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Why Dr Tomasz Slivnik resigned from the NEC

On September 8th 2016 Dr Tomasz Slivnik resigned from the NEC. He has given his reasons in a full and comprehensive statement, which is available unabridged at this site, and here is an earlier look at the resignation, before Dr Slivnik’s statement became available.

Below is a summary with extracts from that statement.

 

Background

Dr Slivnik has been a member of UKIP since 2007. His description of those days ring a bell with all members:

“In my early days in UKIP, everyone I met shared my ideals and they were genuine, friendly, altruistic, common sense people who only wanted the best for their country, were willing to put everything in, never asked for anything back and were not in it for themselves. We never sought or asked for anything from the Party. We didn’t seek elected office, publicity or advantage for ourselves. We donated freely our time, money and effort – canvassing, leafleting, etc. UKIP party conferences were oases away from a mad, politically correct world where one went to get a dose of sanity and share some enjoyable time with like-minded genuine people.”

He describes how he observed the Party slipping away from its original aims and turning into an election machine. This led him to decide to stand for election to the NEC, where he became very active as member of various subcommittees. He goes on to describe the pressures that this work entailed.

 

Resignation

Dr Slivnik gives the reason for his resignation thus:

“[…] in summary, it was because we as company directors carried all the liability and responsibility for decisions which were taken out of our hands by persons who wielded all the authority but carried no liability, […]”

Continuing to describe in detail what this means, explaining how UKIP is actually run, and how the NEC is not the faceless group of power-wielding obstructionists as which it has been painted.

 

Who runs UKIP?

Dr Slivnik states that UKIP (“The Party”) is a Limited Liability Company, with a board of directors. This board is made up automatically of the elected members of the NEC – and these are the ones which carry the legal liabilities just like a board of directors in any other ordinary company.

The salaried staff, from Party Chairman (comparable to a CEO) down, run the day-to-day business of the Party. The Party chairman is also Chairman of the NEC. In a normal company, the CEO is accountable to the board of directors (NEC) – but not so in UKIP. The NEC has no power to appoint the CEO (Party Chairman) or hold the CEO to account. The NEC members and thus directors are however legally liable for any decisions made by the Party officials, even when they had no influence on those decisions.

One of the most pressing problems leading to his resignation was the fact that the Party officials did not provide the NEC with the information necessary to enable them to scrutinise the running of the Party, which is the NEC’s legal obligation:

“Regarding scrutinizing the work of Party officers and asking them questions, “you must trust the Party officers” was the line we were given by the Leadership, and if we didn’t like it, we were told, we could resign.

I understand that until the 2015 crop of NEC members joined the NEC, the NEC were known either as the “nodding donkeys” because they always nodded with approval without any questions when the Leadership wanted something, […]”

 

Examples

Dr Slivnik continues by giving detailed examples of how the work of the NEC – legally liable for the decisions made by Party officials! – was hampered.

One problem was the financial situation of the Party, especially the various ways funds were used in a way called “Off Balance Sheet Funding”. He describes it at length in his statement which you can read here – you need to scroll down a bit – illustrating why a proper scrutiny by the NEC is so important, not just because of the financial liabilities but because staff funded off-balance-sheet are not officially employed by the Party and thus outside proper scrutiny:

“Since this discovery, the board [NEC] have been asking repeatedly for disclosures on these funding arrangements and sufficient information to confirm that the Party was not engaging in anything unlawful. It is perfectly possible that these arrangements are all above board. […] The potential legal risk and reputational damage to the Party is enormous, and we, as directors, were the ones liable if anything was amiss. We were continuously rebuffed, obstructed and obfuscated. “

Moving on, Dr Slivink describes at length other issues, two of which have attracted the hot anger of many ordinary members, with blame attached solely to the NEC. One is the issue of the campaign for the Welsh Assembly elections, especially the issues created before and after the Welsh elections by the then Leader of UKIP Wales. The other is of course the Leadership Campaign, with the continuing row over the exclusion of Steven Woolfe’s candidacy. It is well worth reading his statement on these issues (here, scroll down) because this is the first time the ‘other side’, the view from inside the NEC, gets heard. The other issues touched upon are about the London UKIP Office and ‘Lyoness’.

