Nominations for the election of a new Leader of UKIP have now closed and we wait with baited breath for who will be the Party’s new Leader, the third one in a year, to be announced at the Party’s 2017 Conference in Torquay.
The last twelve months or so have been difficult for the Party, following the key role we played in winning the historic EU Referendum. It is always difficult to maintain momentum after such an historic and sometimes unexpected achievement (just ask Leicester City!). Unfortunately for UKIP, life after the referendum was made even more difficult by having not only two leadership elections but being subjected to various attacks from people who at times seemed to be deliberately trying to publicly undermine or even destroy the Party.
Shockingly, some of these people were ‘kippers’, very senior ones at that. The NEC (national executive committee) and Party’s management were the favourite kicking stools, at fault, it seems, for one candidate failing to adhere to the nomination rules, for a new Leader appearing to self implode and resign from the leadership and Party within weeks of their election (having made no attempt to meet with the NEC or its Party officers) and finally for not sacking the likes of Carswell, Hamilton or Evans (insert the name of anyone you don’t like) despite the fact that the Party’s constitution doesn’t allow a member to be thrown out of the Party without due process. Nigel knows this as he was on the NEC when certain members were on a ‘hit’ list. Natural justice must prevail or the Party becomes an anarchic non entity.
Let’s discuss the NEC. I put myself up for election in the autumn of 2014 because I wanted to give something back to the Party after the fantastic support I received from members and the Party in the Wythenshawe & Sale East (January 2014) and Heywood and Middleton (Oct 2014) by-elections.
Remember, all NEC members carry out their roles on a voluntary basis, which over the course of a year adds up to at least a month’s work. The NEC is a child of the Party’s constitution and exists only to run the Party. Both Nigel and the membership signed off the constitution in 2012 that gave rise to the current NEC – here’s a link to it. Please read it as it clearly shows that our Party is run by its members – period.
Of the 15 votes that the NEC uses to run its affairs 12 belong to your elected representatives. Those, who really should know better, accuse the NEC of being a bunch of amateurs. Does that mean that the members who voted for their NEC representatives are amateurs as well? Was Nigel an amateur when he was a member?
Let’s consider the make-up of the current NEC: 5 lawyers/solicitors, 2 accountants, 1 multi millionaire entrepreneur, 1 business person who owned a very successful London based marketing enterprise, and senior execs from the corporate world e.g. one who ran international businesses for American and Japanese multinationals. These people are not stupid or amateurish, though like all human beings they are fallible. They run the Party according to its constitution and rulebook, because that’s what members expect them to do, what they were elected to do.
The NEC’s elected members are chosen from among the national membership and represent all members, wherever they live. Some have suggested we elect NEC members based on the 12 regions. At one level that seems to make sense. However, the Party’s membership is not evenly distributed. Most of our members are in the South; at least one southern UKIP region has as many members as the whole of the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland put together, so regional representation may not actually be fair. Personally, I believe NEC members should be elected based on their ability, experience and knowledge to run UKIP, not where they live.
Ironically, there is talk of the Party needing ‘direct democracy’. We already have it though, via the members’ elected NEC, which makes UKIP more democratic in terms of member representation and control of a political party than either the Tories or Labour.
One very important aspect of the Party’s constitution is that it ensures no one person or cabal can take over the Party and run it as their own fiefdom; it ensures the members always have control, via their elected reps of the Party. Of course some members may want a Leader to have supreme power, able to appoint their own board/management team, without any remit or accountability to the membership. The question is: why is that better than what we currently have? Where is the detailed explanation, justification and benefit for such a change when it is promoted by some, versus a rant or personal attack on the current set-up and/or staff? And one needs to remember the saying: ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
In the upcoming leadership election I’m afraid some candidates may make evidence-lite and unwarranted attacks on the NEC and the Party’s management, rather than focussing on what really matters: how under their leadership the Party and its policies will appeal to enough voters so we end up with hundreds of local councillors and realistically, ten to twenty MPs. If candidates attack the Party machine ask them to provide evidence to back up their claims, not sound bites or unsubstantiated rumours. If a candidate claims to have a better solution to run the Party ask them to set it out in detail, why it will be better, how it will be funded and how they as Leader will attract donors and funding.
I’m first in the queue to admit we can always improve how we manage and run the Party. However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. We have a members’ constitution that’s been hard fought for. Don’t give it up because someone flashes shiny baubles in your face. Often they turn out to be glass, not diamonds!
Let’s see someone in the leadership election rise above the petty insults and posturing that have been all to prevalent in the last twelve months. Let’s see someone present a compelling, positive vision and policy platform for the Party that we can confidently take to the electorate in 2022.