The NEC of UKIP is the body that holds all the power. As company directors, they can prevent and/or authorise virtually everything. Despite this enormous power they are essentially an unqualified and largely unknown group of people elected on a system far more representative of a tombola dip than an election. This is quite deliberate and designed to keep the power in the hands of a few.
The last NEC election attracted 91 candidates who were put to a single ballot. No campaigning other than 150 words is allowed, so there is no opportunity for members to really know who these people are, how qualified they are, or what they believe in. Most members don’t bother, largely because of the general anonymity of the NEC and the fact that they do not realise the excessive power they have. Today, they may have killed the party.
The result, therefore is that people whose names are marginally better known get elected. The result of this deliberate process is to create a permanent conflict between those with the power but without, political nous, experience, knowledge or necessarily the best interests of the party at heart, and the leadership. Most members don’t even know who these people are. We don’t know what that do, what they talk about, who votes for what, and they have no formal connection with the party in the country and as a result are completely unaccountable.
Every candidate in the recent leadership election vowed to do something about this rotten core at the heart of UKIP. Only one can, and did start this process.
Nigel Farage had eventually had enough of the constant battles, and he is a formidable opponent. Diane James crumbled in the face of this confrontational organisation almost immediately and Paul Nuttall simply did nothing to reform the party in his entire tenure. What he meant by the ‘unity candidate’ was to accede to the status quo in the hope that personal electoral success would follow. That didn’t work very well, and we began haemorrhaging members.
However, the 2017 leadership election threw up an outsider in Henry Bolton. Many had favourites in existing senior people, a bubble surge even suggested that Anne Marie Waters would win, but Henry Bolton did. His win saved the party then, only for the NEC to try to finish it off now.
As the outsider Henry Bolton was keen to initiate sweeping reform, as only an outsider (to the UKIP clique) can do. This wasn’t popular with those in power who wished to keep things as they are and as a result, Henry Bolton began his tenure with a target on his back. It wasn’t long before the knives came out. However, if it wasn’t this, it would have been something else. In the cold light of day, though, this is a weak and premature attack, because it’s foundations are based upon guilt by association as opposed to any personal guilt or failings. Henry Bolton was doing a good job for the party and has done nothing wrong. This won’t look good.
The NEC today [Ed: Sunday 21st Jan] voted unanimously in favour of a no-confidence motion in the leader, the chairman only has a casting vote. In doing this they may have consigned the party to the dustbin of history, but the process is not over.
The final decision now goes to the membership under the auspices of an EGM and creates a wonderful opportunity for real change.
Many, I’m sure, will not know that should the EGM not confirm the vote of no confidence in the leader, taken today, then the entire NEC has to stand down and a completely new one elected. This is a wonderful opportunity to rid ourselves of all the present incumbents in one go and choose 12 people who truly have the interests of the party at heart. The wording of the constitution clearly suggests also that none of the existing NEC members may stand for re-election. As it happens, and with a tinge of irony, this vote of no confidence in Henry Bolton also applies to the NEC. It is the ultimate power battle. Henry Bolton goes, or the NEC goes. This is a watershed moment for the party.
My SAGE group for electoral reform (a Henry Bolton innovation) has met and we have drafted a much more sensible electoral process for both the NEC and leadership elections that I will be submitting and publishing over the next couple of days. It may not be in the interests of the current party power base but after that, perhaps? As it happens we’ve also drafted our manifesto commitments in this area. Policy is being created.
Make no mistake, that this is simply a power grab by an anonymous and incompetent NEC in the face of wide ranging party reforms being driven by Henry Bolton. His relationship issues, upsetting as they must be for everyone involved, has been the catalyst, but will be seen, certainly by the media, as an unjustifiable witch hunt.
Now, though, it is up to the party membership. We can get rid of this NEC once and for all, giving a clear opportunity to reform and reshape the party and its power base. I urge all of you who wish to see the continuation of UKIP and its resurgence as a relevant political force to make sure you attend the EGM and vote against the NEC decision. If you do, a new dawn awaits, with new opportunity.
A new NEC must commit to party reform and the wide-ranging changes needed. Never before have the membership had such a decisive vote. It’s a shame that our stupid rules and awful constitution denies so many members a say. Apparently only those mobile enough or otherwise able to get to the EGM will count, so that’s just one more thing that needs fixing.
If the no-confidence vote is upheld, Henry Bolton’s reforms will simply bite the dust. There will be no member engagement and no party re-structuring, no SAGE, and business (the business of sinking without trace) will simply continue. We’ll also have no leader and no prospective leader in sight. This would be the fourth election in just over a year, in six months or a year we’ll be having the fifth, if we still exist.
Three leadership elections have proved that there is nobody of sufficient stature who wants the job. Forcing another one over, essentially personal circumstances is absolute folly. If the NEC prevail, the boy’s jobs, for as long as they last will be safe, but the party will be over. MEPs will likely begin to drift away as they start the search for new jobs, as their EU tenure draws to a close. Goodbye UKIP, you tried, but the forces of self-interest prevailed. RIP. Unless?