UKIP Daily readers and callers to Lexdrum House, are a self-selecting group. As any pollster will tell you, such a sample is an unreliable guide as to how an electorate will vote. While it is encouraging to see support on UKIP Daily (and its ally Kipper Central) for getting rid of Bolton we cannot assume that will be a majority view at the EGM (though I very much hope it will be).
Bolton has access to the entire membership database and is using it to promote his new constitution and anti-NEC website. We can assume, therefore, that more members will have seen his case than have seen the critique of the many flaws in his proposed constitution or in his denunciations of the NEC. There will be a faction chanting ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ (see here) but some of them may yet be woken from their slumber by a clear exposé of Bolton’s power grab. Unaccountable power should send shivers down the spine of any kipper.
I hope, therefore, that whoever speaks for the NEC (and the pre-selected few from the floor) does not assume everyone has read UKIP Daily, studied the articles and comments, and merely needs a quick reminder of the compelling reasons for getting rid of Bolton. Rather, they must argue de novo. There might usefully be some co-ordination between the speakers on our side – you cover this, I’ll cover that – so that Bolton’s case is dismantled in a tsunami of the most probative points.
Few members appear to have read the existing constitution, so we cannot assume the new one will have been studied by all attending nor that they see what we see. Yet, it is so revealing of Bolton’s mindset and ambitions for himself and so opaque as to how it actually solves any of the party’s problems, assuming anyone goes along with blaming the NEC for anything, that it needs to feature in the statement of reasons for why we should vote to support the no-confidence vote, notwithstanding its post hoc character as a reason for the NEC’s vote.
I took my quote `four legs good, two legs bad’ from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Recall that the pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, would address the animals from time to time and that when Snowball spoke he moved his tail from side to side in a manner that “was somehow very persuasive”. It will be Napoleon himself who will be speaking in Birmingham and he will be trying to be “somehow very persuasive” and with whatever equivalent he can come up with to moving his tale from side to side. Some members have already found him very persuasive.
So, our side’s speakers really do have to go for broke, take nothing for granted and, unlike Bolton and his fellow piggies, pay members the compliment of treating them as capable adults but, the stakes being so high, a bit of persuasive tail wagging should be adopted whenever possible by our side. Gerard Batten needs to be there and highly visible. Nothing need be said by or about him but the symbolism of his presence needs to be very visible. Very visible indeed.
I do not believe that structural, constitutional reform is needed at all. Even if that were desirable in some way it must be way down the list of our policy light, directionless party’s priorities. I prefer an elected NEC as the party’s governing body. Yes, people with particular aptitudes might usefully be employed in the party and there may be a time again when the party has the money for that. For now, though, there is just one change that is needed.
Our MPs vote in public. There are no secret ballots. As elected representatives we are entitled to know how our MPs vote on everything from the gas mains enabling bill to the Lisbon Treaty to the Great Repeal Bill. There are websites dedicated to reporting how MPs vote. That we can know how our MPs vote is one of the defining features of representative democracy.
The few NEC minutes released to date are about dreary housekeeping matters. What I want to know is how each NEC member votes. Who was for and who against Anne Marie Waters standing in the 2017 GE? Who for and against her standing in the leadership election? It is these voting records that need to be made available to members. It will `connect’ the NEC members with ordinary members for being the crucial information we need about them when deciding to re-elect them or not. It may also modify voting behaviour if how each NEC member votes is no longer a party secret.
I know if my MP represents me by the way he votes. If the NEC represents us, as they now claim to do, then I need to see how they each vote. No constitutional reform is needed for this, just a decision by the NEC to release data on who voted which way on what. This will end much of the carping about the NEC.
If the NEC are serious about representing us, if they want to build on the connection with members that Bolton has provoked, then they need to do this – and tell us who votes against it!