We are told there will be a vote of no-confidence taken at the NEC meeting on Sunday. However, this once again acts as a reminder of the failures of UKIPs governance system. Although these failures have been clear for a long time, they are now coming home to roost.
Recent events show the ordinary UKIP members have absolutely no influence over the actions of NEC members, and NEC members feel no duty to members. Of the 15 members of the NEC, only 2 have made their positions known, and that was before the Chairman issued his order that they remain silent prior to the meeting. Another has strongly hinted at his position in these pages, and Henry has, of course, broken the Chairman’s request already by being interviewed several times.
This illustrates the failure of the governance system perfectly. The Chairman imposes a code of silence on the NEC members, but the Chairman is appointed by the Leader! Thus the NEC members, like sheep, allow themselves to be silenced by someone who takes his orders from the person they are voting about. It is blindingly obvious that the NEC should have its own Chairman entirely separate to the ‘Chairman’ appointed by the Leader, who is in fact more like a Chief Operating Officer than a Chairman. Having the leader exert indirect authority over the members’ representative body is a ridiculous situation to be in as the NEC is supposed to be able to hold the Leader to account. Surely losing the word ‘interim’ from his title (remember Henry’s words; “interim is what it says on the tin”) should make it clear that Henry and Oakden are now on the same side?
At this last-chance saloon moment, NEC members have the duty to tell members how they will be voting in advance of the vote, so that members have a chance to ask them for explanations and make representations to them. You may assume that an NEC member will vote one way or another (or abstain, always the easy way out), but assumption is the mother of all cock-ups. As there is no guarantee of disclosure of the result (there was a vote of no-confidence in the chairman earlier this year which passed 9-0 with two abstentions and at least one absence, with only the result being disclosed, not the individual voting record, and since then no more NEC meeting records have been posted).
Unlike MPs, NEC members do not have a constituency. There is no identifiable group of people who voted for them. On the other hand, if you as a member didn’t vote for any of the NEC members, then who should you contact? There is no accountability whatsoever. In these circumstances, with nobody ‘holding their feet to the fire’ as it were, NEC groupthink takes over, and rather than represent the views of the members directly, they start thinking they should ‘do their best for the party’. In practice, this will mean being easily influenced by others who have been around longer or are more dominant personalities. If a voting block of five members can be formed (e.g. Crowther, Oakley, Bown, Wauchope, maybe Finch), then Henry is safe. Looking at the list, my guess is that he will survive. The waiverers will waiver, or abstain. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some people won’t show up, or will suddenly get ill.
Silence is not an option, and indeed silence should be assumed to mean they will support Henry. Members are highly optimistic if they think that NEC members will vote against the wishes of the party establishment. None of the non-NEC senior party members have called for Henry to go. Farage hasn’t. Whittle hasn’t, not Kurten. Deputy leader Margot Parker is active on social media but has not mentioned it. This is not by chance; the silence of the establishment will be taken by Henry as an endorsement and gives him the confidence to continue. Worse, these establishment figures may well have their points of view, but they don’t feel the need to tell members. Frantic phone calls will be taking place, tallies will be counted, but none of this will be disclosed to you. Members are kept in the dark and fed s**t as someone else said once.
Hence I suggest that members must make their feelings known to the NEC members and DEMAND that they provide their voting intention prior to the meeting. Their job is to represent members, not join in the groupthink. If the NEC do not speak out for members, who will?
And whatever happens, if the party survives then there seems to be no way to effect reform. These problems have been clear for a long time but nothing ever happens. Unless NEC members speak up now, they are consigning UKIP to the dustbin of history.