Brexit NI Local Elections 2019 NI Local Elections 2019 UKIP Leadership

Lessons to be learned in the UKIP Leadership Election

Un-muted Media declared its support for UKIP candidates in both the Local and European Elections in May.  It continues to monitor UKIP affairs with interest and support.  Therefore, it is commenting on present developments in the UKIP Leadership Election. #

#  Other leadership elections are available.

Piers Wauchope’s E-mail to UKIP Members on 09/07/2019

Dear member,

On Sunday 7th July, the NEC voted not to allow Gerard Batten to stand. The NEC is the Party’s governing body. Every NEC member is elected by the party members and every NEC member is an activist who works for no financial reward to bring about the best results for the party.

The NEC found that Gerard had brought the party into disrepute by allying UKIP to people detrimental to the Party’s reputation and failing in his duty to either defend or explain his decisions and our policies to the wider public. Such a failure in a leader caused the party great damage.

We are not a far-right party and Gerard’s new direction was not working for us. UKIP was being maneuvered into being not so much a political party as a street protest movement. We had our worst ever result in the European elections. Before that, in the May local elections, we performed badly even when we had the field to ourselves. At this crucial time in British politics, rather than focus on the Brexit debate, we simply drifted off the radar.

These errors were compounded by a leader who refused to speak to the mainstream media. No UKIP message got out, because our leader chose for it not to get out. Those members who did appear on television or radio spent the whole time defending his decisions on his associations, and little or no time on getting across the UKIP message.

All leadership candidates were invited to an interview by a vetting panel before the NEC allowed them onto the ballot. In Gerard’s case, the NEC wanted to know what assurances he could give them. Would he distance himself from his associates? Would he get our message out on the television and radio channels? Gerard did not attend the panel but made it clear that his answers were a sharp “No”.

Finally, Gerard frequently expressed his reluctance not to stand for the leadership. He had, he said, led the party to its worst ever defeat and would not seek re-election. Even after submitting his papers, he still let it be known to many that he was not sure whether he wanted to continue. It was not clear even on the day of the NEC decision whether he would withdraw. He had a great opportunity to put the party first, to withdraw and call for unity. He chose not to do so.

The National Executive Committee proposed a vote of thanks to Gerard Batten for his steadfast determination over the past year but are equally determined that it is time for a more unified direction for UKIP.

Kind regards,

Piers Wauchope

Returning Officer

Response to Piers Wauchope’s E-mail of 09/07/2019 by LoveFromLisburn

I will respond to various parts of Piers’s email in turn:

NEC Decision:

“On Sunday 7th July, the NEC voted not to allow Gerard Batten to stand. The NEC is the Party’s governing body. Every NEC member is elected by the party members and every NEC member is an activist who works for no financial reward to bring about the best results for the party.”

Most, if not all, activists work for the party for no financial reward.  Indeed, most activists, including NEC members, contribute considerable quantities of their own financial and time resources.  This is universally understood among UKIP members.  It seems strange that Piers thought it necessary to highlight the voluntary nature of the NEC when reporting a decision by that body.  Perhaps he considers NEC members to be an elite among party activists and attributes infallibility to their decisions.

I am personally acquainted with quite a few present members of the NEC and know of the huge time and effort they put into their work for the party.  Nevertheless, their decisions can never be above criticism.

Leader’s failure and Party Damage?

“The NEC found that Gerard had brought the party into disrepute by allying UKIP to people detrimental to the Party’s reputation and failing in his duty to either defend or explain his decisions and our policies to the wider public. Such a failure in a leader caused the party great damage.”

Who are these people detrimental to the Party’s reputation?  Piers does not specify.   When did these incidents occur?  Piers does not specify.  I suspect he means the London rally on 09 December last year when Gerard spoke on a pro-Brexit (not the new party) platform.  Besides Gerard, several other UKIP members spoke from the platform that day.  It was the only major rally in the capital city during that period of gross betrayal of the electorate’s wish by referendum by our inept and malevolent Government.  Are we to assume that UKIP has moved away from support for Brexit and the wishes of the people? 

