Dear Mr Batten,
Many party members have stated that Tommy Robinson will be a liability to the party, many have stated he will be an asset, many choose to stay on the side-lines not wishing to upset either side. This has led to a serious rift in the party with accusations and counter accusations being made. We feel that there is a definite lack of transparency of opinion and logical, civilised debate.
Each side vehemently states its position, but few people respond to the opposing side’s arguments. Each side tends to get emotional, preferring to further dig in their heels and reaffirm their position rather than provide a reasonable retort to the argument being made against their position. No one is the winner, each side are losers, and the party is again consumed by infighting.
We believe that arguments on how criminal or how courageous Robinson is are quite irrelevant. We are a political party, the only arguments that matter on this subject are those that relate to our electoral campaign performance.
We write this open letter in the hope that it will start a dialogue that eventually resolves the issue. We do not seek to castigate you for the decisions you have made, we seek to understand your reasons and to politely hold you to account. We seek clarification on your position and direction for all members; especially candidates. We hope you will provide a thorough itemised response to the following arguments:
1. The party has long had a list of proscribed organisations; former members of these organisations cannot join. We understand that this was not because they are all assumed to be bad people. It was a tactic to ensure the party could not easily be shouted down by accusations of racism and bigotry. It also ensured the public could view us as the party of common-sense policy. We needed to present ourselves as a serious, professional political party. Any baggage from a candidate’s or officer’s past would have damaged our image in the eyes of the public, putting them off and inhibiting our chances. It also meant that we never needed to apologise for our views or soften our position. We believe this tactic has worked quite well over the years.
Would you agree with this assessment, or do you believe this tactic no longer holds any worth? Do you believe that any special exceptions made will be accepted by the public?
2. Some of our members and candidates have very fruitful careers. So far, their employers have been tolerant of their UKIP membership. Even if they aren’t so tolerant they cannot easily dismiss them due to the legitimacy of our party, in no small part due to the tactics described above. If our party is in any way associated with riot, brawl, fight or racially motivated attack, many members could find themselves under economic threat for being part of a ‘nasty’ organisation. It could be argued that their continued membership contravenes a workplace policy and they then find themselves being disciplined and dismissed. If anyone within or associated with our party does something reprehensible, it’s inevitable that we will all end up being categorised together as persona non grata.
Do you acknowledge that mixing with street protest groups increases the likelihood of such an event and places our existing members under risk?
3. You have stated many times that you want Robinson to become a member. We think that it’s reasonable to assume that this would be a first step into a larger role. Given that you seem to have sparked a friendship with the man, it’s reasonable for us to assume that the subject of such a progression has come up in conversation.
What future within the party do you foresee for Robinson? Do you foresee him moving into a frontline role? (Candidate, spokesman, officer etc)?
4. Your leadership of the party is interim. Your mandate was to stabilise the party, a task which you have successfully carried out. As far as we can assess, you have no mandate to change the political position of the party in any significant or fundamental way. Because Robinson joining the party is effectively proscribed by our constitution, we believe that you are exceeding your mandate. Initially you sought a ballot at the conference; this was prevented, which is a good thing as not all members can attend. You then sought to send a ballot paper to each member; the NEC subsequently ruled against this for the time being. You then appointed him as a ‘personal’ adviser, announcing via social media. Judging by the email form Kirstan Herriot dated 2nd December, it appears the NEC are keen to show they do not endorse the course of action you have taken.
Can you explain why you sought to exceed your mandate, even after restraint was advised by the NEC? Why was it necessary to publicly announce such a controversial ‘personal’ appointment, without the express consent of the party?
5. In your recent radio and TV interviews you have been forced into defending your association with Robinson and his long criminal record rather that talking about the issues of the day. We agree that the media are biased against us, but it must be admitted that such a line of enquiry is not entirely unreasonable and is probably in the public interest.
Do you agree that almost all your media appearances have been spoiled by questions over your association with Robinson? Do you imagine that the interviewers will ever give up this line of questioning? Do you believe his entire record can be explained away as a combination of self-defence, state persecution and youthful indiscretion? Do you think the electorate will ever believe the justice system got it wrong so many times? Is it ever reasonable for a party member, let alone leader, to publicly to defend another person’s criminal record?
6. Ukippers are loyal but some have said that they do not wish to stand, canvas, man the street stalls, or even leaflet for us if they must justify either the party’s or your relationship with Robinson to the public. They end up torn between their own beliefs and their loyalty to the party. If our political foes spot this weakness, then they will be quick to exploit it.
What should UKIP activists and candidates say when they are confronted with questions or even accusations concerning Robinson? Should they mirror your defence of his actions and criminal record? If he does become a member, is it reasonable to ask established members and candidates to defend a man they’ve never met and certainly don’t endorse? Can you offer any guidance to the thousands of rightly concerned members?
7. Our branch has gone from 34 to 63 members over the course of this year. Each new member has been contacted. None of the new members have stated Robinson as an influence in their reason for joining. To the contrary, many expressed scepticism and doubt over your association with him. The most common answers we get are Brexit, PC gone mad and the influence of certain YouTubers. It seems to us that the rise in our branch membership has largely been brought on by Brexit and the failure of Westminster politicians. Therefore, the same could be true for the party on a national level.
You have stated that Robinson can bring us more members and help turn us into a national populist movement. Can you offer any empirical data that confirms your association with Robinson and attendance to his events has led to a rise in membership and participation in branch activities?
8. Some members of our branch have not renewed their membership. We were able to get into contact with some. They stated they were not happy with the direction of the party. We are losing MEPs and long-established members. We have lost our very popular, highly effective former leader.
Do you believe the loss of active members can be mitigated by X number of new members joining? How do you plan to counter the loss of experienced candidates and branch officers? Will you email our members to tell them how many we are losing rather than just quoting our net gains?
You have said before that as leader, you expect to make a few mistakes. We believe that your present course might be your big mistake. We hope you will reflect and respond to this letter in an effort to stabilise the party and explain your vision for UKIP to all the concerned members.
The Officers and Members of Chesterfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire Branch, 9th December 2018
Note: This letter has been written on behalf of all members of the Chesterfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire Branch. It has been given assent by way of vote at a well attended branch meeting and carries the unanimous approval of the members and supporters in attendance.