(We have published articles on three of these issues in UKIP Daily earlier, here, here, here and here .)

 

Communication with ordinary members

Dr Slivnik describes the role of NEC members in this way:

“Being a member of the NEC is somewhat analogous, within the Party, to being an MP – while the Leader might be analogous to being the King, and the officers his Ministers, with the Party Chairman as the Speaker-cum-Prime Minister.This means that one of the duties of an NEC member – as grassroots members representing grassroots Party members to the “salariat” – is to ask questions on behalf of, and pursue causes for other grass roots members who have been wronged. NEC members have (at least theoretically) some powers to ask questions and demand answers which other grassroots members (“ordinary” members) do not.”

He goes on to give examples (see here, scrolling down) and concludes with observations about the way the NEC should operate under the Party Rule Book and Constitution, but isn’t, describing how for instance the point of ‘confidentiality’ has been used to stifle communication with members. He then makes proposals as to how the NEC can become the body by which ordinary members are enabled to scrutinise how the Party is run.

 

Conclusion

He concludes with a call for Party unity, for a cease to infighting, and warns of the danger of destroying inner-party democracy:

“I hope this letter will help diffuse some of the violent, vitriolic ire directed at the NEC in recent times.

Should you then, instead, direct your ire in an intolerant fashion at the Party officers or the Party Chairman […]?

No. Here are my views.

One, I encourage you to not quit, stay on and keep up the fight, because the stakes are very high and the prize is well worth it.

Secondly, I encourage you not to be intolerant towards the NEC, and to resist calls for the NEC’s abolition. I can say this now, no longer being a member of the NEC, without risk of being accused of having a vested interest and wanting to self-perpetuate. […]

The NEC is the only means of democratic control within our Party – the NEC is elected by you, and abolishing it means the end of democracy within the Party.”

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12 Comments on Why Dr Tomasz Slivnik resigned from the NEC

  1. UKIP not having Internal/External Auditors is in-exemplary and suspicious! There are too many at the top of UKIP running it who have low appreciation of “compliance”, the function of audit as a management tool, and, the importance of transparent accountability – they have gotten us into the current internal mess with anomalous management and administration.

  2. Tomaz,
    Will you be standing for NEC in Autumn 2016, promoting the Slivnik Plan?

  3. I’ve just read Dr Slivnik’s full statement; there is a lot to take in, especially if one doesn’t already have a fair idea of UKIP’s inner workings.

    However, given that condition, my overriding impression is one of shambolic organisation and lack of proper governance.

    UKIP faces attempts to discredit it from many sources, not least being the established parties, so needs to be democratic, transparent to it’s members and seen to operate in absolute compliance with the Law.

    One thing which concerns me in particular is the promotion of the Lyoness Scheme by senior officers; something which in my view should have led to their instant dismissal. There is simply no place for those seeking personal gain through their position in the party, especially when that action could be seen as a confidence trick to gain from the members.

    As I have said before I remain on the fence regarding party membership; I was awaiting the outcome of the leadership election but now I must wait a little longer to see if the new leader addresses my concerns.

  4. Of all the problems the Party has ( not least haemorraging members whilst Tory’s have gained 50 thou since June, and Labour even more ) I cannot for the life of me see that the NEC are the cause of ANY of them ( and I am someone who would like to see the mechanism of election to the NEC changed to a regional basis ).
    Apart from the – disliked by some but not all ~ decision to reject S W ‘s late ( his fault ) application what else exactly are they supposed to have done to merit abolition ( as opposed to electing someone else at the upcoming NEC elections ) ?

  5. I read Dr Slivnik’s full statement and I’m glad our attention has been drawn to it. It’s at least superficially very convincing and it certainly draws attention to some very unsatisfactory things. But i also feel that too much of his argument is based on the continual comparison between the NEC and a company board of directors. Legally, perhaps a political party has to function like a company, but in reality it is not a company and cannot be expected to function like one. The purpose of a company is to make profits. The purpose of UKIP under Nigel’s leadership was to get Britain out of the EU and specifically to do so by first getting a referendum and secondly winning it. Everything else was subordinate to that. If getting to that desired end involved a certain amount of ruthlessness and even sometimes a risk of illegality, Nigel would claim (I think) that the end was justified by the means. And that end looks like being triumphantly achieved, against tremendous odds.