Perhaps it was the principal organisers of that rally who were seen to be “detrimental.”  The main organiser was Tommy Robinson, admittedly a man with some relatively minor offences in his past, who is being persecuted by the deep political state for his unflinching highlighting of enormous failures to protect or provide justice to a  young vulnerable, but not very fashionable, section of our society.  When the might of the state and the law is used to silence the voice of anybody, no matter how unclubbable, who seeks to right deep wrongs, UKIP should be there to balance the scales.  We must not coldly leave it to others to fight our battles for us.  One day the deep state will come for us.

Incidentally, Gerard’s appearance at the December rally was apparently the catalyst for our once respected leader, Nigel Farage, to publicly start his journey to the Dark Side.  All of us in UKIP owed a great debt to Nigel but his gratuitous description of members of his former party as “shaven headed tattooed thugs” cancelled that debt. 

It might be pointed out by some that Tommy Robinson was once leader of the English Defence League – one of UKIP’s constitutionally proscribed organisations – although he left it some years ago.  There has been much campaigning for the blanket ban on former members of several proscribed parties and groups to be changed to consideration on a case by case basis. Members of our party have been promised the chance to debate and vote on that issue for almost a year.  First it was to be debated at the Party Conference in Birmingham last September but was removed from the agenda.  Then the NEC put the discussion on the long finger until after the local and European elections in May 2019.  (They’re over.)  

A final comment on this issue:  There is no present UKIP constitutional ban on former members of the Provisional IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force, ISIS or a host of other unpleasant organisations.  Let’s at least be consistent.

Gerard’s new direction was not working for us?

We are not a far-right party and Gerard’s new direction was not working for us. UKIP was being maneuvered into being not so much a political party as a street protest movement. We had our worst ever result in the European elections. Before that, in the May local elections, we performed badly even when we had the field to ourselves. At this crucial time in British politics, rather than focus on the Brexit debate, we simply drifted off the radar.”

Piers is entitled to his opinion and some may share it.  However, for the Returning Officer to voice such opinions in direct opposition to one of the candidates who had lodged an application is well across the line. 

There are several issues raised here.  It can be argued that what Piers describes as “Gerard’s new direction” was indeed working for UKIP, unless mushrooming membership and escape from bankruptcy can be described as failure.  UKIP has performed very badly in all elections since the 2016 Referendum whether, Nigel, Paul or Gerard were in charge.  When a great party loses electoral momentum as UKIP has done it can either pack up and go home or, if its cause is worthwhile, become a populist street movement building a strong base until, as I believe will happen, we once again receive the electoral call.  Of course, this doesn’t mean we fail to democratically contest elections.  We keep a up a strong electoral presence and take it on the chin when we lose.

What we do not do is quickly find a high-profile scapegoat upon whom to heap all the blame.  If I may inject a more personal note here, I contested a seat in Lisburn and Castlereagh City in the Northern Ireland local elections (single transferable vote) in May.   When I contested the same seat in 2014, I received 339 First preference Votes and held on to the end of the 7th count.  This time I got 156 First preference, less than half my earlier total and was eliminated after Count 4.

Whose fault was that?  Gerard Battens?  Mike Hookem’s?   Kirstan Herriot’s, perhaps?  Maybe even Piers Wauchope’s or the NEC’s?

NO.  It was MY fault.  With the wonderful gift of hindsight, I can see that my preparations were inadequate.  Although I got some terrific help from Ukippers within the City and from a small band of members and supporters from elsewhere in Northern Ireland I failed to motivate sufficient members to keep a daily presence on the streets.  On re-reading my canvassing leaflet I realised that I failed to sell UKIP’s excellent new policy on the reform of Council and Devolved Government Responsibilities in Northern Ireland. 

Anyway, enough of this mea culpa.  We did badly in the May elections because our message is not being well received by the electorate at present.   We all could have done a bit better but the results would not have been much different. – even without the intervention of Nigel’s Brexit Party.  Now there I might make an exception for mudslinging.

Incidentally, where does this term “Far Right” come from.  I joined the Tory Party in the late 80s.  Now there was a far-right party.  My views had shifted far leftwards by the time I joined UKIP in 2006.  The terms “Right” and “Left” in politics come from a 19th Century French Assembly with horseshoe seating.  At the extreme right sat laisser-faire conservatives then the various shades of political opinion were run through arriving at revolutionary socialists on the extreme left.  The terms only referred to economic policy and were never intended for social or legal opinions.

