Having given the dust time to settle from last week’s EGM, I think it’s now appropriate to turn our attention to the big three issues facing UKIP over the next few months. They are (at least for me):

  • Internal elections.
  • Great Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Constitutional reform.

Internal elections are relatively straightforward – we’ve been running them for years.

This time, we may be facing two sets of overlapping elections. I say may for two reasons: Firstly, a “unity” leadership candidate may come forward, and no other candidates stand against him/her. This is not inconceivable – Nigel was re-elected unopposed in the run-up to the 2015 election, having turned down the offer of an extension of office. The second reason is that the returning officer(s) may decide to run both elections at the same time.

As ever, the primary point of consideration is what the constitution says – this trumps anything the NEC or an EGM might decide. Two clauses are relevant:

“7.5: [a leadership] election shall be held within 90 days of the completion of the Leader’s term of office.”

In practise, this is 90 days from 17th Feb, making it ~18th May.

One third of the NEC would normally have been elected in November, but in this instance, 6.11 was invoked:

In exceptional circumstances the NEC may extend the periods of office of retiring members for a period not exceeding six months.

This was specifically at the request of Bolton, so they could decide if they wanted to revise the way they were elected, e.g. proportional and/or regional representation. In fact, this proves to be a very good example of the NEC giving the leader what he wants!

Again, in practise, this means NEC elections by the end of April. This means two options present themselves. Either:

  1. Bring forward the leadership election date by a couple of weeks, or:
  2. Accept that the retiring members would be unable to vote on any business passing between the 1st and the 18th May.

Since the NEC only has to meet six times a year at most, and seven voting members including the chairman provide a valid quorum for normal business, neither of these options seems particularly disastrous.

Under BB of the rule book, which will probably, for cost reasons, be utilised for the first time, having two questions and sets of candidates on the same ballot paper is easy – a training example for NEC, ROs, MEPs etc. and now for readers can be found here.

This also has the benefit of eliminating manual counts – the last NEC election with 91 candidates was a logistical nightmare, and spilled over into a second day (I suspected this so didn’t bother attending day one).

For those without interweb skills or the assistance of family/friends/colleagues, I do concede that listening to a very long list of names on a Freephone number with a dialect more Dalek than speaking clock is a chore – real actor voices are only used for lists of ~6 candidates or less – but then we should be looking at getting fewer, and better candidates to stand in the first place. And the pretty-much-unlimited extra space provided by an electronic ballot paper – see example above – will help those talented candidates get their message across (including award, commendation and degree certificate screenshots, if necessary).

Cost wise, on the one hand, we would need to mail the pin codes to members with the associated cost and Simply Voting’s charges – but on the other hand, your’re facing mailing out multiple ballot papers, along with Independence magazine and the costs of a manual count – so hopefully EV will prove to be significantly cheaper, a big boon in our current straights.

The second key issue facing us in the run-up to May is the Great Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A good introduction can be found here.

I have written a 6 page “Janet and John” for the Tec Sub-committee and NEC which is too detailed for here, but suffice it to say we are impacted in a big way:

  • Websites – national, regional, branch and MyUKIP will need to change.
  • There will be implications for branches with paper membership forms in dusty filing cabinets.
  • There will need to be an audit of the national and local databases.
  • Anyone we share information with, e.g. printers, will need to be informed when our information changes.
  • We will need to delete information held, on request.
  • Etc. etc.

I had hoped that we would be well on the way to meeting our obligations with no fuss, but then, “Events…” as Macmillan said. Nevertheless, this should now be a priority, and I hope that there will be a communication to members as soon as practicable.

The final point for discussion in the near future is reform of the constitution. Whilst I agree changes are necessary, and even beneficial, two key points need to be borne in mind.

The first is that there are usually higher priorities, for example, addressing the detailed needs of GDPR, above, to meet the required legal deadline should very much take priority over constitutional change – and anyone who disagrees is welcome to indemnify us against any resulting fines!

The other point is that a change everyone thinks is good is not always as simple as it first might seem. Take, for the example, the un-controversial (?) proposal that postal voting should have been allowed at the EGM. What is the point of having a physical EGM? It’s to allow both sides to make a reasoned argument, for and against the no-confidence motion, and then for members to make an informed decision as a result. I, for one, agree with those believe that Henry’s performance on the day lost him the still-undecided vote.

I was in Eastleigh the week before Diane James lost to the Lib-Dens, and it was clear that the (early) postal votes had swung it – they conceded our momentum was such that another week would have carried us over the victory line.

So imagine if people had voted early on the no-confidence motion, and significant new facts came out that could have swung it a different way? And what’s the point of a physical meeting when votes already cast have decided the way the die is cast? That is why talk of “allowing postal votes” at the EGM is misguided – you either have postal, including electronic voting, as per BB, or you have a physical meet-up in the biggest, most convenient venue possible, – but NOT both.

This is just one minor example of how carefully constitutional changes need to be thought out – most members will not be lawyers, and will be unable to spot the pitfalls of seemingly harmless “improvements”.

In conclusion, with all the personnel changes, voting changes and procedural changes that the next few months necessitate, I recommend that we let these all bed-in, and defer from discussing further constitution change until at least early summer. Then, we can hopefully set aside the time and effort to try and get things right.

Will our 6th constitution be perfect? No. Will it satisfy all factions? No. But at least it will be a further step on the asymptotic route there.