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Leadership through the constitution

I keep reading that the leadership election is to be held under ‘First Past The Post’ rules.  I find this incomprehensible and hope that  the current leadership / those organising the election will change this assumption.

As a party we vigorously oppose the current system of FPTP for election to the House of Commons – why on earth would we adopt such a system for such an important decision as who is to be our next party leader?

Para 7(8) of the constitution states (inter alia) :

Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast.

I do not, as a lawyer, see in this sentence any authority for carrying out the election under FPTP rules.

If the constitution framers had wished the election to be conducted under FPTP they could easily have said so – eg:

The winning candidate shall be she or he who has obtained more votes than any other candidate.

The candidate who obtains more votes than any other candidate has not thereby obtained ‘a simple majority of the votes cast’ (unless of course s/he has obtained coincidentally 50% plus one or more of the votes.) Such a candidate can be said to have obtained a ‘plurality’ of the votes cast.

[Definition of ‘plurality’  from Mirriam Wenster online dictionary:
a :  a number greater than another
 :  an excess of votes over those cast for an opposing candidate
c :  a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast’]

But our  constitution requires the winning candidate to have obtained ‘a simple majority’ of the votes cast. This can not mean, in any circumstances, a number lower than 50%.  ‘Plurality’ and ‘majority’ are different words because they describe two utterly different concepts.

In my view (of course I would appreciate learning any arguments to the contrary of my interpretation) the constitution not only permits but requires those conducting the leadership election to do so via a system which ensures that the eventual winning candidate has obtained at least 50% plus one or more than one of the votes cast. This could, for example, be via a French type system of two rounds of voting with the top two candidates emerging from the first round  going forward  to a final ballot.

However if cost prohibits this then it could be done by some form of transferable voting on a single ballot paper.

My main argument against using FPTP for our leadership election is derived from a simple, but careful, analysis of the actual wording of Para 7(8).

However, what might be called a dry, or technical, analysis is also bolstered by concern for what could happen to our party if FPTP is used and results in someone who happens to receive more first preference votes than any other candidate but who, for example loses her or his deposit!

Imagine the fun the MSM will have at our expense if this be the outcome.

There could be a highly divisive candidate who nevertheless whips up sufficient enthusiasm to achieve more votes than anyone else.   Such a person could not hope to truly lead an united party through the huge challenges which now face us, with even previously strong Brexiteers in the Cabinet now stating they agree to a lengthy ‘transitional’ period  after 2019 when mass uncontrolled immigration will continue, when our seas will not be ours, and all the rest of it.

We need the strongest possible leader, with the strongest possible support base within the party and FPTP is absolutely not the mechanism whereby this can be achieved. In any event, as I argue, Para 7(8) does not even permit the FPTP system  to be used.  One can even imagine a candidate who is unsuccessful (under FPTP) bringing legal action to have the election result annulled.   In my view such an action would inevitably succeed, with possibly terminal results for the party and for Brexit.

Trusting the readership of UKIPDaily will consider carefully this hugely important issue.  There may still be time to press the current leadership to adopt a fair votes system, in sympathy not only with what we advocate for elections to Westminster, but also, quite simply, in accordance with our existing constitution.

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25 Comments on Leadership through the constitution

  1. I agree with the sentiments set out above, but as returning officer I am bound by the constitution, and its natural interpretation. Unless someone can show me otherwise, we stuck with a first past the post election while we have the current constitution.

    The term majority may be qualified by the adjectives “simple” or “absolute”.

    See this definition from the Oxford Online Dictionaries
    A simple majority is “A majority in which the highest number of votes cast for any one candidate, issue, or item exceeds the second-highest number, while not constituting an absolute majority.” An absolute majority is defined as: “A majority over all rivals combined; more than half.”

    And this from where the term simple majority is defined as “less than half of the total votes cast but more than the minimum required to win, as when there are more than two candidates or choices.”

    [The (mostly American) usage of the term simple majority means something different in situations where there is an either way (Yes/No) vote between two propositions. There is also a special meaning in the American legislature where a simple majority means 51% as opposed to a supermajority required for certain provisions where two thirds or three quarters of the votes are required. See:
    “In American English, a ‘simple majority’ means over half the valid votes cast”; and the
    Collins Online Dictionary “more than half of the total number of votes cast”; and (a US website): “A simple majority is a vote taken by an organization where at least 51% of the members must vote yes to approve a bill before it is accepted”. The usage of “simple majority” in all these US definitions refers specifically in a vote on one of two options, and not where there is a multiple choice.]