Mainstream Media:

These errors were compounded by a leader who refused to speak to the mainstream media. No UKIP message got out, because our leader chose for it not to get out. Those members who did appear on television or radio spent the whole time defending his decisions on his associations, and little or no time on getting across the UKIP message.”

Does anyone expect our culturally Marxist mainstream media not to find a divisive issue concerning a new leader and use it effectively to block any reasoned debate?  We need to concentrate on social media and street activity.  Let the media play their games without us.

And it is a sinister game.  So strong is the imperative to blank UKIP from the political and electoral scene that some organisations sail very close to the wind on electoral law.  UKIP launched its new policy of winding down the devolved legislatures during the Local Election Campaign.  Speakers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all presented the new policy and the local election manifesto for Northern Ireland was also presented. The launch was in a hotel in central Belfast and all of the regional press and media were invited.  Of course, BBC Northern Ireland sent nobody from either radio or television and ignored the event entirely.  This in spite of the launch venue being directly across the street from the BBC’s Belfast headquarters.

At the moment UKIP has nothing to gain by playing the media game.  Let’s not feed them.

Vetting Panel:

“All leadership candidates were invited to an interview by a vetting panel before the NEC allowed them onto the ballot. In Gerard’s case, the NEC wanted to know what assurances he could give them. Would he distance himself from his associates? Would he get our message out on the television and radio channels? Gerard did not attend the panel but made it clear that his answers were a sharp ‘No’.”

This is a clear case of the Vetting Panel overstepping its brief.  The issues about distancing from associates and TV and radio appearances are valid questions (I’ve given my own views above) but they are questions to be asked by the electorate (i.e. the members) not the vetting panel.   Most of the NEC members were elected by the membership to represent their interests.  They were not elected to act as nannies and take democratic decisions for members. 

Incidentally, why has the “No” been described as “sharp.”

Reluctance to stand.

“Finally, Gerard frequently expressed his reluctance not to stand for the leadership. He had, he said, led the party to its worst ever defeat and would not seek re-election. Even after submitting his papers, he still let it be known to many that he was not sure whether he wanted to continue. It was not clear even on the day of the NEC decision whether he would withdraw. He had a great opportunity to put the party first, to withdraw and call for unity. He chose not to do so.”

Piers has really stepped right outside his brief of Returning Officer here.  While I have no doubt that Piers holds these views sincerely and considers he is doing his best for UKIP, he is achieving quite the opposite effect. 

It is unacceptable for a returning officer in such an election to comprehensively attack one of the candidates in this manner.  Piers has a lot to offer UKIP in the future and has greatly supported the party in the past but I do believe his position of Returning Officer for this contest is now untenable.   I urge him to consider this and put the party first by stepping down.

Unified Direction for UKIP?!!!

“The National Executive Committee proposed a vote of thanks to Gerard Batten for his steadfast determination over the past year but are equally determined that it is time for a more unified direction for UKIP.”

There can be no doubt that there are divisions and fault lines in UKIP.   A lot of these issues have been referred to in Piers’s email and my response to it.  Such divisions are not a sign of weakness but rather of a robust strength where party members feel free to express their views openly in the same way as UKIP advocates for all UK citizens.  Unfortunately, the NEC decision is driving a less wholesome wedge through the party. 

A final word (or a few more) from me:

UKIP is needed now more than ever.  Of course, Brexit is an issue of primary concern and we must not cease to do what we can to ensure a real UK withdrawal from the European Union.  But we do not have the luxury of dealing with one issue, no matter how important, at a time.  Watching the deteriorating UK wide situation from a Ulster perspective I cannot fail to notice how serious mistakes in dealing with terror and public division here during the final 3 decades of the 20th Century are being repeated willy-nilly by today’s political class in dealing with the collapse of order throughout the UK.  Only UKIP has the courage and philosophy to combat this trend.

UKIP must be prepared to be both a serious political party contesting elections to win and a strong street activist organisation prepared, within the law, to combat the erosion of rights and responsibilities of the ordinary citizen.  There are not enough UKIP activists at present to do this without allies.  We must be far less fussy about who we are marching beside.

To all UKIP members I say – whatever your views on this latest Leadership debacle, stay with the party and help build it into the force it is destined to be.

Incidentally, for the record, I had already decided to give my first preference vote to a candidate other than Gerard. That remains the case but I must admit that Piers Wauchope’s email was certainly a strong endorsement for gerard. even though he thought otherwise.

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