[Ed: This is Part I of a letter by Dr Tomasz Slivnik, taking a close look at the current state of the Leadership and the legal issues surrounding it.]
A month ago I resigned from the NEC and subsequently wrote a letter explaining my reasons. It was published here, and was summarized and reported also in UKIP Daily. A month later, how is the Party doing?
In my opinion, the Party will not succeed if we all don’t at least try to follow the Party Constitution, particularly the party officers who are tasked with upholding it. If we don’t stand for the rule of law, what do we stand for and what is the point of UKIP?
How does the past month measure up?
Let’s ask this question first: who is the Leader of UKIP? Nigel has publicly declared himself as back in the job as the Interim Leader and also said “I keep trying to escape… and before I’m finally free they drag me back”. Apparently, he concluded that he was still the Leader by calling the Electoral Commission who told him they still record him as being the Leader.
What are the facts?
Under our Party Constitution, our Leader is elected:
“7.8 If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate so nominated shall be declared elected as Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast.”
“7.3.2 Election for the post of Party Leader shall be by way of a postal ballot”.
A person becomes the Leader immediately upon being declared elected, either unopposed, or upon having received a simple majority of all the votes cast in a postal ballot.
Under Section 31 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 it is then the Party Treasurer’s job to notify the Electoral Commission of the identity of the new Leader within 14 days. The Electoral Commission then records the changed details, as provided to them by the Party Treasurer.
The fact of the Electoral Commission recording the new details, however, has no significance to the person becoming the party Leader – neither to whether one becomes the Leader, or when one becomes the Leader. For example, the Leader does not become the Leader once the Electoral Commission is notified, or when the Electoral Commission records the correct details. One becomes the Leader when one becomes elected. The Electoral Commission merely records the information provided to them by the Party.
Of course, if Diane James spoiled her papers saying that she was signing them “under duress”, then the Electoral Commission might not have registered the change they were being notified of because the paperwork was deficient. However, this does not change the fact that Diane was, from the moment of her election, the Leader of the Party. Claiming that someone else is Leader because the Electoral Commission records do not reflect the accurate reality is disingenuous. All it means is that the Party (and specifically, the Party Treasurer) is in breach of its/his obligations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, of having to notify the Electoral Commission who the Party’s new Leader is.
Furthermore, unless Diane has resigned according to the proper constitutional procedure, Diane James still is the Party Leader. The proper constitutional procedure is described in Article 7.7 of our Party Constitution which says that the resignation must be in writing and be addressed to the Party Chairman. Unless Diane has written and sent such a written letter (and as far as I am aware, she has not – indeed as I will explain below, I am certain she has not), she remains Leader of the Party and will remain such (implying all the legal powers and responsibilities) until she has done so.
Once she has done so (in the current surreal atmosphere of resignations, un-resignations and un-un-resignations, I would be remiss not to qualify this with “if she ever does so”, without suggesting that Diane so lacks credibility as to want to join the fun of the circus) the office of the Party Leader will then become vacant. It will then be the NEC who will appoint an Interim Leader.
It is not anyone else’s prerogative to do so. Not Nigel’s, and not Paul Oaken’s – at least, that is, if we have any regard for constitutional propriety. Whether we do or don’t, time will soon tell.
The reason I say it’s not Paul Oakden’s prerogative is because it appears that this is precisely what Paul Oakden seems to have done.
The NEC has not (yet) voted to appoint an Interim Leader. Thus, constitutionally, there is currently no Interim Leader, and indeed there may be no occasion for there to be one, if Diane has not yet correctly resigned. What has, instead, happened is that Nigel has publicly announced that he was Interim Leader and Paul Oakden then rang around some members of the NEC (not even all members of the NEC – a number of members of the NEC were not contacted at all before Paul Oakden announced in a national mailshot that Nigel has been made Interim Leader) urging them to not have any objection to Nigel being made Interim Leader. Some of them, I understand, conceded, some of them, I understand, reluctantly. I further understand the NEC is now due to discuss this matter formally on Monday 17 October. In the context of both Nigel and Paul Oakden having publicly announced that Nigel was Interim Leader, how prejudiced (or not) do you think the NEC’s proper constitutional decision has been?
Our score so far on the compliance with the Party Constitution: 0 out of 1.
Next question: who is the Party Chairman?
When Paul Oakden was appointed interim Party Chairman (I was at that NEC meeting), there was considerable reluctance on the part of many NEC members to approve this appointment. A compromise was reached and the necessary NEC consent was given under the condition – and only under that condition! – that the consent, and Paul’s appointment, expressly lapsed upon the election of the new Party Leader, whereupon Paul’s office as interim Party Chairman would automatically terminate.
Paul kept his employment contract as Party Director, and upon election of Diane James as Party Leader, he ceased being interim Party Chairman and became (solely) the Party Director again. The office of Party Chairman became vacant at that point and will remain vacant until the Party Leader, with the consent of the NEC, appoints a new Party Chairman. Indeed, at the time we appointed him, Paul assured us that this is also what he wanted – he promised us to attend the Party Conference in September with his resignation letter in his pocket and went further and said that he so much did not want the Party Chairman’s job that if the new Leader offered him one, he would not take it.
Since I believe that legally, Diane James is still the Party Leader, she is the one who – of course, with the consent of the NEC – has to appoint a new Party Chairman. Moreover, she has to appoint a Party Chairman if she wants to resign, as otherwise she cannot formally resign, because she can only do so by sending a written letter to the Party Chairman, and she cannot do so if the office of the Party Chairman is vacant. Since that office became vacant when she was elected, she could not possibly properly have sent that letter yet.
Thus my question is: why and on what basis is Paul Oakden still sending out letters signed as Party Chairman, and why does everyone still treat him as one, although, constitutionally, he is not?
Our score so far on the compliance with the Party Constitution: 0 out of 2.
[Ed: Part II of this letter to follow on Monday, 17th oct 2016]