The events of the last three weeks have been extraordinary even by UKIP’s standards. I won’t go over the gruesome details but our Leader Henry Bolton has gone from an assured position to one where he achieved a unanimous vote of ‘No Confidence’ by our National Executive Committee – something unprecedented in UKIP’s eventful history.
When the scandal broke, Henry retained the MEP’s support on the basis that there are always two sides to every marriage break-up story and we were frankly not interested in the details. However, the subsequent revelations about his girlfriend’s alleged electronic communications made matters much worse.
These comments were despicable and disastrous. The MEPs wanted to support Henry, but these comments were the final straw. At the MEP meeting in Strasbourg on 16th January, we voted No Confidence in him by a clear majority.
It is true that concerning the comments Henry is being judged guilty by association, which is unfair. Politics is unfair, but what sealed his fate was his complete ineptitude and inability to handle or close down the media debacle that ensued. He had become a laughing stock. Almost anything can be survived in politics but not ridicule.
Having urged Henry to resign as Leader on 19th January, and his not doing so, I resigned as his Brexit Spokesman on 21st January, and most Spokespersons have followed suit.
What has followed since is even more bizarre. Instead of accepting that his position is untenable, Henry insists on putting the Party through the expense and agony of an Extraordinary General Meeting where the members will be asked to endorse or reject the NEC’s decision. The decision being endorsed, there will follow a full leadership election.
Henry would have us believe that there has been a conspiracy against him by plotters in the Party aided and abetted by a malevolent NEC. Henry seems to think he will be saved by the members riding to his rescue, like the 5th Cavalry at the EGM. This is pure fantasy.
Yes, there are a few people whose ambition far outstrips their abilities but who would nevertheless like to be the leader. Such in-fighting goes on in every political party. Just look at Labour and the Tories.
Yes, NEC meetings are usually extremely long and boring and can be extremely frustrating. But having attended many of them over the years I cannot recall one where Nigel Farage as the leader did not manage to get his own way.
All the talk of the EGM being a way of bringing about a reorganisation of the NEC and the Party is codswallop. The EGM is empowered to consider one issue only: the NEC vote of no confidence, and do the members endorse it or not? If the members did reject the NEC’s no-confidence vote then I think this really would spell the end of the Party.
Henry’s comments about ‘draining the swamp’ are not only unoriginal but deeply insulting to the NEC and Party members who have expended so much time, effort and money over so many years. It also illustrates his lack of political sense.
Any normal person in Henry’s position would realise they have lost all meaningful support and walk away with what dignity they could. While this fiasco continues we risk losing potential candidates, activists, members and donors. Is that the intention we have to wonder?
Some think that either Henry has lost touch with reality or what he is doing is a strategy to collapse the Party from within. There is nothing the political and media establishment would like more than for the Party to no longer exist. That way Brexit can be properly betrayed and other big issues can be ignored.
In a strange way, I think that this debacle could be the catalyst for a resurgence of the Party’s fortunes, as unlikely as that may seem now. After the Referendum, I looked forward to my retirement in 2019. I have no personal political ambitions. All I have ever wanted was to be part of a successful party and to do my bit. But I don’t want to see UKIP disappear – on the contrary, I want to see it prosper.
UKIP really is the only opposition, and it has to survive for the good of Britain. Prior to the NEC meeting on 21st January, I offered my services as Interim Leader. The NEC were not able to consider me, or anyone else, for that position because Henry refused to resign. However, in the attached document I lay out my vision for the Party. I hope you find it of interest.
Gerard Batten MEP
Editor’s Note ~ Here is the document that spells out Gerard’s vision for the Party.