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Put the members in charge

a new governance structure for UKIP

There has been a lot of criticism about the structure of UKIP and the role of the NEC in particular, but not many constructive suggestions for how exactly to reform.  I present a few ideas.

At present, the party has five power structures, namely (i) the financial donors, (ii) the party leader and his team, (iii) the NEC, (iv) the MEPs and (v) Regional Organisers and branches.  Note the word ‘members’ does not appear.  How things work is that the leader and his team develop policy with the influence of the financial donors and the NEC.

The MEPs try to say their bit but unless they also have a role in the party leader’s team they are marginalised, except to the extent they can make a financial contribution.  But given that MEPs are selected from party lists and are there by the grace of the leader who puts them on the top of the list, then there isn’t a lot they can complain about so in general they are docile and unwilling to rock the boat.

Another interesting feature is how difficult it is to get onto the NEC. At the last election there were 91 candidates, many with no track record of even standing for office on behalf of UKIP.  Moreover, NEC members have seen themselves as representatives rather than delegates, meaning they do not take instructions from the constituency that appointed them but make up their own minds.  In practice this means they can be convinced by other members of the NEC to do whatever they want, with absolutely no accountability to the people who elected them.

Branches and members have no role in decision making.  Apart from NEC members not being accountable to ordinary members, the most glaring hole in the governance is that there is no Annual General Meeting of the members where the members would ratify or reject major decisions made by the NEC and leadership.  In addition, there has never been an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the members because the hurdle for organising it (20% of all branches need to hold their own branch-level EGM first) is too high.  Hence the members have none of the usual protections of a corporate governance system.  This is the root cause of why so many members feel distant from UKIP leadership.

How leadership decisions are actually made was revealed in a series of unedifying tweets between David Coburn and Suzanne Evans (SE) yesterday in an argument over ‘who introduced SE to Nigel first’ (no joke).  SE came out and said that in fact it was Annabelle Fuller, NFs press secretary at the time, who introduced her to NF, and NF promptly gave her a role in his leadership team which she still occupies to this day.  The members have absolutely no role in any of these decisions; they are all done behind closed doors with no accountability.  That nobody at the top apart from fall guy Paul Nuttall has resigned since the local and general election results demonstrates that nobody feels any sense of accountability to the members, and members are powerless to demand change.

So, how should it work?  First, the members have to be in charge.  There should be an AGM which all members can attend in person to vote or vote by proxy.  The members should vote on key policies, review the work of the leadership team and the NEC, and certain powers, such as changes to constitution, should be taken away from the NEC and reserved for the members at AGM.  The hurdle for an EGM should also be far lower so that one can actually occur every three years or so.

Second, the NEC should become more of a delegation and less of a representative organisation. NEC representatives should be regionally elected and be accountable to that region.  They would take instructions from the region.  If the region does not like what they are doing then the region would have the power of recall and deselection.  NEC delegates should report back to their region, tell them what happened at the NEC and take instructions.  It goes without saying that NEC minutes should be available to all members.

Third, the NEC should be more like a board of directors and not get involved in management. Under the guidance of members, who approved policy in the AGM, the NEC is there to set targets for the leadership team and review its performance.

Fourth, the leadership team should be freed from the influence of financial donors and the kind of back-scratching as exemplified by the appointment of SE (and many others).  The choice of members of the leadership team should be proposed by the leader to the NEC for approval in a transparent way.  At the AGM members would also have the opportunity to recall any leadership team member.

Finally, the policy making process should become a direct democracy exercise.  JRE has begun this with his online system (which if you have not tried already I suggest you go and take a look) but I am not optimistic as it is noticeable that the leadership is not actively promoting it.  Any organisational change that is not championed from the top is doomed to failure.  But in my new governance structure I propose a similar system for proposing policy that would go to the AGM for adoption.

These is a basic outline for a new system. Of course the devil is in the detail, but I hope that one of the leadership candidates takes this forward before being ‘captured’ by the system upon their election.  If the system wins again, then UKIP is lost forever.

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About Graham Matthews (8 Articles)
Graham Matthews was the 2017 General Election UKIP Candidate, Kingston & Surbiton Parliamentary Constituency

40 Comments on Put the members in charge

  1. Good article Graham.

    That UKIP is a limited company with ‘directors’ is just about as grotesque as turning our sports clubs into businesses and personal fiefdoms – more evidence there was never the slightest intention to let members have any real say.

