The UKIP Newport (South Wales) Branch hosted a ‘Meet the Leader’ evening where UKIP members had a chance to hear the views and plans of Mr. Henry Bolton OBE and to ask questions to him about current and future issues.
Following a welcome from the Newport Chairman, Stan Edwards, where concern was raised about miscommunication from UKIP Head Office and declining membership levels Mr. Bolton addressed those present speaking clearly and confidently on pertinent points that both the Party and the country are facing.
Henry started with his concerns regarding the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) agreement and the Space and Research packages that the UK leads within the European community. He spoke about how concessions were being made by the current Government which meant that certain facets in the UK would continue to be ran by the EU, even post-Brexit.
Talks of ‘threats of rebellion’ within the current Conservative Party continue to loom over the UK’s Brexit plan(s) and Mr. Bolton was keen for the UKIP to be ready for action and ‘fighting fit’ with members ready to get up and be active. This is a whole party endeavour and to do his part as the Leader he stated that he is acutely aware of the finance and communication (both internal and external) issues. To help overcome these there is a new Communications team to be set up shortly to make UKIP a cohesive party and one with a correct corporate identity. This should include a revamp of the websites, email system as well as better external media relations –exposure by Mr. Bolton, on national media, will be more visible in the near future too.
- Save Our Services (SOS) Campaign. This will be launched on Thursday (16thNov) focusing on those who dedicate their working careers to looking after all of us. It will look at the factors and causes of specific human costs, stress, suicide, retention issues etc… as well as looking at sensible and thought-out options to reverse cuts to Services. It is a chance for UKIP to state their commitment to secure ourselves at home and overseas.
- Local Govt. Elections Support Teams. This should be announced shortly (Henry did say today – 14thNov)and will look at the party policies, manifestos, literature and candidate preparation.
- Brexit Campaign Team. Henry admitted that as a party we do not have a ‘fit for purpose’ plan and this is to be looked at to ensure that UKIP have a strong voice ‘Through Brexit and Beyond’.
Mr. Bolton spoke about his Welsh roots and spoke highly about Wales, its uniqueness in politics. He spoke about the political passion in Wales and reiterated his ideal for cohesion:
“Wales has a very distinct character and identity. “Also we have the Assembly here which has aspects which require a particular approach. It’s not always appropriate to dictate too much from the centre.”
Although former Ukip Wales leader Nathan Gill still represents the party for Wales in the European Parliament, in the Senedd he sits as an Independent. Mr. Bolton said this made the organisation of the party in Wales “untidy” and said he hoped to resolve this.
He received a rapturous applause when he stated that UKIP (nationally) must not interfere in local branch matters but advise and support better.
Henry also responded to Stan Edwards’ point of membership levels by stating that both in Wales and UKIP nationally the membership figures have remained stable recently but we all do need to as much as we can to improve membership levels as subscriptions are a reliable source of income for the core budget.
Following Mr. Bolton’s address the members present were given their chance to put questions to the leader. These questions included communication issues, the UKIP logo, restructuring, governance, funding and leadership.
- Henry spoke passionately about the need for the party to be ‘as one’ and support the ideas generated. He spoke about how the pressure was on for UKIP to get itself organised and ready for any and all opportunities.
- The logo was a hotly discussed topic with both sides of the debate represented, Henry told the members that the way the new logo was presented to the membership was wrong and although he was currently looking at it there is a slim chance that it may change again – more in the next two weeks.
- Governance was a key leadership pledge for Mr. Bolton and he reiterated that governance had to be done in correct stages but he would not hesitate to take disciplinary action on anyone in the Party breaking any policy, rules or regulations.
- The new communications group would be empowered to get information and support out to the branches in a timely fashion. It is important also to deal with underlying misconceptions about the Party.
- Additional Party funding is currently being addressed but we do need to, “Fix the leaky bucket”.
- There are key roles in the party that are not currently filled but there is a need to get the right person in the right position soonest.
Mr. Bolton concluded the meeting with a statement reminding the members that, “the people are the party”, and the members should carry on and “do the job and spread the word”. There is a lot to do to get the Party fighting fit and as leader he is up to the task.
Neil Hamilton (AM) (Welsh UKIP leader), David Rowlands (AM) as well as former UKIP leadership candidate, Ben Walker, were also present and spoke to members once the official part of the evening closed.
Note by the E-i-C: my impressions and comments on the meeting
The meeting was an invitation-members-only meeting and was announced as ‘family meeting’. There was no media presence. It did indeed feel like ‘family’, perhaps because so many of us know each other from previous events. Joe has reported the gist of the meeting above, so allow me to add my personal impressions.
I was surprised by the atmosphere of general good will to Henry in spite of some fierce criticisms. Henry told us as much as he could about what he’s been doing. Frankly, sorting out the mess as much as possible, to then be able to launch credible and sustainable campaigns is simply common sense.
Remember the ‘OUT NOW’ campaign which was trumpeted at Conference and then vanished? Well, with an email system that is ‘shot to pieces’ according to Henry, with a membership system where members old and new still don’t get their membership cards because the ‘electronic voting’ embedded in the new ones ain’t working, with finances beyond dire, with branches in disarray – do tell how any campaign would work successfully under such conditions! So getting the basics sorted, as unglamorous and boring as it seems, is a sine-qua-non.
Putting in place a Communications team – inner-party, reaching all members, and working with UKIP Daily and ‘kippercentral’, has been one of the priorities. The other priority: the finances which are being sorted out and, I hope, we will get a report on that.
We were told that according to yesterday’s figures, the hemorrhaging of members which started after the EU referendum seems to have slowed if not stopped. To those who claim we lost members because of AMW/Henry/”nazi” smear, I’d suggest that members have left since 2016, well before this year’s leadership campaign, never mind Henry’s election. We might perhaps entertain the idea that this bloodletting is coming to an end because of Henry’s work … anathema to some, I know …
Hugh Moelwyn Hughes, to huge applause, then described a system of party governance where branches in a region work together and help each other rather than keep themselves separate and get ‘controlled’ by a Party Controller from HO.
There was unanimity that Brexit must be fought for, with Henry pointing out that we need to go a step further and start developing policies for ‘Brexit and Beyond’, because life doesn’t stop on March 30th 2019.
I was surprised to note how even fierce critics accepted the reasoning for why this work needed to been done as priority, and what still needs to be done. Anyone who reads the comment posts here might have expected resounding shouts of ‘off with his head’ and walk-outs. Why it didn’t happen – might it be that those present were all experienced activists who understood that even in UKIP politics is the art of the possible?
Personally, I think Henry’s emphatic remark that we, the members are the Party and that he and HO are there to help us, the members, achieve our aims is far more empowering than waiting for some wonderful slogan from a ‘leader’ from up high, like a crumb from the top table, and then told to go and deliver any which way we can, torn boots and no money notwithstanding …
Yes – it was a very good meeting.