First of all, let me say this: I like and admire Nigel Farage and Steve Crowther. Nigel is the world’s greatest orator. He is also great on policy; and message selection. Crowther is educated, entertaining and diligent. Everything they do, even if it looks a bit dodgy, is intended to help the party forward. All that I say below should be seen in this context.
I joined UKIP in 2000, Runnymede & Weybridge branch. I was never elected councillor, but got 30% in the ward which contains where Magna Carta was sealed. I contested 2 General Elections, saving my deposit in 2010. I was Chairman of UKIP Surrey for most of 2007-2014 and NEC member for 16 months during 2011 and 2012.
While I was on the NEC for most of 16 months during 2011and 2012, all discussions were calm and courteous. Harmony resulted from competent chairing and the willingness of NEC members to collaborate with the “Clique”. The Clique consisted of the leader, the chairman and a few of their chums.
Tomaz Slivnik has done a good job in describing how things operate (full text here).
I shall give you some more information which may help you decide what reforms are needed.
In 2009 I said to Nigel “As chairman of Surrey I have no powers”. Nigel replied “As party leader I have no powers”. The key to understanding UKIP is to understand that Nigel has struggled to acquire power, by hook or by crook, so that he can get things done to improve the UKIP fighting machine.
My most surprising moment on the NEC came when we discussed how to handle the 2012 London List. In a Proportional Representation system the sequence of the list is critical. The proposal was to let the UKIP members in London vote on the list, thus creating the sequence. However the next step would be for the NEC to “adjust” the sequence.
I was the only NEC member who objected to this “adjustment” on principle. That I was the only one to do so surprised me enormously.
I was told that I was politically naive and an enemy of the party …
“Politically naive” seems to mean not understanding that one needs to cheat to achieve results. And “enemy of the party” seems to mean enemy of the cheating plans of the Clique.
Section 2 of our constitution says that UKIP will be democratic.
Section 12.1.1 in our constitution that says that the NEC can decide how lists are to be produced. Does this rule authorise the NEC to indulge in re-sequencing, after members have made their choice?
Then – still in 2012 – the NEC met the London candidates and adjusted the list promoting Woolfe above David Coburn and Lawrence Webb. Only one other and I voted to keep the list unchanged, the list voted for by members.
The next big debate on the NEC after that was how we should run the MEP selection for the coming EU Parliament. Should it be regional or national. Selection of candidates is traditionally done within constituencies. The constituencies were the regions. In the regions the members would have some chance of knowing the candidates. But the proposal from the Clique was to do the thing nationally. Most of those on the NEC wanted to become MEPs, so the committee making the decision (regional or national) was small. Alan Bown and I were adamantly in favour of regional selection. The Clique wanted national selection. In the end two nodding donkeys were brought in to help, and “National Selection” prevailed.
There then was a need for a team to decide on the MEP candidates’ ‘merit points’. Crowther appointed about 12 chums to do this without NEC approval. When the NEC discovered this fact, they were not happy. But by then it was too late. The assessments and merit points were controlled by the chums and allegedly, I heard, the whole thing was rigged.
I don’t like all this chicanery, but then, I am “politically naive” …
Another battleground has been the Disciplinary Committee. The original idea was that the Disciplinary Committee should be independent of the executive and the NEC. This has been a fiction for at least a decade. The Clique now has total control of the discipline process, which can be used to suspend unwanted persons such as Chris Pain and Suzanne Evans at a moment which will wreck their chances of election. Meanwhile the discipline process is not used against any of the chums.
I object to this process, but I am “politically naive”!
I drew up the organisation chart of the Party (available on request) and showed it to Crowther. He said it looked correct. This seemed odd to me, since the chart was clearly unworkable. The camel can hardly stand up, but the leader, by hook or by crook, has forced it to stagger forwards … (I have looked at the organisation charts of other parties, from Japan to California; none of the charts look remotely workable, but that is another matter.)
The professional leg of UKIP is constantly attacking the democratic leg, for example by abolishing the forum; by not allowing NEC members to publish anything and certainly not who voted for what; by not publishing the NEC minutes, which used to be published on the forum; by ensuring that there is no contact between the RORC ( RORC: Regional Organisers and Regional Chairmen meeting; meets every 2 months) and the NEC. Did you know that the minutes of the RORC meetings do not go to NEC members?
More: rigging chums onto the NEC and rigging people off if they vote the wrong way. If you don’t believe the NEC elections are rigged, look at the votes for Lisa Duffy, Rob McWhirter and myself and ask why the votes have never been routed via a professional election office.
The most blatant attack on inner-party democracy was the decision to join a PEPP (PEPP: Pan European Political Party. UKIP belongs to the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, ADDE), ignoring the inner-party referendum result.
The NEC needs better links with the regions. In January 2012 I suggested that each elected member of the NEC choose a region and represent it. I took Wales. Coburn took Scotland. This method remains the simplest way of linking the NEC to the regions.
Finally, turning to the most recent event: the NEC refused to let Woolfe stand because his nomination was 17 minutes late. The obvious solution was to offer to let him stand if he would indemnify UKIP against legal costs. But – how are NEC decisions made? There should always be a board paper listing all the options. My question is whether the above option was actually on such board paper. I bet it was not! If the NEC makes a wrong decision, the first thing to look at is the quality of board papers!
Perhaps members ought to ask the prospective candidates for this year’s elections to the NEC how they are going to address the issues touched upon above.