    The constitution trumpets that we are a “democratic and libertarian party” – utter hypocrisy. There’s no real democracy and the libertarian bit is a smokescreen for Nigel Farage’s Thatcherite economics, as is “low tax”. See my article in January ‘On Libertarianism’.

    We don’t want pettifogging legalism. We need plain arrangements which allow members and leader to take our party forward together. We should sort all this out now or it will continue to be a burdensome yoke.

  2. Toby Micklethwait // July 9, 2017 at 6:55 pm // Reply

    Dear Graham Matthews,

    You say “… the policy making process should become a direct democracy exercise.”.

    Below is the link to JRE’s website.

    Regards, Toby, 01932-873557

  3. Rob, maybe it is time for a new structure? I think your argument about not having regional representatives is slightly weird, if you don’t mind me saying so! It may be that different regions understand the different problems in,their regions, and are more qualified to speak up for policies needed to address them. Just because we come from outside the southeast we aren’t actually knuckle dragging Neanderthals a couple of centuries behind! Surely if a representative moves somewhere else, it’s not beyond the wit of that region to elect a replacement – or to have the second choice replace the leaver?
    You say members vote on candidates and,the NEC may decide to adjust? Then members vote again? Or not? And why adjust?
    Surely there are able people who run Companies within the UKIP membership who can decide on the best way to restructure UKIP so that it is possible for a Leader to lead, and for members to be able to see THE MINUTES OF MEETINGS (still hasn’t happened) and for instance, in the case of disbarring any member from standing, as happened to AMW, that a full minuted account of the meeting is available from a UKIP on-line site, so that we can all see how the process went and final decision arrived at. The same for deciding to spend so much money on Stoke. In fact for everything that goes on – no process or NEC discussion should be hidden from members, because the NEC should be accountable to members for every decision. If they were, we wouldn’t have the ridiculous situation we have now, of a Leadership election underway, and yet no one actually knows whether the candidates are actually allowed to stand. ITS A JOKE!
    I could go on but I expect I’m going over the word limit!

    • Dee: I am kicking ass on minutes; expect progress soon.

      The problem with regional – you can guess I am Scottish at heart – is that their candidates may be bettered elsewhere. Why should a BRILLIANT Welsh candicate be denied an NEC place due to an incompetent Scot (e.g. Me?)

      As a UK supporting party, let’s take the best wherever they come from!

      • Thanks for kicking ass about minutes, Rob, but it really won’t do into the future. With today’s electronic tools they should be approved by those present, if amended, amendments shown, and out on a UKIP website within a week of the meeting – so that objections if any can be current, not six months down the line. That’s the membership involvement that should come naturally.
        As to your argument about regional representatives, the North, Scotland or Wales may have very different policy requirements to be put up for consideration to those in the Home Counties or the West. Every region should be represented for balance, imo.
        The whole root of all the trouble seems to come from lack of accountability from NEC. Dodgy decisions possibly the reason for delayed minutes? This is the obvious conclusion, right or wrong, that is inevitably drawn from such carrying on.

    • I see the NEC meeting minutes from 12 July are already leaked and are on AMWs twitter feed.

  4. 7) AGMs and donors. The executive nead to be able to react quickly, e.g. Short notice general elections. Having all keybdecisions ratified annually is probably unworkable (but once electronic voting is up and running, hint, hint ?)

    As for VERY GENEROUS donors, are we really going to tell Paul Sykes we don’t want his posters, because in return for his millions he wants some editorial control, and won’t fed the cheque through UKIP bank accounts? Why shouldn’t they be able to say, I know this person, they’ve got great skills, and I reccommend them (subject to NEC ratification)?

    • This is truly an absurd comment. How do you think all those public companies manage to operate? They have AGMs and for material decisions they have to get shareholder approval, e.g. if they are doing a large M&A deal. It is because the party is managed so shambolically that the things normal businesses can routinely do seem incredibly difficult to UKIP.

      Re; donors, you still don’t seem to get it, the party belongs to the MEMBERS. We shouldn’t have the Peter Jewells of the world infesting the top of the party. I would love to know how the decision was made for him to run in Richmond Park, I can bet there were no members involved in that decision and probably no NEC either. Someone got a phone call from someone and bob’s your uncle.

  5. 6) Why should it be easy to get on the NEC? Standing for elected office as, say, a councillor gives no indication that you would be any good at running a million pind company as director.

    Nigel believes the NEC places should comecwithbspecific job descriptions, and you the best people for that specific job (e.g. Finance control, technology, brass neck to stick head above parapet on UKIPDaily ?)

