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Electoral Reform (Stage 1), SAGE, the Party and Co-operation – Part 2.

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Editor ~ This is the second part in a series by David Allen. You can read the first part on UkipDaily here.

SAGE is part of a process whereby grassroots members have a say and a vote on party policy. It stands for Spokesmen’s Advisory Group Experts (a bit clunky, I know), and is the process by which policy will be developed and through which members can become directly involved.

The full outline of the process will be presented in detail by the leader shortly, but I will explain the SAGE part of policy development as it applies to Electoral Reform and the importance of developing robust internal communication structures within the party.

A SAGE group will be led by the relevant spokesperson (cabinet member) for a particular discipline so there will be at least as many SAGE groups as there are policy groupings.  Each group will seek applications from the membership for people who want to work with the group and have skills and abilities pertinent to that area of policy. Needless to say, the posts are voluntary but the opportunity to influence and shape policy is, in itself, extremely rewarding.

In the broader system, any member may formally present a policy idea to the respective SAGE grouping which will then be considered by that group. Depending on the policy idea, it will either be pursued through to full policy development or not. Where a policy idea is not seen as appropriate to pursue, the originator will be advised of the reasons for the decision.

We already have a committed policy of electoral reform, of which voting reform is a major part, so the principle task of the SAGE grouping, in this case, is the development of the strategy, arguments and mechanisms needed to actually make this happen.

In the past we’ve not been very good at developing policy and selling it. A major failing has been the lack of engagement with and by the members; but that was not the choice of grassroots members. The party was very central in this respect and, whilst we are generally of like mind with our political outlook, nobody knew enough about our policy ideas early enough to help us disseminate the best arguments. Typically, a manifesto would be created just before a general election and of no use to all the borough and county council candidates trying to get elected in their constituencies and between general elections. For electoral reform, though, this will be very different.

Getting the party behind a particular policy or a strategy is more than just announcing it. There is huge benefit in interacting directly with members by means of live presentations, social media and, to a lesser extent, video production because it provides an opportunity to refine and improve upon the arguments as well as better preparing our members to speak with authority to the general public. By engaging with as many members as possible, they will be better informed, we will refine our approach and arguments to better effect and we will, through a network of contacts, gain support that might otherwise have been lost.

I intend to follow the same thinking to bring on board those outside the party. By engaging with supportive groups, other political parties and influential individuals, we can collectively pursue the strategy I outlined in ‘Electoral Reform (Stage 1), a strategic overview part 1’. In order to get people interested, this group will have a specific and quite different approach.

It begins with a process of evaluation to determine which proportional voting system we would collectively campaign for. It is a critical factor and one which has held progress back. Currently, different groups favour different systems and, once a choice has been made, it is difficult for them to deviate from that course; and it will take something quite persuasive to achieve that. However, it is a decision that, sooner or later, will have to be made, though some want to avoid that preferring, instead, to secure legislation in principle (whatever that means) then, presumably, foist a voting system onto the British people.

I, on the other hand, believe there to be massive benefits in making a decision now as to which system to campaign for and I will outline my reasoning in the next bulletin.

The process, to date, then, would be to create the SAGE group for those with a keen interest and something to offer, spread the word, the strategy and the arguments throughout the party and, at the same time, offer the opportunity to like-minded organisations and political parties to become involved in a ‘first of its kind’ evaluation process to further the national argument.

The end-product will be a simple but powerful message to encourage people to vote for parties that support voting reform. ‘If you want this, then don’t vote for that’.

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David Allen
About David Allen (85 Articles)

UKIP cabinet member for Electoral Reform. Author and political innovator. UKIP Borough Council candidate 2016, KCC candidate 2017, Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood 2017 in which he saved his deposit.

21 Comments on Electoral Reform (Stage 1), SAGE, the Party and Co-operation – Part 2.

  1. PR is the way forward and a reasonable PR system is that used by Scotland and Wales. It gives a constituency MP which most people seem to want even if most do not know who there MP is. It also gives an additional Regional Member,. The Constituency MP’s are elected by FPTP and regional ones using PR
    You usually have a minimum threshold before a party started gaining seats. Typically this is in the 3% region. The threshold does not apply to Independents

  2. Let’s see… 29 “Cabinet” members (excluding MEPS and leadership/admin), each with a SAGE group (say 5 members?) makes around 150 grass-roots involved in 29 talking-shops and everyone appointed by the “leadership” (no possibility of favouritism there then). So who will approve their proposals and how will this approval be sought?

    And if we really want to involve the membership, why are we publishing in UKIP Daily rather than emailing the membership so that all might read about it?

    Does anyone think that these proposals are what we need? How about consulting the membership about how we should proceed?

