral system – if anyone deserves 56 MPs in Westminster it is UKIP, not the SNP – and between the march of the Tartan Tea Party and Labour’s spectacular implosion, it feels like UKIP have lost some of their earlier momentum. But these things can change all the time, and there is no reason to doubt that UKIP can seize back the initiative – and the attention – when they need to.

So forget all of the usual party conference intrigue about who’s up and who’s down. There are really only two strategic questions of medium and long-term consequence to UKIP, and to which we should pay careful attention for any hints as to which way the party is leaning:

  1. UKIP’s role in the coming Brexit referendum campaign. At present, UKIP are leading the charge with their Say No To The EU tour, large American-style rallies featuring Nigel Farage as keynote speaker but with UKIP branding otherwise minimised. This tour is partly borne out of frustration that no one else on the eurosceptic side seems to be doing anything, with the Tories dutifully awaiting the outcome of David Cameron’s pointless renegotiation effort. Unwilling to grant the hardline europhiles carte blanche to campaign unopposed, UKIP have stepped into the void. But what role will they – and Nigel Farage – seek to take in the broader “Out” campaign once it finally gets underway?
  2. How to keep the UKIP coalition together. For a party that some opponents accuse of being divisive and polarising, UKIP is actually a remarkably broad church at present, comprising young libertarians, ex-Tory social conservatives, “left behind” swing voters and ex-Labour northern voters. And this just about works, so long as everyone has a big target to focus on – namely the coming EU referendum. But once the referendum has taken place in 2017, UKIP will have to adjust either to having won the battle and being close to achieving their primary political aim, or else having lost the election and seeing their primary political goal rejected by the electorate. In either case, the many faces of UKIP will have quite different – and possibly irreconcilable – ideas about how to move forward.

It is these core questions, far above the day-to-day tactics and often forgettable speeches, which UKIP ultimately need to answer if the party intends to survive to see the 2020 post general election party conference season, when Britain may well have a new government and be in the process of negotiating our secession from the European Union.

I will be listening to the speeches and talking to conference delegates and others with a view to understanding how UKIP currently intend to approach these two existential questions.

It may not be a party conference full of the usual political drama, but UKIP’s 2015 national conference in Doncaster is perhaps the most significant and important gathering yet.

This blog’s UKIP conference previews are here and here.

Complete coverage of UKIP here.

Main Stage - UKIP Conference 2015

#UKIPConf15

#UKIP15

With thanks to Poached Creative for the provision of photographic equipment

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