[Ed: we re-publish this statements by Paula Walters with kind permission from Kipper Central, where it was first published.]
I was always one of the NEC’s most vocal critics. Campaigning against a political elite, lording it over the rest of us. My primary reason for standing in the NEC election was to take forward the voice of grassroots members, to keep them informed by being open, honest and accountable.
It was with great trepidation that I attended my first meeting, I felt like Daniel entering the lion’s den. I was somewhat shocked to find no over inflated egos or self importance, just genuine, hard working people who love the party as much as I do. For the most part they are professional people giving their time and experience for free and I consider us lucky to have them.
There have been many accusations about the NEC hounding leaders out of the party. When Nigel resigned he was encouraged to come back and was welcomed with open arms. Paul left under his own steam under a cloud of bad publicity and Diane – well she never attended any NEC meeting. How do you get rid of someone who does not even turn up?
When I joined the NEC the leadership election was about to take place and disputes over social media were gaining momentum. There were calls from some members to remove certain candidates from the ballot. Equally many of you felt that it was not our place to act as judge and jury.
None of us took the decision lightly but ultimately we came to the conclusion that as a democratic party the power should be placed in the hands of the members to decide. Following that decision, Henry suggested that he knew better than the rest of us and threatened to sue the party if AMW was not removed from the ballot. Is this a person that we want as leader? A person who rides roughshod over the wishes of the majority, dictating that we are only allowed to vote for people that meet with his approval? How is it possible to state that you are prepared to put everything into a party, even willing to sell your home but would sue the same Party into bankruptcy? This defies logic!
With Henry installed as leader, the NEC election was due to take place in November but was held back for two reasons. One was financial because there were already talks about changing the structure of the party, something that had been initiated during the leadership of Paul Nuttall. So why waste money on something that would only be in place for a month or two? It was decided that we should wait because members wanted change and we were listening. At this time we were amenable to any ideas put forward by the membership and we waited for the plans that Henry was putting in place. If there were any plans we were not informed: a lot of talking the talk but no walking the walk!
We now come to the infamous VONC (Vote of No Confidence).
The majority of response from the members was that action should be taken. We were unable to please everyone so upheld our raison d’être and gave the power to the people. We do not have the power to vote against a newly appointed leader but we did have the power to allow him to remain and in doing so ignore the wishes of the many. In my book, that is dictatorship. We made clear to Henry the reasons for voting as we did. On a personal level I had concerns but they played no part in my decision. I was there to represent the membership of the party, to serve not govern as I had promised.
Henry has publicly stated that his romance is over for the sake of UKIP. At the said VONC meeting Henry refused to confirm that this would be permanent. My personal view is that this was an either/ or choice, but I would suggest that Henry wants to have his cake and eat it.
Changes will take place with or without Henry. As part of the swamp however, I am a bit confused as it has always been the members that construct the swamp in the first place. At the moment I am in the firing line but I would suggest that this is part of a strategic military tactic: if you have no defence, attack.
I am no different from any of you, I’m a grassroots member with hopes and dreams for the party. I am chairman of the local branch, served my apprenticeship delivering thousands of leaflets, stood for local election and stood for Metro Mayor in Merseyside, of all places, following the Paul Nuttall fiasco – you know the one – where we are now accused of hounding Paul out.
I ran the leave campaign in Wirral during the referendum and worked my socks off at street stalls. I attend NEC meetings in London at my own expense hence Nigel’s comments that butties are brought in. We are not wining and dining on your membership fees!
I don’t want accolades, none of us do, our only agenda is representing you. I take my orders from you and do not consider myself to be some sort of political elite. So it saddens me that a game is being played out with the NEC as the devil incarnate.
During the election many people voted Conservative because they believed it was the only option. They did not want to but decided to settle and accept a lesser evil. If people had the courage of conviction things may well have been different.
There is another way, a way to bring old friends back into the fold and gain new ones, a way to take us through May with renewed hope and conviction. I won’t be standing again but before I am drained with the rest of the swamp, think about it!
Kind Regards, Paula Walters, UKIP Wirral Chairman