Alan Sked, the founder of UKIP, was “delirious” with pleasure on the morning of the EU referendum result. However, Sked now thinks it is time for the Eurosceptic party he founded in the early 1990s to “disappear.”
Speaking to Business Insider just two weeks after Britain voted in favour of Brexit, Alan Sked said: “Logically the party should dissolve itself because its raison d’être has been achieved. It should just disappear.”
UKIP has its roots in the Anti-Federalist League, which Sked founded in 1991 in an attempt to pressure the Conservative government to leave the EU. In 1993 it was renamed the UK Independence Party.
The LSE academic, who describes his politics as moderate and liberal, has had a strained relationship with UKIP ever since he was forced out of the party in 1997. Sked complained that the party had been taken over by the far right. Nigel Farage became the leader of UKIP in 2006.
Sked has since been a vocal critic of the “racist” direction in which Farage has taken UKIP. He told the Guardian in 2014: “The party I founded has become a Frankenstein’s monster.“
Nevertheless, Frankenstein’s monster, spearheaded by Farage’s populist focus on immigration, has reached the goal Sked dreamed of when he first set up the party: British independence from the European Union.
Will Heilpern: Britain has now voted to leave the EU, so on paper UKIP has achieved its purpose. Do you think it has much of a future?
Alan Sked: Logically, the party should dissolve itself because its raison d’être has been achieved. It should just disappear. It will no doubt argue it has got to be around to make sure that Brexit is actually implemented and there’s no double cross.
Without the European aspect, what does it stand for? Is it a nationalist party? Is it a right-wing party? Does it have a philosophy of government? Does is stand for small government, or for big government?
When I was UKIP leader, we had a kind of liberal centrist policy base and we had lots of documents. From fiscal policy, to agricultural policy, to defence policy, and to foreign policy. We didn’t, however, have any policy documents on immigration policy because immigration wasn’t an issue we were interested in at that stage. It became an issue, in fact the only issue, after Farage took control of the party, but, when I was leader, we were very liberal.
Heilpern: Are you pleased that Farage has now stepped down as the leader of UKIP?
Sked: I was very happy to see Farage step down. How long he’ll step down for, I don’t know. The last time he stepped down lasted a whole three days. I expect he’ll come back again … He’ll stay being an MEP because he gets something like £100,000 a year plus expenses. He’s not going to give that up anytime soon, he’s always been there just for the gravy train anyway.
Farage hasn’t managed to be elected as an MP in 20 years. Eight times he has failed. I don’t think his popularity will have gone up all that much.
What can he do? He’s fairly useless, he’s dim, he’s not very bright, he’s an alcoholic. He told me himself the first job after he left school was as a commodities broker and he was sacked from that because he was inebriated on the floor of the commodities exchange. He’s been drunk ever since, as far as I know.
Every night I knew him he was pissed by 11 p.m. Who would employ him?
[Nigel Farage has frequently denied that he is an alcoholic. In 2015, Farage told the Daily Telegraph that he is a “boozer, not an alcoholic.” Sked’s comments also need to be taken with a pinch of salt — Sked resigned from UKIP in acrimonious circumstances, according to the BBC, saying the party was “doomed to remain on the political fringes.” Farage also succeeded in Sked’s ultimate aim, to get the UK out of the EU. Farage did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.]
Heilpern: Now that Farage has quit, could someone like Suzanne Evans or Douglas Carswell make UKIP into a more viable party, if either were to become leader?
Sked: The problem with UKIP isn’t just personalities. The problem is that it is completely disorganised. Farage ran it on the Fuhrer principle … He just made up policy on the hoof and anybody who disagreed with him, no matter what position they had, was just demoted, or kicked out. The party has got no real constitutional structure. It’s also got no proper research department or policy formulation. So, it doesn’t really have any philosophy or policy.
And UKIP’s candidates … They have got no way of vetting candidates, so you get the dregs of the earth. I think at the last election you had people who had formally been accused of rape, murder, and one of its candidates was known to be circulating neo-Nazi propaganda on the internet. I mean you couldn’t make it up.
Heilpern: You have in the past been quite candid about how you view UKIP as a racist party. Nevertheless, it has achieved the purpose for which you founded it. Are you therefore happy that you created Frankenstein’s monster?
Sked: Yes, I was the only person who had the idea as early as 1991 to create a new party to put pressure on the Conservatives to get us out of Europe. I was the co-founder of the Bruges Group — the aim of which was to convert Conservative governments to euroscepticism.
I knew intellectual pressure through pamphlets wasn’t going to go anywhere. So, I decided the only way to pressure the Tories was to form a new party and, because I’d got a certain amount of public credulity and exposure as the most controversial figure in the Bruges Group, the BBC took me seriously.
Eventually, Cameron had a referendum and lost. So, I feel I have played my part in the strategy that brought about Brexit.
Heilpern: It’s understandable that you are happy about the result of the referendum, but are you happy about the way it was achieved by Vote Leave and UKIP — with a focus on immigration and a tone that some accused of racism?
Sked: I left the party in 1997 and I threw Farage out of the party in 1997, but he got a multi-millionaire to fund a legal case to get himself back in the party. With so few funds, we couldn’t fund the legal bills to contest it. So after spending about £16,000, we had to give up and Farage was able to sliver back into the party.
It took him a couple of years until he got control of UKIP, but he’s been in control for nearly 20 years now and I’ve been a major critic, criticising the lack of intellectual coherence, the lack of any kind of policy formulation, the Islamophobia, and everything else.
Heilpern: Despite the fact that UKIP has lost its main purpose and has many organisational problems, it seems like it has the potential to pick up a lot more votes in the next election. What do you think will happen?
Sked: The thing is the Labour Party has now really betrayed its own membership by backing Remain. You get all these Labour leaders and people like David Lammy treating what are largely their voters as uneducated, racist scum.
You can’t re-run general elections on the basis that the electorate are all uneducated, but they think you can do this for a referendum. It’s amazing. They’re the high-minded chattering classes, cut off from the traditional electors and opposed by all these Trots that Corbyn has brought in.
The Labour Party is in a dreadful situation and the Liberal Democrat party was beaten quite comprehensively at the last election. As the default protest party, UKIP might pick up scores of Labour seats.
Heilpern: A huge part of the country, particularly in London, were opposed to Brexit. Do you think there is now room for a UK in Europe Party?
Sked: Well you’ve already got one in the Lib Dems, you’ve got one in the Labour Party. You’ve got two. I don’t know, they can try, but I really don’t think so. By the time we get to the next election in 2020, if Italian banks collapse, and if France decides to come out of the EU, we don’t know if the European Union will even exist …
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