[Ed: We just received this important statement, sent by a member of the NEC. Please read it carefully!]
The NEC consists of grassroots party activists elected by all the members of the party from among themselves. Our role is to oversee the permanent party hierarchy on behalf of the members. We are volunteers, we do not get paid, we put in our own time which we frequently have to take away from our paid employment. Most of us pay our own expenses which in the cases of some of our overseas members exceed £10,000 per year. Although we formally meet only once a month, in reality, being a member of the NEC is a nearly full time job (unpaid). Many of us are patrons and further donate large sums of our own money to the party.
NEC members are not “party elites”, we are volunteers putting in our own time without any kind of secretarial support. Our goal is always to try and represent what is right and fair for our fellow members in accordance with the Party Constitution and Party Rulebook.
Our numbers include barristers, solicitors, professors and successful businessmen. We are a group used to taking serious decisions and we take our responsibilities to the party seriously.
Regarding the Steven Woolfe decision, the situation is as follows:
On Tuesday 2 August, a panel was convened to assess the eligibility of the candidates applying to be leader of the Party. This panel sat at 12:20.
This panel considered the following candidates: Jonathan Arnott, Phillip Broughton, Lisa Duffy, Bill Etheridge, Diane James, Elizabeth Jones and Steven Woolfe.
Attendees included Jonathan Arnott, Phillip Broughton, Lisa Duffy, Bill Etheridge and a representative of Diane James. Apologies were received from Bill Etheridge and Elizabeth Jones.
The eligibility criteria that were being considered were:
- – Are you a member in good standing?
- – Have you been a member of the Party for 2 years?
- – Was your deposit received before 31st July 12 pm?
- – Was your application received before 31st July 12 pm?
- – Do you have 50 valid assentors drawn from at least 10 branches?
Every candidate assessed was assessed against these criteria only, and was found to have met them except Steven Woolfe.
As per the Party Rulebook, the panel’s remit did not include any examination of any suitability criteria.
The question of Steven Woolfe’s membership dues that was raised recently was resolved. The panel were satisfied this was not an issue.
Steven Woofle’s deposit was received on time on 31/07/2016 11:35 (BST), but his application was received only on 31/07/2016 12:17 (BST).
The rule is “Complete applications, including nominations MUST be received by the Returning Officer by 31st July, 12pm”.
This had not been met. It was put to Steven Woolfe who showed evidence that he was experiencing computer troubles while submitting his application and deposit.
The panel examined the evidence from the UKIP server log and found that UKIP servers were in good working order at the time of Steven Woolfe’s submission and continuously 6 days prior, and received different candidates application at 11:43am on the same day without issue.
The panel also examined the timestamps on Steven Woolfe’s submitted files, which could not be reconciled with his statement that he was ready to submit his application by 11:35am. It was the panel’s unanimous view that Steven Woolfe did not give himself enough time to take into account technical problems that he may have suffered and the rule is clear that the applications MUST be received by 12pm rather than sent.
Outside of this issue Steven Woolfe’s application was in order.
Immediately upon completion, the panel’s findings were presented to the whole NEC for approval. The NEC was supplied with legal advice which made it very clear that the rules of the election were that “complete applications MUST be received by 12:00 on 31 July” in order to be able to be accepted. If the NEC made an exception for one person and accepted an application that did not comply with this requirement, such a decision would not stand up in court.
Any other candidate, or indeed any member entitled to vote, would have had the legal standing to sue. If this had happened and we’d lost, we would not only have had to pay our own legal fees and court fees, but also the other party’s costs. That is money that our party can ill afford. Alongside this, the legitimacy of the whole leadership election would have been thrown into chaos.
The NEC took a vote which closed at 11:30am on Wednesday 3 August 2016 and a clear majority of the NEC voted to approve the panel’s recommendations.
The NEC is now being blamed for not accepting Steven Woolfe’s nomination. Those taking this view may wish to answer the following questions:
1) If they were the directors of a limited company (which our party is) and personally responsible for its finances, owed fiduciary duties to its members and creditors, and had to make this decision which could potentially have exposed the party to lawsuits it was virtually certain to lose, and could financially not afford to lose, what would they have done?
2) In what is probably one of the most significant events of his life, why did Steven Woolfe, who had 20 days to lodge his application, wait until the last minute to do so? All the other candidates filed in time.
3) Why did Steven Woolfe put the NEC in this position?
4) If you were to go on holiday, would you arrive at the departure gate 17 minutes after the scheduled takeoff time of your aircraft and expect to be able to board the plane? If the airline refused you boarding, is this a reason to vilify the airline, call for it to be disbanded, and post pictures on Facebook of people wielding rifles, calling for the airline’s management to be shot? Your readers may wish to know that members of YI (the chairman and deputy chairman of YI are on Steven Woolfe’s MEP payroll) have been posting just such pictures and comments on Facebook.
5) While Steven Woolfe appears to have accepted the situation, some others are attacking the NEC – the same people who have long wished to abolish the NEC for reasons, we suggest, wholly unrelated to Steven Woolfe’s candidacy.
6) All Steven Woolfe needed to do in order to be on the ballot paper is file a day earlier. Or even an hour earlier. Every other candidate did. And yet, despite being the first candidate to declare, he didn’t. Why? Why is this the NEC’s fault?
The NEC did not take Steven Woolfe off the ballot paper; Steven Woolfe took himself off the ballot paper.
We have had no reason to treat Steven any differently than any other candidate – nor did we.
We would now just ask our members to consider this: would they prefer the Party to be governed by a governing body which abides by the Party Constitution and the Party Rulebook, or one that does not?
We stand by our decision to be the former.