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MEPless and what to do about the NEC? – Part I

In recent time our spokesmen have tended to be drawn from the ranks of our MEPs. MEPs, funded by European tax payers, have resources, particularly of time, to pursue the party’s ends. It made a certain sense in the pre-referendum era for our spokespeople to be MEPs.

The NEC, by contrast, has been a purely voluntary and unpaid body and so it is natural that it has been accused of amateurism, not least as its lack of resource has compelled it to be very part-time. But money matters and the indirect resource of European taxpayers’ will soon be denied to UKIP. It is time for a succession plan.

This subject is timely particularly because while announcing the fact of a new plan for the NEC (and the constitution), Henry Bolton has so far refrained from saying anything about the content of said plan. Instead Henry has confined himself to caricaturing the NEC (rather derivatively I can’t help noticing) as a marsh or bog.

The changes I propose are not intended to address the theoretical issue of the ideal balance of power between the elements of our party, although they may incidentally touch upon that. Instead, the changes I espouse address the question of how to make the NEC more useful?

In the mid 19th century the world’s leading, German, army introduced the idea that every senior commander should have a chief of staff. Subsequently this notion was seen to be so successful that it spread to politics.

What is the purpose of a chief of staff? The key roles are three:

  1. He substitutes for the commander when the Commander is out of action or needs to send a representative in his place.
  2. The Chief of Staff is responsible for plans so as to free the commander to focus on operations. Once plans are submitted, the commander acts as a constructive critic of the chief of staff’s vision (reversing the role below).
  1. The Chief of Staff acts as a constructive critic of the commander, warning the commander of potential pitfalls in any course of action.

I mention this history because I believe that the party’s spokesmen would benefit from possessing a chief of staff. As far as the manifesto is concerned the NEC already act as chiefs of staff (even if in 2017 they were not given any time to) but on a collective basis. My proposal is to allow the NEC to focus such supporting efforts more narrowly and toward action.

There are two difficulties I see with this suggestion.

First, it will demand more work of the NEC member. I propose to offset this by paying NEC members expenses of £4,000 per annum and an honorarium of £1,000. This sum of money is sufficient to cover the members costs in working twelve days away from home a year. I believe that teleconferencing should be used for alternating NEC meetings (I would suggest doubling the number of such meetings with odd numbered meetings focused on evaluating the work with spokesmen of chiefs of staff, and the work with party officers and outsiders of specialists). Contributing to NEC member’s expenses would be a token of the party’s appreciation of all the work they do and even more, under my proposal, would have to.

As it happens I think we should introduce expenses for spokesmen too (to prepare for loss of MEPs) and I would propose setting theirs at £6,000 with an honorarium of £2,000. The total cost of all of this would be £200,000 per annum for the sixteen NEC members who were not the chairman or leader and for fifteen spokesmen if we reduced their number, as I propose, from the current twenty plus to fifteen. In a recent article I have proposed the most decisive way to raise this £200,000. or to try to at any rate.

I have chosen the responsibilities I have for the eight proposed chiefs of staff either because of the money government spends on the area or because of the area’s inherent importance as, for example, defence.

\I see four advances resulting from instituting the above approach. Firstly, the spokesperson’s job will be supported. Secondly, the chiefs of staff would become expert. Thirdly it would make for clearer accountability when members came to elect NEC members. This combination of expertise and politics works for American sheriffs and I think would work for us by making NEC elections less amorphous. The biggest and fourth advantage would be in having NEC members who, having chosen a specific role to stand for, would be more committed to discharging it diligently.

By providing for eight NEC members focused on policy we would also increase the element of the NEC’s work that was to do with what we stand for and thereby ensure that ideas and action rose, relative to administration, in the minds and work of the NEC.

I offer the idea of NEC members elected to do particular things as merited in itself but also in rebuttal of the idea of regional representation which I think will encourage mediocrity and tribalism. I want to be free to elect the best candidate for the NEC, not be required to elect only those who happen to live near me.

Above and beyond ideas, manifestos and spokesmen the NEC could be accountable for matters that are important enough to merit specialization of labour among the NEC members and I have suggested how in the specialised NEC roles that I propose.

Watch out for Part 2 of this article, which UKIP Daily will publish on Friday.

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About Aidan Powlesland (9 Articles)
I am an entrepreneur. I stood for parliament for UKIP in the general election in Harrow East in 2015 the year in which I became funding Officer for the Suffolk South constituency.

3 Comments on MEPless and what to do about the NEC? – Part I

  1. The idea of NEC members elected for specific Roles is certainly better than the current lottery – where mosts members have no knowledge of most candidates – other than a short CV/statement.

    The idea raises the prospect of only having candidates having skills related to the post – and this may be preferable to appointment by patronage.

    BUT there remains the issue of accountability to the membership…..

    Which is why Regional Reps MUST be part of the picture.
    They will be elected by local members, who
    a) stand a far better chance of knowing the candidates
    b) will have a more practical mechanism to “recall”
    a mistake or fill a vacancy

    • Dear Jules,

      Your worthy goal of making a system that encourages elector knowledge of candidates does not of itself demand geographical proximity or so I put to you for you to consider.

      Let us take, for example, the constituency where I live. I have met every party member here face to face. This could have been achieved also, however, by a series of Skype calls. Had I, in this way, eliminated the time taken to travel to the individual members they would have had more time to learn about me. One hour of Skype face to face might be better than 20 minutes on the door step face to face. Communications devices eliminate distance but my more general point is that finding out about a candidate is really about the effort an elector and a candidate makes more than the distance between them.

      It is a rare elector who picks up a phone to speak to a candidate even if the geography of all concerned is one constituency. It is also a rare UKIP party member who actually turns up to a constituency party meeting however local it is. It is important to your proposition to know that proximity does not, in practice for most members, lead to greater interaction with candidates even in extreme cases of single constituencies let alone when considering whole regions while for an elector actually wanting to find out a, say, Skype conversation is, potentially, just a click away.

      Localism is not the only way to deliver accountability. You could structure a right of recall in numerous ways other than by geography.

      If, in choosing a candidate for the NEC, I had to choose someone from my region the fact remains I would not have been able to vote for any of the candidates I chose to support for the NEC last time as none of them were from East Anglia.

      I think there is a deeper point. Perhaps Long Melford village should declare independence or perhaps Suffolk, or I, or East Anglia should. I see some of the same arguments for this as applied to justification for Independence of the Kingdom from the EU, but in seeking, say, greatness whether for a village, a county, a person, a region or a Kingdom the effective way is surely to seek out the best help (representation) from wherever it happens to be.

      I think the idea of a more participative democracy (accountable and knowledgeable) within our party has much to recommend it, although I have reservations too, but geography seems neutral, of itself, to these admirable goals and positively harmful if it results in a narrower range of candidates for me or you to choose from.

  2. Jacqueline Horridge // February 14, 2018 at 2:16 pm // Reply

    Many of the answers to UKIP’s problems lie within the untapped mine of the Grassroot Members, who’s collective expertise and imagination is boundless. It should not be beyond the Branches to organise `political discussion groups’ and liaise with other nearby branches. Once embryonic ideas had been knocked into shape and passed up the ladder to the Regional Officer (an NEC member) and his team for further scrutiny, then further up the ladder to the Leader of the voice for the grassroots (choose a title) to put to the Leader, the NEC and the Policy makers. An EGM would not be required for this ladder.
    The main problem is, there is no ladder, yet!
    It is just an idea. Don’t knock it,

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