    Do you believe there should be entry qualifications? (Apart from the existing one if not being disqualifiedcas a company director).

    • NEC should be directors, not take functional roles like CFO, CTO, etc. All functional roles should be done by executive team reporting to party leader. NEC should simply be a board of directors with no functional responsibility that represents the members. E.g. you once headed a technical or technology committee for the NEC, this is the wrong way to do it, the executive team should have a Chief Technology Officer reporting to leader. Leader is responsible for results. Leader not get results, board of director replaces leader. But board of director not get involved in managing technology.

      • To be a legal director of a company you need to be able to understand the responsibilities you are taking on. So yes, if people cannot understand what they are getting involved in then by definition they do not qualify as a director and are incapable of carrying out that role. That is why in the corporate world directors are people of experience in director roles in several different businesses. So there should at least be a vetting process to make sure our NEC members are competent to understand their fiduciary duties under company law.

        Secondly if we reform the way the NEC are elected then we will have a strong chain of accountability that will encourage greater responsibility. If they know they are going to get a grilling from the members they are responsible to and can be recalled by, and if they are being asked to raise issues by members with more experience than they have, then people will think twice before throwing their name forward. The situation now is that you can put yourself forward to go to a meeting every month but have NO accountability to anyone for what you do or do not do, and with no minutes published, who knows whether or not half the people even open their mouths?

      • Elected NEC ARE directors:

        “2.2.3 Elected members of the NEC shall serve as Directors of the Company from the date upon which they are declared elected in accordance with this Constitution and the Rules until the date upon which their successor is elected.”

        Please understand the party structure you’re criticising before you pist ?

  6. 5) it is NOT the party leader who makes MEPs etc. top of the list (and thus electable). The lists are voted on by the membership, and the NEC as a whole may then decide to adjust – or refer back to the membership. This is how Neil Hamilton got his place in Wales – due to the membership – despite Nigel’s erm, discomfort ?

  7. 4) Regionally elected NEC. This comes up several times a year, regular as clockwork, and always fails because it is, in practise, unworkable.

    a) With the bulk of members in South East and West, how would you weight matters so they get fair balance against a handful of woad-smeared Picts?

    b) Why should the NEC be lumbered with one or more people who are totally useless, just because they came from a certain region? The best candidates should get the job, and Electronic Voting this year will make it easier to identify them.

    c) What qualifies you to represent a region? Does someone who moved there for his job, 2 months ago, qualify? What happens when their job takes them out of the region? And what about people like me – raised in Scotland, Stood as #2 on Glasgow list for inaugural Follyrood elections, and visit thete regularly due to family? Should I be allowed to represent Scotland?

    All the above details why I belueve regional NEC reps are unwirkable, and I am implacably opposed to it.

    VISITING regions, or branches, however, is a different kettle if fish…

    • The voting can be weighted by membership, and regional constituencies provide a structure to allow party to develop across whole country. NEC members should be accountable to a constituency, and regions have a channel through which they can raise concerns. Your approach leaves huge geographic swathes of the country with no stake in the leadership whatsoever, and vice-versa. Perhaps a reason why we have not developed well outside the SE and SW is we haven’t put sufficient focus on these areas, and the current structure perpetuates this mistake. Moreover, the NEC members feel no accountability to anyone. We have NEC members living less than 10 miles from our branch who feel no responsibility to brief us on what goes on or seek our input.

  8. 3) The NEC should be more like a board of directors? Erm, the elected ones already are ?

    We HAVE had, in the recent past, a VERY senior party figure arguing that maybe the party should cease being a company, or that elected NEC members should only be directors voluntarily. That latter is a non-stater, in my book – “one for all”, and all that.

    And that the £1 liability for losses applies to members of UKIP limited, i.e. Leader, treasurer, secretary, chairman and other elected members. They are also, of course, liable for much bigger losses if they are found to have breached director’s obligations. So please be careful here when you use the term “member”.

  9. 2) You say that changes to the constitution should bectaken away from the NEC: But the membership already ratify all proposed changes, and, in sufficient number, using the correct process, can initiate changes themselves! So this is already in place! ?

  10. Dear Graham: thanks for putting pen to paper. I’m breaking my reply into several posts, as editing on an iPad here is a pain, and the editors prefer short posts. It also provides a clearer subject area for replies to me.

    1) There have been at least two EGMs in the party’s history; in 2009 and 2000. The latter was chaired by my distant relative, Norris McWhirter, and despite Nigel stepping in and reading the riot act for bad behaviour from some quarters, proved so stressful that a member dies of a heart attack. I assure you that the executive therefore do not take calling EGMs lightly.

