Well; everybody knows Nigel!
Whilst still getting a feel for the structure and the people in UKIP I thought I would take a look at the constitution, usually a good place to understand the core structure and mandatory procedures that hold an organisation together and, in part, it does that but it is a strange document indeed.
According to the footing this particular version was approved in January 2012 and one can conclude at least two points from that process.
- Members being asked to vote on this sort of thing don’t usually read too closely.
- It clearly hasn’t received the benefit of line by line scrutiny.
Constitutions typically lay down the mandatory aspects of an organisation such as its structure, membership and processes for appointments. It is important to understand that it shouldn’t extend into day to day rules, include stuff that might readily change or be overly descriptive yet it must include those aspects that are fundamental and mandatory. It should also have some order to it for ease of reading. Typically constitutions are written to last hence the high level of the bar usually needed to change them.
Our UKIP constitution departs from these ideals in many and varied ways. It’s a surprise to me that it made it through.
- Policy should not be a constitutional matter unless that is the only and single purpose of the party. If it is the single and only purpose of the party then mandating that constitutionally is quite in order but it does rather lend itself to well supported criticism around the ‘one trick pony’ analogy.
- Constitutions should not include descriptions of activities that may or may not be carried out. Only those that must be done should be here. There is quite a lot of this in the document.
- The order of the document doesn’t flow. For example it refers to the NEC before stating that the party must have one. Usually how officers are appointed and by whom (elected by the membership) occur in the same section quite close together so it is easy to see what offices there are and how people become nominated and elected but this is either separated in the document or absent altogether..
- A glaring omission is that of leader. The constitution says:
o 7.1 Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 all registered parties must appoint a Party Leader. The Party Leader shall give political direction to the Party and shall be responsible for the development of the Party’s policies with the agreement of the NEC.
- Firstly referring to a piece of legislation in a constitution is folly. Should that particular act be amended or updated then the constitution must be changed with all the concomitant administration and cost involved. The mandatory position of the leader should not be inferred from third party sources but clearly stated. Simply the constitution should say that the party will have an office called leader and then state how that appointment is made ( i.e. election by the membership). Along with the election process the method of receiving acceptable nominations should be referred to but the details of that, perhaps, left to party rules.
I found this document to be quite amateurish in construction, with no logical order and containing irrelevances as well as omitting critical constitutional items. It is all the more perplexing when one doesn’t have to go far to get a good example to follow.
- The Party believes that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
hereinafter “The United Kingdom”) should only be governed by her own citizens …………..
- The Party is a political Party for the Nation, open to all who share its objects and values and who undertake to be bound by this Constitution.
I’ll leave it to you to work out the respective constitutions these extracts came from and, perhaps, which is the more inclusive statement.
As we move into a general election we will come under more scrutiny than ever before. As the first and second lines of attack (irrelevant, racist etc) criticism may well become more rational and pointed. As I have already indicated it is easy to label us a single issue party with no real interest in broader government when our constitution underpins that very argument.
Maybe this document needs to be reviewed once more but this time through multiple sets of eyes that have some clue as to what it should contain.