On September 8th 2016 Dr Tomasz Slivnik resigned from the NEC. He has given his reasons in a full and comprehensive statement, which is available unabridged at this site, and here is an earlier look at the resignation, before Dr Slivnik’s statement became available.
Below is a summary with extracts from that statement.
Dr Slivnik has been a member of UKIP since 2007. His description of those days ring a bell with all members:
“In my early days in UKIP, everyone I met shared my ideals and they were genuine, friendly, altruistic, common sense people who only wanted the best for their country, were willing to put everything in, never asked for anything back and were not in it for themselves. We never sought or asked for anything from the Party. We didn’t seek elected office, publicity or advantage for ourselves. We donated freely our time, money and effort – canvassing, leafleting, etc. UKIP party conferences were oases away from a mad, politically correct world where one went to get a dose of sanity and share some enjoyable time with like-minded genuine people.”
He describes how he observed the Party slipping away from its original aims and turning into an election machine. This led him to decide to stand for election to the NEC, where he became very active as member of various subcommittees. He goes on to describe the pressures that this work entailed.
Dr Slivnik gives the reason for his resignation thus:
“[…] in summary, it was because we as company directors carried all the liability and responsibility for decisions which were taken out of our hands by persons who wielded all the authority but carried no liability, […]”
Continuing to describe in detail what this means, explaining how UKIP is actually run, and how the NEC is not the faceless group of power-wielding obstructionists as which it has been painted.
Who runs UKIP?
Dr Slivnik states that UKIP (“The Party”) is a Limited Liability Company, with a board of directors. This board is made up automatically of the elected members of the NEC – and these are the ones which carry the legal liabilities just like a board of directors in any other ordinary company.
The salaried staff, from Party Chairman (comparable to a CEO) down, run the day-to-day business of the Party. The Party chairman is also Chairman of the NEC. In a normal company, the CEO is accountable to the board of directors (NEC) – but not so in UKIP. The NEC has no power to appoint the CEO (Party Chairman) or hold the CEO to account. The NEC members and thus directors are however legally liable for any decisions made by the Party officials, even when they had no influence on those decisions.
One of the most pressing problems leading to his resignation was the fact that the Party officials did not provide the NEC with the information necessary to enable them to scrutinise the running of the Party, which is the NEC’s legal obligation:
“Regarding scrutinizing the work of Party officers and asking them questions, “you must trust the Party officers” was the line we were given by the Leadership, and if we didn’t like it, we were told, we could resign.
I understand that until the 2015 crop of NEC members joined the NEC, the NEC were known either as the “nodding donkeys” because they always nodded with approval without any questions when the Leadership wanted something, […]”
Dr Slivnik continues by giving detailed examples of how the work of the NEC – legally liable for the decisions made by Party officials! – was hampered.
One problem was the financial situation of the Party, especially the various ways funds were used in a way called “Off Balance Sheet Funding”. He describes it at length in his statement which you can read here – you need to scroll down a bit – illustrating why a proper scrutiny by the NEC is so important, not just because of the financial liabilities but because staff funded off-balance-sheet are not officially employed by the Party and thus outside proper scrutiny:
“Since this discovery, the board [NEC] have been asking repeatedly for disclosures on these funding arrangements and sufficient information to confirm that the Party was not engaging in anything unlawful. It is perfectly possible that these arrangements are all above board. […] The potential legal risk and reputational damage to the Party is enormous, and we, as directors, were the ones liable if anything was amiss. We were continuously rebuffed, obstructed and obfuscated. “
Moving on, Dr Slivink describes at length other issues, two of which have attracted the hot anger of many ordinary members, with blame attached solely to the NEC. One is the issue of the campaign for the Welsh Assembly elections, especially the issues created before and after the Welsh elections by the then Leader of UKIP Wales. The other is of course the Leadership Campaign, with the continuing row over the exclusion of Steven Woolfe’s candidacy. It is well worth reading his statement on these issues (here, scroll down) because this is the first time the ‘other side’, the view from inside the NEC, gets heard. The other issues touched upon are about the London UKIP Office and ‘Lyoness’.
Communication with ordinary members
Dr Slivnik describes the role of NEC members in this way:
“Being a member of the NEC is somewhat analogous, within the Party, to being an MP – while the Leader might be analogous to being the King, and the officers his Ministers, with the Party Chairman as the Speaker-cum-Prime Minister.This means that one of the duties of an NEC member – as grassroots members representing grassroots Party members to the “salariat” – is to ask questions on behalf of, and pursue causes for other grass roots members who have been wronged. NEC members have (at least theoretically) some powers to ask questions and demand answers which other grassroots members (“ordinary” members) do not.”
He goes on to give examples (see here, scrolling down) and concludes with observations about the way the NEC should operate under the Party Rule Book and Constitution, but isn’t, describing how for instance the point of ‘confidentiality’ has been used to stifle communication with members. He then makes proposals as to how the NEC can become the body by which ordinary members are enabled to scrutinise how the Party is run.
He concludes with a call for Party unity, for a cease to infighting, and warns of the danger of destroying inner-party democracy:
“I hope this letter will help diffuse some of the violent, vitriolic ire directed at the NEC in recent times.
Should you then, instead, direct your ire in an intolerant fashion at the Party officers or the Party Chairman […]?
No. Here are my views.
One, I encourage you to not quit, stay on and keep up the fight, because the stakes are very high and the prize is well worth it.
Secondly, I encourage you not to be intolerant towards the NEC, and to resist calls for the NEC’s abolition. I can say this now, no longer being a member of the NEC, without risk of being accused of having a vested interest and wanting to self-perpetuate. […]
The NEC is the only means of democratic control within our Party – the NEC is elected by you, and abolishing it means the end of democracy within the Party.”