    However, if a national EGM was called under the current constitution, what could it legally achieve?

    Perhaps a little study of UKIP’s history might help you understand why we have the structure we do today?

    • Rob, the executive don’t call EGMs, the Ms do, that is the whole point of an EGM, for the Ms to hold the Executive to account at the initiative of the Ms. This demonstrates my point -the party belongs to the members, not the Executive, the NEC, the MEPs or the donors. The MEMBERS. Yet they have no governance mechanism to protect their interests. I shall dig further into AGMs because there definitely should be an AGM but for whatever reason I have never been invited to one or sent voting papers for one, have you?

  11. Graham, this sounds wonderful! My question is, how do we prise the reins of control out of the hands of those who are currently in charge? Nothing so far has happened to give us hope that something will be done. I’m not very good at ‘management’ and so have never been able to grasp quite how UKIP is run – but your detailing the current structure lays out starkly exactly what the problems are, and why members are so dissatisfied with, as many call them the ‘clueless cabal’ at the top.

    I haven’t even attempted to find John R-E’s Direct Democracy site. I have always been a huge supporter of Direct Democracy and, as some may recall, of J R-E! But I am very disappointed that he hasn’t come on this site to explain what he is doing, tell us where it is and so on – in other words involved us. It isn’t as if he doesn’t know of UKIP Daily, he posted here before the last Leadership election. If he wanted members to get behind him in this why has he ignored us? The other reason is that ‘der management’ hasn’t mentioned anything beyond something in an email a long while ago – so we don’t know how many Leadership contenders agree with him, or anything else.
    I do know one thing, and that is that UKIP, as it is currently structured, hasn’t a hope of expanding membership or moving forward. How do we get reform is the question that needs answering before we can get excited about any actually proposed reform, no matter how good.

    • I think he’s chosen facebook as his medium, if you go to his JRE for UKIP facebook site there are instructions there.

  12. One error in the above, there was an EGM in 2009 to convert UKIP from a company limited by shares to a company limited by guarantee. Note this means the members have responsibility for UKIPs losses, but only up to £1 for each member. I can’t find any record of there ever having been another EGM.

    • PurplePottymouth // July 9, 2017 at 2:31 pm // Reply

      There was another way before that in a leadership crisis – so I guess that answers the question can the membership get rid of a leader. So heated that a member present had a heart attack. A certain Craig MacKinley was in the thick of it as I recall and a certain Mr Farage leapt heroically onstage (not to become leader, that was much later) My point is if we don’t cut out the canker no leader will be effective, or accountable.

  13. PurplePottymouth // July 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm // Reply

    Before we can establish a party with a structure which is transparent and accountable to its membership, we must first have a leader who is permitted to lead. Ask Diane James, or her then team, why she only lasted 18 days. Ask our ‘unity candidate’why no reforms took place after he was elected – and don’t accept that it was due to the pressure of the Stoke by election and then a GE. Instead ask his unofficial advisor why the structural reforms were not making progress and what happened to all the work he did in the absence of a will to do it on the part of the others. Then as why they had no will to do it.

    That’s right because every one of them must go if we are to survive. The night of the long knives will have nothing on it. Any leader who wants to to do the job properly will have to begin with a comprehensive slash and burn of everything and (almost) everyone. He – or she will be denounced as an authoritarian dictator, a Little Hitler in the ensuing death rattle. Listen to the howls of protest if the unscrutinised ‘rebrand’ is torn up with everything else. Our leader will require the courage of Marine le Pen when she chucked her dad out to hold their own as they appoint an untainted chairman and proceed to an emergency measures whilst they and a small team build a truly democratic structure.
    Then watch out for the Halloween general election to try to derail the process as the establishments infiltrators are ejected and their plan for UKIP is threatened. Maybe that is one we should sit out and wait for the Venezuelan style fire out of which we can arise.

    • Ppmouth, beautifully put. If the new Leader cannot stand up and do as you describe, we’ve had it. If they can, I’m hugely optimistic.

    • I think its probably a combination of the two, there has to be a leader committed to reform who then brings the membership along with them on that journey to reform party against the vested interests. Seems to me the problem with Diane was she thought that being leader would be enough, when it clearly wasn’t, and let’s face it, she didn’t want to be leader either or she wouldn’t have written ‘at gunpoint’ or whatever it was on her paper.

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