    • PIERS, hello. ( And Happy New Year ).

      You seem to ( last year ) have agreed with me that the FPTP system is an utterly MAD way to go about choosing a Leader when there is more than one candidate. But you felt constrained by ( some ) dictionary definitions to use the FPTP system.

      Would you not agree, however, on reflection, that unless there is specific case law on the point, and for that matter case law within the context of a political party choosing its Leader from many candidates, that the existence of some different definitions of the term, whether from American or other sources, does mean that it would be within the NEC’s discretion to rule that in our ( UKIP Leadership’s ) case ‘ simple majority’ shall be taken to mean the candidate who ( at the end of the day, following an elimination process, such as via Alternative Vote or Single Transferable Vote ) achieves 50% plus 1 or more of the final votes cast ?

      Let us never forget that in the ( I think it was ) early 1990’s the House of Lords itself had to have THREE goes at deciding what the word ‘reckless’ meant in a criminal law statute.

      Eventually, having gone down two different byways, they plumped for the Ruling that ‘reckless’ meant ‘reckless’ and that the word should not be hedged about or ‘clarified’ by Judges guiding Juries : the Judges should just leave the Jury to use its own common sense as to what ‘reckless’ means.

      On that basis, cannot the NEC be left alone to use its common sense to decide ( should it so choose ) that ‘simple majority’ requires ( or at minimum PERMITS ) there to be an elimination procedure in the vote such that one Candidate eventually achieves 50% plus 1 votes ?
      rhys burriss

  2. All this concentration on process not outcome, method not success, Ends versus means, people have gone on about it for thousands of years. All I know is you can go on about it for far too long. This doesn’t mean I agree or disagree. I’m just bored. Try a referendum of members to Sack everybody and start again.

    • TGS,

      I agree this is becoming tedious I wish we could just get on with it now and choose someone. I used to think that the leader got paid for doing it and was surprised to find out that is not the case, therefore we need to know how the candidates are going to be funded if they are chosen. For instance if David Kurten gets the job he will need to give up his assembly job I would imagine, or is that not the case?

      So, how is AMW’s funded, what does she do? This seems to be a bit of a mystery, but we do need to know, as far as I can see the only person with a chance who is self funded is JRE. However, I agree they could all work together as a team, but would they want to? You see there are so many variables to this which makes it so difficult to choose just one.

  3. Simply Voting, had we chosen to use it, could handle pretty much any voting mechanism. As has already been stated, the returning officer, Piers Wauchope, is the man to lobby…

  4. Why don’t we do what the other parties do: whittle them down to about three candidates only? It seems ridiculous to me that we may have as many as eleven candidates standing, in fact I would not allow anyone who has already slagged off another candidate to stand at all. I personally would go even further and say that those who have obtained well paid positions through UKIP and refuse to tithe should also be discounted, but obviously that is just my opinion, and that would certainly whittle down the numbers.

  5. If I apply for a job then I am expected to have suitable qualifications and relevant experience. Those requirements are thrown out of the window in respect of the selection of political candidates and even government ministers.

    I hope UKIP is not going to elect another carpetbagger to join those who should have been sacked. Dare to be different?

  6. Thanks Rhys for the legal opinion on this. I have been saying this here, and on facebook many times over the last few weeks. If as reported elsewhere, there are eleven candidates then it is possible that every candidate could lose their deposit by having less than 20% of the votes cast. If that is allowed to happen then UKIP is finished… laughed out of town as fruitcakes and loonies… with no defence.

  7. Toby Micklethwait // July 23, 2017 at 7:56 pm // Reply

    Dear Rhys (Burriss),

    Have you bounced you interesting legal analysis off the returning officer, lawyer Piers Wauchope?

    Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  8. Rhys, this is an argument about semantics. I suggest that the party chairman or the NEC are asked to clarify what ‘simple majority’ means. To me, this is 50% +1 of the total votes cast. It certainly isn’t FPTP.

    I would like to pick you up on your description of a highly devisive candidate. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am assuming you refer to AMW. I am a great believer in the positive approach whereby the membership, us rank-and-file grunts out in the shires, decide who we like the sound of and who we want to lead the party.

    Democracy demands that she or any reasonable candidate (and she IS one, I’ve talked to her) be allowed to stand.

