In this article I’m going to set out my stall for how the Party should deal with the current situation regarding the National Executive Committee. My vision is to unite the Party rather than divide it, and I’m hoping that this article will provide some initial direction on how we can achieve unity
I’m standing for the Party Leadership for a few reasons, but the key one is that I believe I’m best placed to bring this Party back together. As far as the internal structures go, we need a Leader who actually understands our Party Constitution and who knows what can and can’t be done. The internal structures of this Party desperately need reform and I’m the man to deliver that. I have six years of experience as General Secretary of UKIP, during which time I became more acquainted than almost anyone else with the constraints of our Party Constitution.
We need a plan that actually works. That’s why I oppose the EGM suggestion, which would lead the Party down a completely blind alley whilst creating negative media stories, but favour the Leader pushing reform of our Constitution instead.
No EGM – because it wouldn’t work
There are two main reasons that people have suggested an EGM should be called:
- To restart the leadership election
- To reform the Party Constitution / abolish the NEC
Neither of these makes any sense. It takes an absolute minimum of 49 days (and probably in practice a lot more than that) to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Party. The procedure to call an EGM is:
- 20%+ of UKIP branches all request an EGM, stating the business for the EGM. This would be roughly 80 branches at present.
- The branches give a minimum of 21 days’ notice in writing to their members that a branch EGM will consider this issue
- After each branch passes the motion, it authorises its Treasurer to draw a £100 cheque or bank transfer from the branch account and send it to Head Office. The branch sends a written statement, signed by the branch chairman, requesting the EGM.
- The Party Secretary must then write to all members, and an EGM must be held in 28-90 days’ time (5.8 and 5.10 of the Party Constitution apply).
The Party leadership election will be over well before an EGM can be held.
An EGM doesn’t have the power to change the Party Constitution. The Constitution can only be changed by a postal ballot of all members, so it’s not able to abolish the NEC. Therefore there is no point in calling an EGM. It just won’t work.
In fact, there’s an election for the NEC coming right up. It’ll be in progress or possibly finished by the time an EGM could be called anyway. 7 of the 12 seats on the NEC will be up for election. If members are unhappy with the current composition of the NEC, then there’s a really simple solution: vote for candidates you’re happy with!
We’ll change the Constitution
I want to modernise our Party Constitution to make it more robust, and much clearer. The clearer a Constitution is, the less chance there is of us ending up in court.
This isn’t a process that can be rushed. Changing the Party Constitution is a very expensive process, so we can’t afford to change it too often. We need a Constitution that will last us for a decade, so I don’t object to taking a few months if it means we get it right in the end.
We also need to be aware that Constitutional change requires a two-thirds majority of members voting in a postal ballot. It costs tens of thousands of pounds for the Party to run an all-postal ballot, so if we don’t get the necessary majority we’ll be stuck with the current constitution.
We’ll have an internal referendum on switching to Regional Representation on the NEC
Many members have suggested that we need each region to have their own representative on the National Executive Committee, so that everyone can know who their NEC representative is and ensure accountability. I know that many other members are opposed to it, sometimes because of different sizes of regions.
As part of the process of changing the Constitution, I’ll propose a separate vote on the same ballot paper for this change to be considered.
Why can’t we just abolish the NEC?
The problem is that the NEC carries out various oversight functions for the Party. Not all of these functions could be duplicated by other parts of the Party, and it would hugely centralise power in the hands of the Leader. The NEC is currently the constitutional check and balance on the power of the Leader.
Its members are the Directors of the Limited Company (that is the Party), and they have a fiduciary duty to that company. It is the organisation which can (technically) force a vote to remove an unpopular Party Leader. It is the organisation which is responsible for ensuring that the Party has rules, ensuring compliance with the law, ensuring the Party doesn’t go bankrupt and so on. Many of these powers can’t be given away without creating massive conflicts of interest.
If you abolish the NEC, you’ll end up either being forced into creating another body with a very similar remit, or with a virtual dictatorship.
We’ll make the NEC more transparent
When I was General Secretary of the Party we published a report on every NEC meeting. I want to go back to that system so that members know what’s happening. If members are informed, they’ll have a greater understanding of what’s going on and there will be less tension. Yes, there are some things which absolutely must be kept confidential – legal advice, for example – but we need better communication to make sure people know what the NEC is doing.
I want rules for all kinds of elections, whether candidate selection for public office or internal elections, to be set out at least six months in advance so that everyone knows where they stand.
I want to give more teeth to the Party Conference and ensure that the NEC has to implement the motions it passes.
We’re going to professionalise the Party
Whilst we’re focused on the NEC and its role in the Party, we are forgetting to talk about everything else that needs to be done to professionalise the Party. We need dedicated teams working towards every kind of elections. We need to recognise that Westminster success will only come through local Council election success. We need dedicated teams for Parliamentary by-elections which are ready to swing into action at a moment’s notice.
It’s the same with policy. We need to take members’ suggestions and opinions into account more efficiently than we do now, and utilise the huge amount of specialist knowledge that the Party has available. We have to be ready in case of a snap General Election, after all. A Party with no Manifesto would have a problem.
We can’t afford to keep lurching from one election to the next; we need proper planning. Remember the “5 Ps”: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. That’s the culture that we need to bring into UKIP, and that’s precisely what we’ll do under my leadership.