1. Why do we have leadership elections?
By law all political parties are required to have a leader. This is governed by the Political Parties, Elections and Reforms Act 2000 (Section 24) which states that all political parties must have a leader, a nominating officer and a treasurer. The leader may be the nominating officer and the treasurer or combined and a party may have an overall leader or choose a leader for a particular purpose. Without a leader we are not legally a party and cannot stand in elections.
2. Why is the EGM being held in Birmingham?
Birmingham is in the middle of the country, thus it is deemed the most accessible. As the constitution currently stands, the vote to remove the leader has to take place at a meeting and cannot be conducted by postal ballot. This causes a great deal of inconvenience to members who may have prior arrangements and are unable to make significant travel arrangements or are not prepared to pay the travel costs. I consider it to be undemocratic and unwieldy and this is in urgent need of reform. In January 2000 the NEC, chaired by Nigel Farage, convened an EGM in order to remove the then leader Michael Holmes who was subsequently replaced by Jeffrey Titford. Around 900 members assembled in Westminster to hear the respective debates and arguments. The EGM rules will have to be brought up to date and due consideration given to members’ needs. The reason why the EGM is set up in this manner is to ensure maximum protection to the leader and place significant hurdles across the path of people seeking a change in leadership.
3. If I vote for Henry Bolton, will the NEC swamp be drained?
No, not at all. In the event that Henry Bolton wins in Birmingham, the current NEC members will remain in place until the next round of NEC elections which must be called within three months of the EGM and all existing NEC members are allowed to stand in those elections. Current NEC members may simply reload and stand again. Of course, the NEC elections will be open to all members to stand and of course one cannot predict or guarantee who will win the elections.
4. Henry Bolton says that he is going to make big reforms. Is this achievable? What are they?
I do not know what Bolton’s reforms are, albeit I understand that he wants to convert the NEC members from directors into trustees. He has not presented any paper to the NEC confirming his proposed reforms. I am therefore unsure as to what he means. However, if he wishes to change the constitution there must be a postal ballot of all the members to seek their agreement and changes will only be made if two thirds of the membership support those amendments. It is a high bar. The reason why it is such a high bar is to protect the status quo which was designed to protect the leader.
5. Why do Steven Woolfe, Diane James and Nigel Farage complain so bitterly about the NEC?
That is very simple. Steven Woolfe complained because the NEC would not indulge his incompetence in filing his leadership application after the deadline. This situation was caused solely by him and he must shoulder sole responsibility for his inaction. Diane James kept delaying her first NEC meeting as leader and made an arrangement to meet all NEC members for a 15-minute one-on-one coffee. An excellent idea; the gentle touch. Alas, the day before the coffee meetings were to happen, she cancelled and then later resigned as leader. It is my frank view that her resignation may have had more to do with the fact that her husband was exposed in the Panama papers. She has been skittish in the past. She pulled out of standing in the 2015 General Election. Farage is of course a world class orator and is the best political speaker in contemporary politics. We were blessed to have him as a leader and main spokesman. However, all top performers have a mix of bravado and insecurity. Alas, the downside of Farage is his need to be the lead singer of the opera, and also the conductor. Farage has never explained why he considers the NEC unfit for purpose. My view is because the reasons are entirely personal:
Douglas Carswell and the Short money in 2015: Carswell was awarded £600,000 of Short money. Matthew Richardson and Nigel Farage wanted that money to employ about 15 people. Many of us may be aware of Farage’s choice of “specially able staff” whose main talent is loyalty to him. Carswell refused to cooperate and considered £600,000 for one constituency was taking advantage of the taxpayer and he then agreed to take half the Short money and Farage’s promised jobs did not materialise resulting in a loss of face. Thereafter, the NEC was regularly asked to expel Carswell and the NEC had to balance the needs of the party, the views of the members and the impact upon the referendum campaign. On balance it was decided that retaining an MP was of strategic importance. What decision would you come to?
National Assembly for Wales election, 2016: Farage wanted his “special friend” top of the Wales list and that the Wales campaign would be focused upon his “special friend” who had no campaign history and limited connection to Wales. The members in Wales stated that they would close down branches if the “special friend” was foisted upon them. The compromise sought was to give the members in Wales a free ballot to decide the list rankings. The members did not vote the way Farage wanted. Farage was unable to gift his “special friend” a five-year term taxpayer funded non-job. Farage’s anger has never left him and this is the main reason for his attacks on the NEC. Simply put, it is the loss of his ability to dole out paid jobs to friends.
6. Is the NEC unfit for purpose?
No. As stated above, Farage’s anger towards the NEC is because his ability to control list rankings and dole out paid jobs has been curtailed. From 2012 to 2015 the membership base was smaller but after 2013 with the local election successes the membership base increased significantly and with it a far greater choice of people standing for the NEC. Maintaining any form of old boys’ network was diminishing. The financial debt and Jane Collins’ costs issue arose during Farage’s leadership and he was present at NEC meetings when these items were discussed. Wonder what he said and how he voted on these issues?
7. Henry Bolton says that it was the NEC who increased the membership fees. Is that correct?
No. Bolton laid the blame at the feet of the donors and the NEC. However, he was the driving force behind this in an attempt to raise more income for the party. Please note that his duties as a leader are to secure new sources of funding, provide political direction, and develop policy. A decent leader would not be seeking to offload blame for such decisions on donors or onto the NEC which comprise elected grassroots activists.
8. What has Henry Bolton done to prepare for the local elections in May 2018?
Nothing. Bolton set up an elections committee headed by Andrew Charalambous, who has never won an election, overseeing Cllr Lawrence Webb, Cllr Tim Aker MEP, Lisa Duffy and others. At the first meeting Henry Bolton and Paul Oakden told them they were forbidden from discussing the new logo. Duffy has since resigned over the logo. No progress whatsoever has been made. Bolton’s way of providing direction is to offload responsibility for this task onto committees he set up of disparate people who rarely meet and produce nothing. Since being elected he has sourced no new donors, created no new income streams save for increasing the membership fee, given no political direction development policy and has not provided us with a post-Brexit economic political vision for the United Kingdom. This is the leader’s job. A party leader’s job is not to be involved in the back-office administration and tinkering with rules.
9. What is the NEC for?
Article 6.1 of the party’s constitution states: “There shall be established a committee known as the National Executive Committee (hereinafter “the NEC”) which shall function as the principal management and administrative authority of the Party, in particular for the purposes of company law.” The NEC is the managing board comprising 12 elected members, the leader and the chairman. It is the grassroots members’ eyes and ears and any member in good standing is free to put themselves forward.
The NEC gives the grassroots a stake in the party and it is this stake that Bolton wants removed to allow the peddling of influence and favours.