So we have a leadership crisis and must decide how to vote at the EGM. Our guiding principle must be to do what is best (a) for Brexit and (b) for the Party.
Let us put aside our opinions of both HB and the NEC and examine the elephant in the room:
Is Henry Bolton an enemy agent?
Before we dismiss that possibility as preposterous, vanishingly small, irrelevant, or simply unproven-and-therefore-HB-is-innocent-until-proven-guilty, we should think carefully.
Preposterous? The EU is beset by increasing problems. Czech president Zeman (opposed to EU immigration and sanctions against Russia) has just won a second term. Italy’s Matteo Salvini is high in the polls and believes that the Euro is a failed experiment (at Italy’s expense). Geert Wilders didn’t win the Dutch elections but improved his vote share. The Visegrad nations are refusing to do as instructed by Brussels. Oh, and the Brits have had a stupid referendum and want to leave the EU… and I haven’t mentioned Austria yet or the AfD in Germany itself.
Brussels absolutely needs to put an end to any real Brexit in order to put the horrid populists back in their box and show them who’s boss.
Are we really convinced that the pro-EU moneyed powers will restrict themselves to legal democratic means to achieve this end? Are we so conditioned to thinking in our British fair-play way that we cannot consider the possibility that these powers may stoop to underhand methods? UKIP has proven to be a thorn in their side – the last thing they need is a resurgent UKIP. Surely UKIP can be quietly dismembered . . . and Mrs May browbeaten?
This would be merely prudent insurance and well worth the comparatively tiny cost.
Vanishingly small? Henry has an EU background, having worked for them. He plausibly states that he saw the UKIP light when he realised how Brussels treated the work of “boots on the ground”. The pro-EU powers have motivation and money in spades – it is entirely possible that he has been set up to destroy us. Is it probable? We can never know, but if it is so eminently possible and if the stakes are so enormous and if the money required is small change in the scale of things then we would be foolish indeed to assume that the probability is not disturbingly high.
If the pro-EU powers were to set up a sting, what would they look for? He/she would ideally be elected leader, to ensure maximum disruptive potential (and maybe not too difficult to achieve bearing in mind our leadership travails post referendum). To be elected leader he/she would have to be of impeccable CV, say all the right things and present him/herself better than all the other candidates – ideally he/she would also have high-level support from within UKIP itself. Once elected, the leader would avoid making an impact on Brexit, would seek to sully the party’s reputation, and would create as much internal division as possible. The exodus of disillusioned members would become a flood and the party would collapse. Does this remind you of anybody?
Innocent until Proven Guilty? The EGM is not a court of law. The task of the EGM is not to find guilty or innocent but to choose the best way forward for Brexit and for the Party. Justice for HB and the NEC must not stand in the way of the greater need for a strong Party to fight for both Brexit and for all our post-Brexit aspirations.
Irrelevant? The EGM has to make a decision to back either the NEC or to back Henry – this decision will have inevitable consequences depending on both the vote and the “enemy agent” question. This table shows the scorecard.
|Henry is an enemy agent||Henry is a genuine Kipper|
|Vote to support Henry||UKIP is finished.||We will have to fund and hold an election for the entire NEC. Good candidates may be in short supply but the same old election process will mean we are largely voting blind, so a lot of time and expense for pot luck as usual.|
|We will go through the motions no doubt but ultimate demise will be engineered one way or another and sooner rather than later.||Henry will have to appoint his cabinet from the reduced pool of people still prepared to work with him. We may still be finished if we can’t pull together.|
|Henry may spend too long getting the internal workings of the Party in order to have the required impact on the Brexit negotiations.|
|Vote to support the NEC||UKIP lives to fight on.||UKIP replaces a leader.|
|We appoint a safe Ukipper as interim leader to take the Brexit battle public immediately, and then hold a leadership election in due course.The pool of available talent at the top of the Party is unchanged (except for Henry, who will probably leave).Henry’s internal Party reforms may be abandoned or remain incomplete, or may be delayed.|
If HB is an enemy agent:
- If we back him, then without doubt the Party is over. The downside risk could not be higher.
- If we back the NEC then he must step down but UKIP lives.
If HB is not an enemy agent:
- If we back him, then the downside risk is that he will make more unhappy gaffs in the future, that he will have sown so much discord that few will want to work with him, and that he is not competent to make the political case for Brexit (he has shown little inclination to do this so far despite having Gerard Batten on his team).
- If we back the NEC then he must step down but UKIP will live to fight again.
Joseph Heller gave clear guidance for this sort of situation:
“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on”