One of the first decisions of Henry Bolton in his position as new leader was to state in the media (e.g. Daily Politics on 12 October) that our policy baseline is now the 2015 General Election Manifesto. The objective of this decision is to discard the Integration Agenda and the 2017 General Election Manifesto, which he also said had not been properly adopted in the first place and hence were not official UKIP policy. Apparently neither the Integration Agenda nor the 2017 Manifesto were agreed by the NEC, which is in breach of the rule book. Did the party go into the election with its key defining policy and entire Manifesto effectively null and void?
This reveals and represents a stunning failure of policy making and governance within the Party for which heads should roll. As the 2017 General Election candidates were undergoing the vetting and selection processes during mid- to late-April, nobody knew they would be standing on the more radical Integration Agenda, which was announced by Paul Nuttall, Peter Whittle, David Kurten and Margot Parker on 24 April. It was separate to the Manifesto which was launched one month later on 27 May. The Integration Agenda was highly divisive within the party, for example in our branch it was the reason our chairman decided to resign. Yet we are now told it was launched without the required agreement of the NEC and therefore, even though it still appears on the ukip.org website, we are now told it never existed as an official policy. Furthermore, the entire election Manifesto appears to be illegitimate!
But where were the watchdogs of the NEC to protect us from these acts of the leadership? This is probably the most divisive policy UKIP has ever introduced, and yet the chief control mechanism, requiring NEC agreement for any policy, was by-passed without a squeak. Where was the Chairman, Paul Oakden, as the leadership team rode roughshod over the rulebook? Why has nobody since been punished, with Whittle and Kurten even being allowed to run for leader? Where was the whistle blowing from NEC members on social media? If they aren’t going to defend their own roles and the rule book, then what is the point of an NEC in the first place? Does this confirm Nigel Farage’s view of the most recent crop of NEC members as being unfit for purpose, part-time sandwich-munching amateurs unfit to be in governing roles?
Following Henry Bolton’s announcement that the policy baseline would be rolled back to the 2015 manifesto, other party luminaries such as John Bickley have spoken out to argue that no, there have been no changes to policy such as the zero net migration policy. Having set policy illegitimately, senior members of the party are now trying to defend it and contradict Henry’s position.
How to sort out this mess? Firstly, if the Chairman as spokesperson for the NEC did not challenge this misappropriation of power by the leadership team at the time, then he should step down. Why did he not raise the alarm at the time? Second, why did nobody else on the NEC blow the whistle? This is such a fundamental duty of NEC members that they have demonstrated they are not fit to be NEC members. They should each issue a statement on why they decided not to say anything at the time. and consider their positions accordingly.
But is Henry right to roll back to 2015? It is hard for me, as a candidate who defended the 2017 Manifesto and the Integration Agenda, who lost friends and was publicly abused on social media because of it, not to feel like I have been thrown under a bus. I spent a lot of my own time and money to promote something that, it turns out, had not been properly approved, and indeed if it had been put to a vote perhaps it would not have been approved. But defend it I did, and now four months later I am being asked to disown it. Henry should explain this decision more clearly, the party should come clean on how it managed to go into a general election without properly adopting such a key policy and an entire manifesto, and there must be consequences. In exchange, candidates can promise not to attempt to claim our time and money back for being asked to represent the party under false pretences. Prior to Henry raising this issue there had been no public attempt by the leadership, management or NEC to correct this situation, and it appeared to have been brushed under the carpet with everybody happily continuing to go about their business.
This was a complete failure of governance and heads should roll!