Coming out of May 2014, UKIP lauded its victory and promised to "park the tanks on the Labour lawn" and achieve great things in the following UK general election. UKIP benefited from the usual public disinterest and apathy when it comes to EU elections, along with the highly visible and heavily scrutinised action taken by Brussels to keep the Eurozone together. But 2015 was a very different election; the hunt for UKIP’s prospective members of parliament was on.
The Times articles exposing UKIP’s candidate process doesn’t come as a shock to me,” says a UKIP staffer speaking exclusively to us, who asked not to be named but worked on the 2015 election.
“I first began to realise UKIP had serious problems during candidacy selection exams when I saw the types of candidates that branches thought would be acceptable to stand and who they believed would win seats. There was considerable pressure to get candidates through the tests to appease branch and inter-party rivalries."
“Despite hustings, the branch’s favoured candidates usually managed to get selected - after they had (in many cases) been re-tested multiple times with the same questions. One of the test questions for the test was “How many seats do you expect to win next year?”, the preferred answer was to the effect of “wait and see”, “we can’t say but we are optimistic”. Looking back at my notes I can now see clearly the disengagement many kippers had from political reality - “sixty”, “one hundred”, “fifty”, “over one hundred”, “six hundred”. In one case out of the six candidates in the session, only one of them had a reasonable and rational expectation of seats.”The process of sifting through candidates took up huge resources from the party which it could ill afford, and some candidates were expected to travel hundreds of miles at their own expense to sit the selection exams. UKIP’s branch structure, celebrated by Nigel Farage as his “people’s army” was the first point of contact for potential candidates, and where possible issues with candidates could and should have been flagged.
“The assessment teams assumed that the branches would vet their potential candidates and make us aware of any issues ahead of the interviews,” says the UKIP staffer, “but the cronyism and internal politics got in the way, this meant we were not always told the truth about the people we were supposed to be vetting."
“In one high profile case which caught national news, a candidate was put forward by a branch Chairman and her committee. It was made quite clear to us we were expected to get him through the process, and despite concerns during the interviews we were pressured by an elected UKIP official to pass him."
"The candidate was later embroiled in a national scandal and de-selected.”