    Clearly there is some tidying up to be done and it is to be hoped that Dr Slivnik’s considerable talents will be able to contribute to that operation. But we now have to look to the future. UKIP now has to become a completely different kind of party and that will mean different problems and different ways of solving them. The first step is to get the right leader.

  6. I would imagine the smoking gun you are looking for comes in the form of being in a position where you are held responsible for all kinds of issues, do not have access to the information necessary to make considered decisions, and are legally and financially liable for the outcomes.. Sounds like a gun pointing the wrong way, to me at least.

  7. Quote –
    Nigel Farage.
    Ref Mr Woolfe.
    “He didnt get his form in on time silly boy.
    He has made a mess of it.”
    Not a NEC or any other conspiracy.

  8. Wow! No wonder we are kept in the dark. I think some branches work in a similar manner namely, what members, what rules? I know you ask us not to quit but it is quite a dilemma. By staying, are we giving the party the backing to continue as is or if we don’t then UKIP is finished. I may be mistaken but I don’t recollect any leadership candidate being overly concerned about constitutional/management problems more about ‘fixing’ the NEC. If I was concerned before then I am troubled now. I wonder if we will get a response (not ad hominem) to refute or explain the points made.

    • … having just paid to renew my membership for a party that is borderline insolvent, which official is it paying almost £130K p.a. to?

    • I quit, in 2007, for various reasons, the main one being expats didn’t get a vote in the then MEP candidate ranking elections (the then database couldn’t cope).

      6 months later, I realised the real issue was that Sonya Porter, of this Parish, had never been replaced as our first (only) overseas RO, and rejoined on condition I became her replacement.

      Anyone abroad who contacts me (I live in Switzerland), gets a response, and, if they provide a contact number, I usually chat, too.

      So: STAY!, and work to make things as you would wish them to be!

  9. I voted Slivnik on to the NEC, & he was obviously a high end member. He raises some fair points here, others are a little on the slight side being used to justify a resignation, & it goes on at length in detail a little too much with the fervour on someone who’s a little too close to a fight & lacks a perspective view. I’m not sure that I see a smoking gun issue that would justify the extremity of resignation though? Perhaps it would have been better to complete what was left of his term of office & then have published this on leaving?

    With regard to lack of communication by the NEC to the membership being caused by the party’s officers running interference, I bear in mind that since I elected Slivnik I’ve tried a few times to find what he was doing in UKIP (as I thought he was potentially an interesting figure), & I could find almost nothing from him at all about it on ubiquitous social media – not even an account on Twitter, so I don’t know that the lack of communication with the members by the NEC (or this member in particular) is all the fault of the party’s officers?

    His substantive complaint appears to be that the N.E.C. is constitutionally weak & dysfunctional, & is being kept deliberately so by the party’s officers, & that the party is managed on a quasi-unprofessional basis still (which Farage admitted in his resignation from the leadership), & that the N.E.C. is unable to stop it as things stand.
    That’s an interesting point, & gives a spirited defence of the N.E.C’s existence & against the attacks being made upon it by the Farageists (which do appear fundamentally undemocratic in nature); & Farage’s attack on the N.E.C. in Breibart cast him in an admittedly poor light.

    The bits about the ejection of Bloom & what lay behind it, the nature of Aaron Banks, the “ditching” of Woolfe (who wasn’t a leader anyway as far as I can see – anymore than James is), & the cross-roads that UKIP is at were all well written, & it’s a shame that Slivnik doesn’t play more of a role in discussing these matters in public to augment the party’s development culturally & politically.

    • Although I take some of your points and agree that we need people like Dr Slivnik on the NEC, I think Dr S’s main reason for resigning, as I understand it, is that he is fearful that NEC members, by Company Law, have certain duties which they can be prosecuted for not fulfilling , and yet certain persons paid by the Party were / are preventing them from fulfilling those duties. ( NB I am not purporting to say this allegation is correct – I have no idea – but if an NEC member believed it to be the case then s/he would have good cause to resign, I would think. )

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