    It’s good to know that UKIP is considering how to move forward with reform, but there is no reason to suppose that this will be any better than previous methods – it could be a great deal slower and it still appears to lack democratic input.

    In my experience small focused teams work best (hence the 2015 manifesto). We don’t need a comprehensive manifesto that reads like War and Peace, we need a short hard-hitting policy-book that hits the main electoral hot-buttons, provides the simple underlying reasoning but leaves out the intricacies.

    We need members (possibly through their branches) to be able to critique / vote to identify areas that fall short or need to be added or removed. Voting is important as nbr of votes enables strength of feeling to be assessed. Voting numbers should be published.

    Three or four iterations should suffice to refine the initial proposals given that the 2015 base-line was well received.

    The final decision must rest with the leadership team, who must explain their reasoning to the members. Bear in mind that more and more options other than UKIP are enticing our membership away daily.

    Please Please and thrice Please keep it simple!

    • An email will go out to the membership but we do not yet have the facility to process and on-line application form which is something that is currently being worked on. As there will be an opportunity for members to get involved with all policy areas it makes sense to send out just one email as opposed to 25 odd.
      Adoption of policy is intended to be by branch/conference votes.
      Pretty well all of your observations will be enacted, but it will take time. Patience.

  3. Henry Bolton has said the development of UKIP Policy will take as its starting point the 2015 manifesto; a sound decision. I thought it an excellent document. Its main weakness was insufficient scope. There was also a lack of substantiating argument, necessary so that good policy stands up under critical analysis. It seems this is what is now intended, and I welcome it.

    Referring back to that Manifesto I note the relevant section is titled Political Reform, of which electoral reform is but a part. I also note the Cabinet Position is Electoral Reform, so has the scope changed, or what?

    Specifically on electoral reform, I think there is a very strong case for a critical look at the current system, its strengths as well as the obvious weakness, and for consideration of alternatives. PR comes is so many forms, and other alternatives not yet explored, that it would be foolish to dismiss “PR” before analysis and debate on what to choose, or even to abandon PR as party policy.

    Work on Electoral Reform policy, as with all policy, MUST bear in mind that politics is the art of the possible, and it is no good coming up with a theoretically perfect idea that can not be sold to the electorate at large.

    I think the current system of FPP is far from prefect and can be improved upon. I welcome the initiative and look forward to contributors from UKIP testing the quality of their ideas with other Members, resulting in a system that is a significant improvement on what we currently have and that can be successfully sold to the electorate on the strength of its arguments.

    • Points well made. The ‘experts’ in the SAGE acronym will be UKIP people with skills and interests that can help move the project forward. Inclusivity is an important part of the new UKIP. I’ve been making the point for some time that any revised procedure will have to be acceptable to the British people, amongst achieving other criteria and I will be putting forward a strategy to enable this to be achieved. Also, I will be presenting quite different arguments in support of reform that will be refined and evidentially supported by the work of the group. You are right that the 2015 manifesto has been taken as an initial base, but electoral reform was little more than a background aspiration in that document. As part of the process I’ll be looking to speak at local associations and be promoting that shortly. The first of those will be at Eastbourne on 13th November.

  4. Just a reminder for those banging on about their fear of a list system. The First Past the Post system is a list system. A list of one. Big deal eh? Can’t possibly lose that eh?

    For heavens sake get real.

    • A list of one. Can’t possibly lose that eh?

      Lists of one – Shirley Williams being blown out of Parliament. More recently it was Ed Balls. There are plenty of other examples in like Portillo.

      Do pay attention.

  5. Who is the secret person in UKIP who sets party policy, in this case (some form of PR)?

    Cos all you guys seem to hate it with a passion…

    • Toby MicklethwaitToby Micklethwait // October 28, 2017 at 3:51 pm // Reply

      Dear Rob (Pearce),

      You ask who sets party policy.

      Constitution 7.1 … 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.

      Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  6. PR with a list system could work but it rather depends who decides the names on the list. It should certainly not be HQ. Their function should simply be to vet prospective candidates for black history and suggest names to the areas/constituencies.

    • If ever we get a list system then we need to legislate that the position belongs to the party not the incumbent who can defect and change the balance of power.

    • Toby MicklethwaitToby Micklethwait // October 28, 2017 at 9:01 am // Reply

      Dear Icini,

      You say “It should certainly not be HQ.”

      Have you noticed the rulebook part V (that’s letter V)?

      “Rule V.4.4 The Regional Leader shall rank this list”.

      Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  7. UKIP is not going to be forming a government any time soon.
    We need three policies to bang on about. Someone here suggested: Clean Brexit – no fudge
    One Law for All, properly enforced in boots not ballet shoes- no exceptions for Islam
    Complete opposition to Political Correctness AKA Cultural Marxism

    With what has happened since Torquay ……or NOT happened, I cannot see any of these policies getting much traction.

