In a new proposed constitution it says in clause G.1. “There is a mutual obligation on all members to behave in a mature and responsible manner in all their dealings with each other” and mandates in G.2 ” Common courtesy and respect for others and for their opinions shall be shown “. I trust we all agree with that!
On not getting their way over a vote Victoria Ayling, Raymond Finch and Michael McGough wrote a letter of resignation that said, inter alia, the NEC included “megalomaniancs, oligarchists, and self-promoting people” (gosh, in a political party? Whatever next?), and that “personal ambitions, loyalties and jealousies” are at the heart of the NEC’s decision making. The group of three also complained about factions. Presumably, a faction is what other people are when they form a group, not one’s own group. The letter was released on twitter, should anyone wish to check for themselves the immoderate and inflammatory language used (fully in accord with G.1 and G.2 above, naturally. The letter drips with respect doesn’t it?) The faction – sorry, group of three – presumably have no motives among the list they decry. A model for us all then!
And this is the problem. They are not a model. The attribution of what motivates the other NEC members is speculative, unless they claim mind reading powers (in which case I need proof), and fact free. The three may sincerely hold beliefs but if no evidence is offered then you and I have no rational reason to hold the same beliefs. I am afraid that the letter, at least in the way it was written, was on a par with Suzanne Evans’ emotional and fact free rant that she submitted to the High Court to try and overturn her suspension. In the same way they elevated feeling over reason, which can be summarised thus: “We are upset that other NEC members did not vote the way we wanted them to. In fact, we dislike them for not kowtowing more to the leader, and while we have nothing factual to offer, here are some nasty, prejudice laden remarks. We will leak the letter in due course and hope it stirs the pot. Please applaud our spiteful retaliation, the new UKIP ethos”.
The problems with the NEC are threefold. Its recent intake includes professionals used to being on company boards. That is, they understand a board is indeed sovereign over a company (to pick up on the group of three’s misunderstanding about what a board is) and so do expect to run UKIP Ltd.
Our leader led a campaign with an uncompromising message and thank god he did. But just for a tiny moment consider whether uncompromising is suitable outside a referendum. In normal, mainstream politics, in which we hope UKIP can now increasingly participate, politics is the art of the possible, of compromise and deals. And that is also how you chair a board. So allow that some NEC members may follow and support their leader through thick and thin politically, but not slavishly when it comes to board matters. Just imagine, for a moment, the possibility that our leader, focused on the campaign, had no emotional resources left to compromise internally. Well, that could lead to tension on the NEC with experienced company directors. The third dimension to all this is that the NEC has been politically naïve in some of its decisions and, just as crucially, in how it has presented them.
The proposed new constitution replaces the NEC with a National Co-ordination Committee, and in addition to certain party officers, as now, will include “13 Regional Representatives”. In effect, the change merely advances election to a renamed NEC and regionalises it. But there are, I believe, soon to be 7 places up for election on the NEC. Isn’t it enough for the members calling for the heads of the NEC to elect the seven they judge suitable, and so completely change the complexion of the NEC that way? Why will other members, elevated from among members as NEC members currently are, be any different? What if some of them decide to act like the company directors they will be? As the Who song says: “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
It is a nonsense, I suggest, to try and change the constitution at the same time as electing a leader. The new leader stands under one constitution but has a new one imposed that he or she had no hand in shaping. The new leader is led from the outset. No chance then of doing a Theresa May and being his or her own person and actually leading!
Getting back to Woolfe, what the hell was he doing logging on at 11.35am on the last day? I argued previously that he was perfectly entitled to do that and no censure arises. But it has since been revealed that Diane James submitted her application successfully at 11.46 am on the last day. Even more curiously, she did not start to gather signatures until two days beforehand. How to interpret that? Suppose Steven knew before that fateful Sunday that his difficulty with managing a scooter in 2002 was likely to come out. He did not want his collar felt and was equivocating about standing. Some powerful backers, say, believed a way would be found around that and pressed him to continue. Meanwhile, they formulated plan B and urged Diane James to run. Do we believe that Diane was sitting at her breakfast table that Sunday morning, lost track of time, and looking up saw that it was 11.40 and rushed over to her PC? Or do you, like me, think it would be very interesting to look at her call logs for Friday and for Sunday along with Steven’s? Just a fun bit of speculation, but it highlights that all may not be as it seems and that the NEC are possibly fall guys in all of this. Given their political naivety they are a good choice for that.
The Huffington Post, over a year ago, ran a story about Nigel’s attitude to the NEC (which was not a happy one) and so the Woolfe episode has been a catalyst for unfinished business. Nigel’s charisma would have entailed uncritical support from some NEC members. The self-identity as professionals of other NEC members would have led them to behave as most modern company directors now do: resist being pushed around. It is an everyday story of board life, and it’s hopelessly naïve to think that a new NCC would be any different.
Nigel has declared that the NEC contains “lowest grade people”. NEC members are unpaid volunteers deserving of some minimal respect (see G.1 and G.2 above). Individuals who ask too many questions, who vote differently than directed by the leader, who are not in your gang, have but a finite life on the NEC. As with the three who resigned, there are no facts for you or I to consider the NEC as lowest grade people even if they do, apparently, bring their own sandwiches. A Corbyn-Momentum style of ‘follow your leader’ everywhere and about everything, uncritically, unreflectively, and no matter whether it is just or not, is not healthy. That is a cult.
Arron Banks is toying with starting an Italian style ‘5 Star’ online party and is currently researching voting software. It risks becoming a mere protest group that is unelectable. `Direct democracy’ sounds great but look how that is working out in the Labour Party with Momentum. I assume the purpose of UKIP after the referendum is to win seats. A ‘5 sta’r style party can win the mayorship of Rome in a different political system and culture. It won’t win parliamentary seats in our FPTP system.
A split forming a new party will sink UKIP. A significant number of members will join the new party and a non-viable rump will remain. Does UKIP really deserve this? Do a few lowest grade people who will be off the NEC in due course really merit this? I feel Arron and Nigel, fresh from referendum victory, got a bit giddy. Thwarted over Steven Woolfe, they acted precipitately. Nigel may be pleased to see how many members are rallying to the cause of terminating early the tenure of current NEC members, but he risks destroying his own legacy because history will record that UKIP won and then imploded. Only UKIP, the identifiable party, can keep an eye on Brexit. An imploded UKIP will be fuel to Remainers.
Please, everyone, be careful what you wish for!
We owe Arron Banks for helping to keep the party going financially, and for setting up Leave.EU. We also owe Nigel, who should be in the house of Lords, on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, and be made honorary president of the party. But I regret to say that both of them, and their acolytes, have set something in motion that may yet destroy the party. I urge them to reconsider, to not abandon the party, and to backpedal on this destructive attempt to replace the constitution by an even more flawed one.
We should be focusing solely on electing a new leader. Everything else, including revenge on the NEC, if that is so important to Arron and Nigel, can wait. What was destined to be a great conference and celebratory party will now have an existential question hanging over it and a mood every bit as divisive as the referendum.
Are you sure you timed this right, guys? We are already losing members. Great legacy!