A week ago, we thought there were five candidates prepared to hand in their applications on Monday, 31st October: Suzanne Evans, Raheem Kassam, Paul Nuttall, John Rees Evans and Peter Whittle.
Today, on Guy Fawkes Day, there are only three left: Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall and John Rees Evans. Mr Kassam withdrew on Monday, Mr Whittle on Friday. Those who attended the past week’s hustings got to hear Mr Whittle, and those who attended the hustings in Newport, Wales, were treated to the storming-off of John Rees Evans.
I was at the hustings in Newport and watched it all unfold. The reports in the media, for example by BBC Wales, are not incorrect, but provide another fine example of spin. Reading that report, you might think that there’s a ‘cabal of top level UKIP officials’ who want to thwart Mr Rees Evans’ candidacy because they want a ‘coronation’ by admonishing him not to criticise other candidates.
You might further think that Chairman Paul Oakden’s reminder – not to attack the other candidates – before he called them to give their introductory speeches, was the last straw for Mr Rees Evans, and that his passions boiled over.
You would be wrong.
This ‘storming off’ was planned well in advance.
I say this for the following reasons: the start of the event was delayed by 20 minutes, and while we were sitting and waiting, two cameramen appeared in the front row, right next to where I sat. They were positioning themselves very carefully to get the best shots of the speaker’s desk. They did however not video Mr Oakden or the two candidates speaking before Mr Rees Evans (Suzanne Evans and Peter Whittle), but sprang into action immediately when Mr Rees Evans stepped up.
One is allowed to draw the conclusion that they knew full well what was coming, is one not? One might also surmise that Mr Rees Evans wanted his own version of his storming off, documented to his taste.
Mr Rees Evans’ speech was passionate. It fell into two parts: first his ideas and proposals on how to reform UKIP; making it over into a ‘members democracy’, with no NEC and every member being given the opportunity to propose and vote on anything. He didn’t say how that was to be accomplished.
Next came his accusation that ‘a Party official’ had admonished him personally about criticising other candidates. We only had his word for that, none of us having been at the London hustings where this allegedly happened. Then he said that he would no longer participate in any hustings but would instead ‘address the members up and down the country personally’ – and off he went, followed by his camera crew.
The audience was stunned. Paul Nuttall, the next speaker, said “How do you top that?” when it was his turn, followed by laughter and applause.
The media present had their headlines. What the other three candidates had to say didn’t need to be reported, even though they all gave clear and important statements, that UKIP must now stand together especially after the despicable High Court Ruling on Article 50 earlier that day, and on such important issue as e.g. tackling the creeping islamification of our Culture and Country.
One wonders what Mr Rees Evans wanted to achieve with his performance. If his aim, as he stated, was to address members personally up and down the country without participating in the hustings, then he disrespects the whole election process, never mind disrespecting the other candidates. Nothing says that he cannot participate in the hustings as well as addressing members ‘personally’. By not participating however he has removed himself from exposure to possible criticism by the other candidates: he gets to criticise them, but they cannot answer him back.
Is that what constitutes Fair Play nowadays? Doesn’t this show massive disrespect to all members, not just those who came to the hustings on that Thursday wanting to hear what he has to say on issues, but also to those who plan to attend the future hustings?
Thus members attending that Thursday didn’t get to hear what Mr Rees Evans aims to do in view of the High Court decision on Article 50, nor what he aims to do in regard to re-organising the Party so we can win elections. Not a word about how he would tackle the creeping islamification. All we heard is that he wants rid of the NEC.
Mr Rees Evans accused the Party ‘officials’ of wanting a ‘coronation’. In the first place, a ‘coronation’ is when there’s only one candidate who is elected by acclaim. This is not what is going on, it is not a ‘coronation’ when one candidate, Paul Nuttall, has huge support from Party members.
It was clear during the summer leadership campaign that a large number members were unhappy that Paul Nuttall didn’t stand – he would have been their first choice. Was Mr Rees Evans unaware of this? Where was he during these weeks?
Secondly – by storming off Mr Rees Evans obviously hopes to garner enough votes to win without exposure to critical, public debate. After all, if he believes it is his right to criticise the other candidates, then surely it is right for them – and especially for us members! – to criticise him?
It is distressing that the candidates who withdrew or stormed off this week showed by their actions that their candidacy appears to have been more about themselves rather than about the Party.
Two of the candidates seemed to think that ‘online action’ is the best way forward, without giving members the opportunity to even debate this. Two of them seemed to think that by standing they have the right to win, and that huge support by members for another candidate is ‘a coronation’, fabricated by ‘Party Officials’ who nefariously coerce us poor stupid members to vote the way they want… in UKIP? Really?
Two of them seemed to think they could do in UKIP what Donald Trump did and does in the elections in the USA.
They have overlooked the small fact that neither of them is a Trump …