The method by which we select leaders has failed several times. A large corporation would not recruit a new leader in this way.
A large corporation would have a supervisory board (our lords might fill the role) who would appoint expensive consultants (“head-hunters”) to investigate what the job is and whether the job can be done; suggest changes to the job description and the surrounding organisation; assess whether the remuneration is realistic, search widely for candidates, investigate the candidates, interview the candidates and report and recommend. There can be temporary posts, as a trial. Then the supervisory board would make the final appointment.
But for the party leader we use a totally different (and much worse method) …. because we have to abide by our constitution. (Otherwise we shall end up in court).
So … what can we do?
We have to patch around the defects in the system.
I imagine the NEC is thinking about the remuneration package.
We can have a transferable vote system, as indeed the NEC wanted last time (but could not implement because two candidates objected).
And we, UKIP Daily, will need to ensure that we identify one or more good candidates. We must persuade them to stand, and help with cash if necessary. And we must somehow investigate their background.
We cannot put someone in on a trial basis, unfortunately.
Cost of snail mail
I am hearing on UKIP Daily, mainly from Rob McWhirter, that the cost of running the leadership election by snail mail could reach £80,000 or even £150,000. Rob wants us to run our elections electronically. This seems a good idea, provided snags can be overcome. I discuss these snags (and solutions) below.
Electronic voting is even more open to fraud and error than paper voting. The members need to be confident that the election is run correctly.
For this purpose we need to continue using Electoral Reform Services but ERS should check everything from start (scrutiny of the database) to end (the result).
The votes need to go out by email. But our database contains many errors. I would like to recount some of the history of the database:
In about November 2011 Steve Crowther announced to the NEC that he had in mind new software for the membership database. He asked me to check it out. The Supplier was Dataware, in Tilbury, Essex (a place with no decent restaurant within 10 miles, they told me).
I took up the references on Dataware and they were the best I had ever seen. Dataware has around 5 employees, exactly the right size for us. Easy to deal with and highly competent. We should never part company with Dataware. They are gems.
The database software from Dataware was called ‘Subscriber’. I got John Youles, a computer expert and UKIP member, to assess ‘Subscriber’ and he gave it his approval.
We did detect one modification that was needed, namely to inform branches of new members, so that new members could be welcomed within 24 hours of joining. This was implemented …. which proves (if proof were needed) that Dataware are well able to write extra bits of software.
‘Subscriber’ was used to advertise the South East hustings in August 2017 and many emails bounced back because of erroneous email addresses.
(In the recent past ‘Nation Builder’ has been used for bulk emailing, for the sake of speed (overcoming spam blockers). In future ‘Mailchimp’ will be used; Mailchimp has the approval of Dataware. ‘Subscriber’ and ‘Mailchimp’ are linked, virtually all the time. No problem there).
Our problem is that maybe 20% of the email addresses on our database are invalid. On top of that 25% of members have not provided an email address. The question arises whether members who have not supplied an email address should receive voting slips by snail mail. To do so would complicate the process enormously.
How many really active good members cannot provide an email address (which can be that of a husband, brother, daughter, neighbour etc)? In our branch there is only one person, and she has promised to provide an email address soon. (How many in your branch?) So, I assert that we should be brutal. We cannot afford to be soft. No email address, no vote; sorry; tough.
Newton Abbot have found it impossible to provide the staff necessary to get the email addresses complete and correct. The problem relates to about 10,000 members.
How much has been saved by not having the extra staff to deal with the problem? I guess £10,000.
As a result we are not able to use email for voting and magazine distribution.
And what is the resulting cost? £50,000 (recurring).
What is to be done?
It is the job of Newton Abbot to get this straightened out. And to decide how to do it. But maybe Newton Abbot would not object to my making a tentative suggestion.
There are two main ways of solving the problem.
First method: recruit staff at Newton Abbot and grind through the database.
Second idea: There is a tip-top resource ready at the end of the phone: Dataware. (Also: Technical sub-committee).
Get Dataware involved. Get them to propose how to automate the process as far as possible.
The method could be:
- send (automatically) an email to all current members. . (Whether this involves ‘Subscriber’, ‘Mailchimp’ or Email validation tools is up for discussion). Automatically log error messages back into ‘Subscriber’.
- Then (automatically) write to all branch Membership Secretaries with a spreadsheet of all current members where the email address is blank or dud, and ask membership secretaries to complete the spreadsheet and return it by email attachment.
Import all the spreadsheets into ‘Subscriber’. 600 branches at 3 minutes each (when one gets up to speed).
There would also be a need for an ongoing procedure to keep things up to date.
Fee to Dataware c£5,000 (my rough estimate) – saving c£50,000 (recurring).