    • 1.OK so ypu’re going to have a committee about voting reform.
      2. We’ve now moved from Voting policy to organisation. and another committee.
      3. He’s now moved onto Publicity and marketing .More commitees.
      $ More experts?Less experts? Commitees full ?!What?

      TW I agree. My belief .
      This is though, the thinking of those who want something done!

      To Those wanting to become MPs, Councillors etc this is not as immediately attractive.IMO The signs are that HB is one of this lot and doomed to fail.
      Taking those with genuine worries down as well, and GB with ’em.

      It is in the interests of the latter group that they will support each other as they disappear into oblivion screaming Why did nobody listen?

      Icini. Exactly, Someone puts em on a list. So you get hangers on, cronies, Those taking the easy way, in other words not the best.

  8. Toby MicklethwaitToby Micklethwait // October 27, 2017 at 1:02 pm // Reply

    Dear David (Allen),


    You say “We already have a committed policy of electoral reform”.

    If Henry has said he will lead in that direction, then OK.

    But our constitution mentions only that we are a democratic and libertarian party which will:

    • Support Brexit, Integrity of UK, non-discrimination, rule of law, liberty, democracy, respect for the human rights and the essential, traditional freedoms of UK and those under the UK’s protection;

    • promote and encourage those who aspire to improve their personal situation and those who seek to be self-reliant, whilst providing protection for those genuinely in need;

    • favour the ability of individuals to make decisions in respect of themselves;

    • seek to diminish the role of the State;

    • lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses;

    • ensure proper control over the United Kingdom’s borders;

    • strengthen and guarantee the essential, traditional freedoms and liberties of all people in the United Kingdom.

    No mention of proportional representation there.

    Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  9. Dear David (Allen),


    You say “A SAGE group will be led by the relevant spokesperson … Each group will seek applications from … people who … have skills ….”

    This seems the obvious right thing to do; it just needs to be made to work better. Which is where Henry’s abilities should help.

    BTW there seems NO need to change the name from “Policy Working Group”. (“PWG”).


    You say “lack of engagement with and by the members; but that was not the choice of grassroots members”.

    Numerous members sent in their ideas. This resulted in total overload for Trevor Colman and then David Campbell-Bannerman. Heaven knows where the files are now.

    The only hope is to start all over again, and sending in letters may NOT be the right approach.

    Stalls at conference would be more practical. With each Policy Working Group having a stall, manned by its members. People with ideas could express them. Good people would be invited to join the PWG.

    Our thoughts at this stage should be on: “Have Policy Working Groups worked well? What needs to be done?”

    My answer is clear: if each PWG has a conference stall then the whole process will be more fun and work better.

    Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  10. Anything that smacks of a list system is out.

    I am old enough to remember the odious Shirley Williams being blown out of Parliament. More recently it was Ed Balls. There are plenty of other examples in between like Portillo.

    Just imagine if there was some proportional ‘party list’ system and where these scum would be on it. I can see the establishment now – ‘he’s a good egg, his father used to fag for my father at Eton. Put him Top of the party list in a safe seat don’t you know?’.

    I have lived in europe and seen teeny weenie parties hold sway because they had seats because a trickle had turned up to vote for them.
    No you have to think long and hard before making changes.

    SAGE – that’s an accounting package, right? And grassroots? Strategic overview? And the mission statement? I got lost in the windy bits and lost where this was going.

    So do you honestly think that the ruling two parties will change the current system to advance and to allow minor opposition parties to flourish? Turkeys and Christmas comes to mind.

    On the same lines, and I forget who said it:- laws are made by lawmakers to protect the lawmakers.

  11. Too much management speak here for my liking – but then I suppose that’s the way nowadays you persuade people you are an “expert”.

    While I support the greater involvement of members in policy-making the distinction between “expert” and “non-expert” members is not the way to do it. Are these the same “experts” who, almost to a man, agreed we should stay in the EU? The same “experts” who almost unanimously support the man-made global warming hypothesis?

    For “expert” read someone who is subject to whatever group think and faddish orthodoxy which will best advance the direct or indirect financial interest of the occupational group or industry he happens to work in.

    On 23rd June 2016 the ordinary people of this country rejected the near universal view of the self-styled “experts” and, relying on their courage and common sense, voted for independence from the EU.

    And what is the lesson UKIP, under Henry Bolton’s leadership, draws from this? That we need more “experts” and fewer ordinary people involved in setting our policy?

    I still hope we may see the emergence of a populist movement in this country but at the moment I can’t see Henry Bolton’s UKIP playing much part in it.

    Take the example of the Football Lads’ Alliance, how many “experts” do they have on board I wonder?

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