A very personal view on the election that was finally concluded on 15th December 2016.
Well, it’s now allover but does that include the shouting, or is that to come? UKIP has, forthe first time in a long time, elected what amounts to a new NEC. The newly-elected members will, I think, have their own views on the conduct of the election but that is a matter for another article.
However let me first pay tribute to some of those who did stand but did not manage to get elected, some of whom were kind enough to listen to and understand the matters I brought to the NEC during the election: Rob McWhirter, who brought an irritating fact-based analysis to matters but always sought to do what was best; Sebastian Fairweather, a good sensible person who always listened before commenting; Andrew Moncrieff, who worked tirelessly in the weeks running up to the GE making sure that the manifesto was the best of every party.
Then there were three people with whom I worked closely during the General Election: Roger Gravett, George Konstantinidis and Alan Love. They represented what is good in UKIP and whilst we don’t agree on everything, what they wanted to do was always for the good of the party.
So who has been elected from the 85,000 votes cast by 12,000 plus
members? In alphabetical order; Steve Crowther, Katie Fanning, Fiona Mills, Mick McGough, Paul Oakley, Anish Patel and Piers Wauchope. One interesting point are the votes cast. These seven candidates received just over 16,000 votes from a potential pool of 85,000, so 5-1 votes cast were for other candidates, but I am sure this will be discussed in coming weeks.
So who have party members elected? The group of seven ‘new’ members,
I submit, fall into two distinct groups – those who are well known names in the party and those who are less well known. Three of those elected, Wauchope, McGough and Crowther, are clearly the most well known of the pack. The first two have been very active in the party via social media and both have regularly stood in elections including last year’s General Election. McGough was very closely involved in the Better Off Out
campaign and has served two terms on the NEC, resigning last year over a point of principle, along with Victoria Ayling. He is a blunt, no-nonsense, straight-talking person and will be an asset to the NEC again.
Wauchope is another person who has served on the NEC for two terms. He is known for his ability to smooth ruffled feathers and stay calm when things get out of hand. It was
he who proposed the accepted settlement over the difficulty in Wales, allowing members to vote for who they wanted as candidates in the Welsh assembly.
Crowther is a completely different character altogether. He has not held any elected position in UKIP and was a part-time press officer for the South West, where he resides. He was for a time RO for the South West before
being asked to become chairman by Farage in 2010. Many people say he steered UKIP through troubled times after the 2010 election; others say he manipulated the NEC, ensuring that they always gave the decision that the leader wanted. In the end he lost control of the NEC in late 2015 and much of the ensuing difficulties could be said to arise from the fact that the NEC finally lost patience with their chairman. History will be the judge of this.
The other group consists of Mills, Patel, Fanning, and Oakley. The first three are very new to the party, having their year of joining 2014 in common. They all joined in those heady days in the run up to the European Elections and have been active since. It is difficult to know why they stood out particularly in the NEC elections. I met Mills before she was appointed to the seat in Carlisle and was very impressed with her as
a potential candidate. Her involvement with the NHS gives her knowledge
of an area vital to the party and I feel she will add much to the knowledge base of the NEC.
Anish Patel is an irritating member of YI whose presence is always seen wherever there is campaigning to do. His enthusiasm is never ending and he never refuses to do anything that is asked of him. Like my friend Alan Love (not elected in Northern Ireland) he is always there. His election, along with that of Katie Fanning, were the two wild cards that will now fill seats on the NEC. Fanning, I have to say, is a person I do not know well. She is also a person whose name keeps popping up and again and her workload is always praised. She was one of the candidates for the NEC who published a full manifesto. She has some good ideas but she also echoes the complaints of others about the format and constitution of the NEC. I hope she will take some time to learn more of the actual workings of the NEC before seeking to wield her axe. Patel and Fanning can probably thank the YI members for their election yesterday.
Finally Paul Oakley. I first met Oakley shortly after taking up the post as Head of Candidates. I then kept running into him at numerous branch hustings which I was required to chair because of, shall we say, little local difficulties. He was and is one of the most able candidates I have met. Why was he not selected? Because UKIP branches are still determined not to select the best candidate but the local candidate. Please do not take that as a criticism but as an observation. Oakley is a barrister and perhaps needs to chill out a little when addressing hustings meetings but he will be a real asset to the NEC.
So going forward, the party is at a crossroads. It lacks a real professional structure, it has finance problems and the members still need to decide whether they are a pressure group or a political party.
I would say one final thing: over my time with UKIP, without the drive that has come together under this banner there would have been no Brexit. Without Farage, with his huge number of faults,
there would have been no Brexit. I don’t believe in conspiracies but I do believe that people on both sides of the divide need to think before speaking and if we are to be a political party, occasionally saying nothing is the best policy.