Ukip leadership hopeful Jonathan Arnott wants Britain to draw inspiration from Switzerland and hold more referendums on "key social issues" in a bid promote direct democracy. The North East MEP told IBTimes UK that the plebiscites could not be held "every five minutes," but argued the Brexit ballot showed referendums could drive political engagement among voters.
"You saw people who hadn't voted in a generation, who went out and voted because they thought because it's a referendum that their vote counted and they could make a difference," he said. "If you want people to get engaged in our political system, then a referendum is a very good way to go about that."
The 35-year-old added: "You can't have a referendum every five minutes, but you see in Switzerland and certain parts of the US that they have very effective ways of holding referendums on various issues. It's something that brings power back to the people."
Arnott, a former general secretary of Ukip, is one of the candidates competing to succeed Nigel Farage, who resigned from the top Eurosceptic job after the UK voted to leave the EU.
Farage made headlines for his fiery speeches and his adversarial debating style. However, Arnott insisted Ukip needed something different at the top of the party "out of respect to Nigel".
"You can't 'out-Nigel' Nigel," he added. "For any new leader to attempt to replicate what Nigel has done would be to court disaster. Any new leader who tries to replicate Nigel will be measured by the yardstick of Nigel. What we need next with a Ukip leader is someone who has a very, very different style to Nigel to avoid that constant comparison."
As to what Arnott will bring to the role, he insisted that there is "clear blue water" between his bid and the campaign from current favourite Steven Woolfe MEP. Arnott ruled out rebranding the party as "completely wrong", but he wants to reform the internal workings of Ukip.
"The branches across the country often feel that they have very little say within the party. There are structures in place which are supposed to result in information being cascaded up from the branches to the regions, to the national party and the NEC," he said.
"And also structures in place so it should be cascading down. That level of communication is something that the structures that are supposed to be in place to achieve that don't necessarily achieve that in practice.
"Certainly, the party does need some form of constitutional reform to ensure that we have a much better way of doing that going forward."
Ukip leadership candidates
- North West MEP Steven Woolfe and Ukip's migration spokesman
- West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge and Dudley councillor
- North East MEP Jonathan Arnott and former Ukip general secretary
- Ramsey councillor Lisa Duffy
Arnott, an accomplished chess player, used an analogy of the game to explain further. "Some people might say that politics requires a bit of strategy. We have to get better at the planning and the manoeuvring." he argued.
"If you try to play a game of chess and move each piece individually, then you get nowhere. But if you try to use every piece that you've got available and bring them all together to join the attack, then you have a lot more success."
But how does Arnott's call for internal reforms translate into policy? Ukip attracted more than 3.8 million votes at the 2015 General Election campaigning on a Eurosceptic and anti-mass immigration platform. With the Brexit vote in the bag, can the party grow or even survive?
"We've got to start broadening our approach and looking to a wider set of issues. We've got to start speaking up for the issues which are too often been forgotten about in our society," Arnott said.
"Immigration to extent, crime as well is something that disproportionately impacts people in working-class areas. That is something which should become a focus for Ukip in the future. We should look at the economy and jobs. I'm an MEP for the North East, which is the area in the country with the highest unemployment."
He added: "We must be the party that is never, ever, ever anti-immigrant or even anti-immigration. But we can be party which is fearlessly opposed to the uncontrolled mass net migration, which results in wage compression and costs jobs."
Ukip leadership timetable
- Nominations close on 31 July
- Candidates will need 50 nominations and pay £5,000 to advance in race
- New leader announced on 15 September