Well, I didn’t expect to be writing my first article of the new year so soon, but as I have had past experience with EGMs, leadership/NEC fall-outs, and constitutional drafting, Viv has asked me to don my gypsy garb and try and interpret the recent NEC statement – taken with the constitution, it’s quite a heady brew! As I write, to set me in the mood, I’m listening to Carmen – an, erm, tale of a soldier who leaves his childhood sweetheart for a hot-blooded young girl who chews him up and spits him out when done – it didn’t end well. (Here’s a video clip of the Habenera!) So here goes…
Firstly, and most significantly, circumstances are very different from 2000, the last time we were in a similar mess. The constitution has been through several major revisions (all ratified by the membership), and this time, the NEC are (currently) validly within terms of office, so are actually capable of being quorate and able to vote on matters.
The NEC statement, which can be found here, says in part:
“It was agreed to defer the discussion to a special NEC meeting, which has been called for ten days time.”
Normally, NEC meetings are held on the first Monday of every month – Nigel liked Monday meetings, and the regularity made it easy for those with a long distance to travel to plan ahead. An extra meeting, such as this one, involves booking a conference room in a central area at short notice, and arranging for ~16 people to be available, bearing in mind necessary quorums etc. As this is irregular, it seems tailored to meet the requirements of:
“6.23.1 A motion of no confidence in the Party Leader may be proposed before the NEC. In order for it to pass, no less than nine members of the NEC shall vote in favour of the motion. The Party Chairman shall have a casting vote in the normal way.”
“6.23.2 The Party Leader shall be given no less than seven days’ notice in writing of the meeting. He shall be entitled to attend, to address and vote at the meeting. He may make written representations to the meeting. He may question any member or other witness whose evidence is considered by the NEC as being relevant to the issue on the same basis as any other party and may call witnesses on his own behalf on the same basis as obtained during the case against him.”
Should said meeting decide to hold a vote of no confidence, they would not realistically want to take a “See you again in another seven days” attitude, so I expect that the vote has already been called – it only takes a proposer and seconder, and we know that at least two NEC members have published their disapproval on Facebook.
Given the expense and inconvenience of calling such a meeting, and the state of our funds, it’s reasonable to conclude that there is, following Monday’s regular meeting, an expectation that such a vote is likely to proceed – otherwise they could have issued a statement to the effect that discipline processes (bringing the party into disrepute?) were wending their tortuous way, and would report to the next regular NEC meeting (first week of February).
It is, of course, by no means certain that the motion will pass. Henry might give a brilliant oration, convincing key players. Unexpected travel problems might render the meeting inquorate – and Monday’s attendees might have caught the treasurer’s Aussie flu, which laid him low for three miserable weeks! If however, a quorate NEC votes against Henry, and assuming he declines to fall on his sword (remember Nigel is backing him, on the “any publicity” principle, and he himself has, erm, previous in the area of mistresses), then the next step is an EGM:
“6.23.4 In the event of a motion of no confidence in the Party Leader being passed by the NEC, the Party Secretary shall call an EGM of members of the Party, such EGM to be held within 28 days of the passing of the motion. The NEC may from time to time make Rules as to the conduct of such an EGM. The EGM shall have as its only business a motion to endorse or to reject the vote of no confidence in the Leader by the NEC.”
Ten days from last Monday is Thursday 18th, which means that any EGM would need to be held by Thursday 15th February at the latest. You don’t want the sight of voters being turned away at the door, so you need a large venue coupled with maximum opportunity for attendance – the ideal might be Saturday 10th Feb at Methodist Central Hall, or similar – if someone could be found to sub the expensive hall-hire costs.
We all know what will be discussed, but, sorry, EGM fans from last year – nothing else makes the agenda. And there can only be one of two outcomes:
Either we get another leadership election, or we get an election for the whole NEC. (3 4-year terms, 3 2-year terms, and 3 1-year terms, ranked on most votes). The existing NEC would stay in office under the ballot was over.
For a leadership election in those circumstances, the following points should be noted:
- The Interim leader should not be a candidate themselves.
- Whoever stands will need to ideally be self-financing, (and not relying on the missus, or generous donors!)
- Nothing stops Henry (apart from deposit?) from standing again.
- If Henry stands and wins, the NEC (see above) are all up for election.
- The election must be held within 90 days, max, but there is nothing to stop the NEC from attempting to hold it in under 28 days, so 4.1.2 would apply, and entryists following the EGM would be legally disenfranchised. (Otherwise a load of mischief makers could join in order to re-elect Henry!)
- Nigel might decide he “needs to return to SAVE BREXIT and UKIP!” and other candidates might thus be “invited” to step-aside, in which case there would be no need for an election and a considerable cost saving.
Whichever way this pans out, I can confidently predict the following:
- Our enemies will have a heyday.
- There will be calls for urgent constitutional and rulebook reform.
- The relationship difficulties between NEC and leader (both are validly elected by the membership) will continue.
So, who wins: NEC, leader, or baying social media? Place your bets…