At the leadership constituency hustings (Q&A) in Dagenham (Tuesday July 25th) with the following candidates: David Allen, John Rees Evans, Anne Marie Waters, Marion Mason and Aidan Powlesland present, Stuart Agnew MEP, raised an interesting question.
We learned that UKIP MEPs had signed an undertaking to give a proportion of their MEP salary to the party and that some of them simply don’t do that. He also confirmed that they had also signed an undertaking to stand down from their MEP positions if they left the party.
I don’t know the detail of these undertakings and haven’t seen the documents, but when an MEP asks the question one must trust that they exist, and were valid and lawful.
I don’t know who isn’t stumping up their fair share though some clearly aren’t. However, the MEPs elected on a UKIP ticket but no longer in the party are as follows:
Roger Helmer is to stand down as an MEP on 31st July which is not relevant to this issue but, who will take his place, I wonder? No word from the ivory tower, as yet!
Stuart’s question was, ‘what, as leader, would we do about it’?
I must admit that when I initially learned about the agreement to step down on leaving, I cast a sideways look, because I was puzzled as to how it could happen but didn’t give it too much thought. I assumed that there must be a good reason why the party took no action or that, in some way, it wasn’t an entirely accurate report.
However, as it seems undertakings were made, it is odd that the party choose not to enforce, what is legally a contract.
If I agree to do something in return for you doing something, then under English law that is a legally binding contract. There are some exceptions to that with cooling off periods etc but in this case, it is the very definition of a contract. If that agreement is supported by a document then that document, whilst not being the contract itself, represents verifiable evidence that the deal was, indeed, struck.
The contract is the agreement, the signed undertaking is evidence of that.
I am really puzzled as to why the party hasn’t taken the blindingly obvious action for a breach of the contract by pursuing litigation against the people in breach of their contractual commitments.
I’m also a bit surprised that Stuart, and clearly others also, confuse a contractual agreement with the former electoral process because there is an order of preference in effect whereby the electoral processes are irrelevant. If I agree to do something, as the essence of a contract, then as long as that something is legal and achievable then it’s detail is not material.
In common with most democratic election processes elected officials cannot be forcibly removed from post, through an adherence to the logic that the electorate put them there and only the electorate can remove them. However, that is not the issue because they can voluntarily step down, or suffer an equivalent financial penalty.
The failure to make donations as agreed is a simple issue. The amounts are easily calculated and the party would win judgement without too much trouble.
For the former UKIP MPs, the amount to claim from them may require some calculations but, when action begins, there is always an option to compromise, i.e. step down now and pay nothing, or keep the MEP position and pay quite a lot, perhaps even going back to when they left the party.
I assume that inaction may have been a political choice, but it’s also politically undesirable to have elected officials who cannot keep their word, even when it is legally binding. The moral question regarding those MEPs who have left the party is even more compelling.
The Euro elections were run using the d’Hondt voting system in which people vote for a party, or an independent (which is considered to be a party of 1) and not a candidate. It means that the authority is given to the party and not the individual, so one would think it would be an integral part of the legal framework of any list voting system to specify what happens when people defect or get kicked out. In this case and under this half-baked electoral system, betrayal, skulduggery, or plain criminality don’t seem to have been part of the thought processes. That’s what happens when voting systems aren’t open to scrutiny and imposed on people from above.
Of course, when self-interest enters the equation, human behaviour often finds its lowest point. It is a testament to the inadequacy of UKIP’s selection processes that so many of our most senior elected officials cannot adhere to the most basic concepts of honesty and integrity.
Whatever happened to my word is my bond?
So, my answer to Stuart Agnew’s question would be to advise the individuals of impending legal action, seek a solution with them before moving forward but, if none is reached, instigate litigation to make things right.