    Again apologies if yours was a vague hypothesy not related to anyone in particular, but UKIP needs such people. We must let the membership decide. NF stated in his opinion if the party becomes one against any religion, it is finished. I say if AMW is not allowed to stand, a new party will form and the original UKIP will be finished anyway.

    • Rob, I agree with you. If she doesn’t win, that’s one thing, if she isn’t allowed to stand it’s quite another.

      • Dee , please don’t turn this thread into another to and fro about AMW ~ my article has NOTHING to do with that.
        I would be interested to know whether you agree with my analysis of the Paragraph in the Constitution : namely that FPTP is not a mechanism which can be adopted to select the Leader.

        • Rhys,
          I did not mean to belittle your article, you have raised an important issue. The thing is, with a single decision to be made, albeit with multiple candidates, any straightforward means of totting up the votes should be considered fair, including FPTP, although I do agree the French Presidential system sounds quite democratic and perhaps more appropriate.

          UKIP has long been against FPTP for General Elections because they are inherantly undemocratic, and the reason of course is that a GE is not one but 650 totally separate elections. When in 2015 UKIP harvested 4 million votes and got one MP for it, just because our supporters happened to be spread evenly across the country, this cannot possibly be considered democratic seeing as how the HoC members are divided on a party political basis.
          I would not be afraid of the MSM over this, the leadership ballot is a very different kettle of fish.
          The best thing to do is try to pin down either Oakden or one the NEC members to clarify publicly. Good luck with that.

        • I didn’t mean to, Rhys. I was doing so under ‘reply’ to Rob, which was why I kept it short, I agreed with his last sentence, people often do that, as far as I know.
          I deliberately haven’t commented on your article because I have never been completely persuaded about the merits of anything but FPTP – and honestly I am happy to go with whatever keeps most people happy – though I thought it unnecessary to say anything quite so boring. Sorry.

      • Thank you Dee. In a nutshell, that’s exactly what I meant.

      • Agree with last 2 comments. If she stands and doesn’t win the party will likely limp on for a while in it’s current state achieving very little.

        If she is barred from standing then frankly it’s all over bar the shouting.

    • I have no particular individual in mind.

      In fact, it is not just a matter of whether the ‘winning’ candidate is controversial : my main point is that no one who receives just 20 something % of the total vote is going to have the confidence to claim majority support amongst the membership.
      I think this issue of whether FPTP is a valid ~indeed legal ~ mechanism for electing the Leader simply has not arisen before, as in the last few elections there was always a clear front runner who was likely to get more than 50%.

      I just don’t think that the wording in the relevant clause permits the mechanism to be FPTP.
      I have no idea if there is any lawyer chosen by the NEC or the Chairman to advise on constitutional compliance.
      If there is I hope s/he will either declare agreement with my analysis or set out a detailed reasoning which supports a different conclusion.

      I don’t think ‘semantics’ , if by that you mean wordplay, comes into it : the issue is who will be declared the validly elected Leader of the Party.

      The Constitution states the candidate who achieves a ‘majority’ of the votes cast ; FPTP permits someone with a far lower number to be declared the winner.

    • kenneth james ogilvie // July 24, 2017 at 3:22 am // Reply

      If the NEC is to be allowed to decide who can stand and who cannot stand then that is not democracy

    • Phil O'Sophical // July 24, 2017 at 11:19 am // Reply

      A bit off at a tangent from the thread but you did include this: NF stated in his opinion if the party becomes one against any religion, it is finished. I would fully agree, in respect of what is normally understood by a religion. But in this case he is obviously aiming at so-called Islamophobia. Yet strangely the great man has a blind spot. Islam is not a religion, as others are, it is an all enveloping system of government and control of people, that specifically EXCLUDES integration, mutual respect, and peaceful co-existence.

      • Phil, I agree about the blind spot I too have noticed in Nigel’s eye regarding the ROP – nor should he seek to influence candidate choice – He kept insisting that Paul would grow into the role – Look how that worked out. However, I notice Raheem’s new book – No Go Zones and how Sharia is coming to a Neighbourhood near you – nice picture of the Statue of Liberty in a Burka – has ‘foreword by Nigel Farage – so is he starting to get it?

  9. This is a good example of why there are too many lawyers.

  10. When we get around to voting for another new leader, I hope that we firstly get one who really wants to be in that position, and secondly that the NEC and the membership have the courage to support the elected leader until the next regular election date.

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