There follows the full statement by Dr Tomaz Slivnik explaining his resignation from the National Executive Committee of UKIP.
He was first elected to the NEC in November 2015.
The statement is over 14,500 words long and treats several key issues of real importance to the Party in recent months. There are 12 ‘chapter’ headings as follows:
- Tomaz’s background and beliefs
- His reason for Resignation
- Who Runs UKIP ?
- The financial situation of the Party – its current predicament
- Who runs UKIP # 2 – the Question about potential ‘Off Balance Sheet’ arrangements
- The background to the Welsh Campaign
- The Leadership Election question
- Lyoness – the dubious shopping card scheme
- Our London offices
- Nathan Gill
- Members Questions
- Communication with the members and Conclusion
Tomaz Slivnik writes
On 8 September 2016, I resigned from NEC. I have received many e-mails asking me why – as well as surprisingly many e-mails expressing sorrow or even despondency at my resignation. I did not expect this and it is very touching! To those who voted for me, I would like to express my gratitude, to those members who have expressed their appreciation for taking up their causes at the NEC, I would like to say that your appreciation and support was very satisfying and much appreciated. And to those who are feeling despondent about it, don’t! All will be clear by the end of this letter. So here are my reasons.
I have been a member of the Party since 2007, and a very keen activist. When the Patron’s club was first established, I joined it right at the start and remained a member throughout. I joined the Party and contributed for purely idealistic reasons – because of my experience of a totalitarian regime in Yugoslavia which I saw being replicated in the European Union. I was watching the European Union destroying what freedom and rule of law was left in the Crown Dependencies, in the UK and in Europe. And similar events taking place the world over – freedom has been dying and continues to die! I believe in personal liberty, small government, low taxes, free markets, free trade, the rule of law and equality before the law. In my early days in UKIP, everyone I met shared my ideals and they were genuine, friendly, altruistic, common sense people who only wanted the best for their country, were willing to put everything in, never asked for anything back and were not in it for themselves. We never sought or asked for anything from the Party. We didn’t seek elected office, publicity or advantage for ourselves. We donated freely our time, money and effort – canvassing, leafleting, etc. UKIP party conferences were oases away from a mad, politically correct world where one went to get a dose of sanity and share some enjoyable time with like-minded genuine people.
I first noticed dark clouds on the horizon in 2013 when Godfrey Bloom was unceremoniously and callously discarded by the Party – this was perhaps the first time I saw the Party do something I found very disturbing. A somewhat colourful and occasionally controversial speaker, Godfrey was the very epitome of the genuine gentleman member and the values our party espoused. Then we gained electoral traction. As a result, our membership grew – was allowed to, even encouraged to grow – too quickly, which may well have stroked some people’s vanity and egos, but it also destroyed the heart and soul of the party. We were joined by all kinds of authoritarians, opportunists and failed politicians from other parties who saw us as a quick and easy way to elected office, taxpayer funded salaries, fancy titles and easy fame. Slowly but surely, our libertarian, small government, low tax values started being replaced by “tax them til pips squeeze” ideas on the one hand and ever more intolerant, authoritarian rhetoric on the other. By 2014, I started toying with the idea of leaving the Party, or standing for the NEC to try to help fix things, and in 2015, I tried the latter route. My sole objective was to put our Party back on the right track. I felt achieving this was hugely important, not just for our party, but also for our country and for the future of liberty worldwide. The UK is perhaps the last hope for freedom in Europe, and I see UKIP as the UK’s last hope of freedom – at least for a long time. I stood for the NEC neither as a springboard for elected office nor to further any personal agenda – I like a quiet private life and already have everything I want in life, bar being able to live in peace in a country that is free and which I know will remain free.
Since my election, I was one of the most active members of the NEC. Indeed I believe most of my (now former) colleagues would probably say the most active; some have even expressed exasperation at the volume of NEC e-mail I generated. I was the only NEC member to be a member of all its sub-committees – constitution, policy, technical, finance & resource – and the most active contributor to the constitution sub-committee and one of the more active ones on the policy sub-committee.
When I stood for the NEC, I thought it would be a one day a month commitment. It turned out to be much much more than that – a full time job would be an understatement, and 24/7 would be closer to the mark. It required sacrificing a lot of time from running my businesses, other board commitments, and my work as an angel investor. I have had to pay others to take on duties in my business I was unable to fulfil because of my NEC work. I was of course also paying all my own expenses – a return flight and usually two overnight stays in a hotel for every meeting, with, at one point, one NEC meeting plus two policy sub-committee meetings per month.
I considered all this to be very much worthwhile – if only it could put the Party, and then the UK and then the cause for liberty world-wide back on the right track. I never expected anything else in return – to say that successfully achieving these objectives would be more than enough reward would be an understatement – it was always going to be a massive David vs. Goliath task and a massive prize if we were successful.
To those considering standing for the NEC, I warn you that it is a poisoned chalice – you will occasionally be required to apply the Party Constitution and the Party Rulebook, and if there is any honesty in you, you will strive to apply both correctly and equally in all cases, ruling if need be against or in favour of people when your personal preference might dictate otherwise, even ruling against your friends. This is not fun. It will not win you any friends, and it may well lose you some.
The reasons I resigned from the NEC will be clear by the end of this letter, but in summary, it was because we as company directors carried all the liability and responsibility for decisions which were taken out of our hands by persons who wielded all the authority but carried no liability, because in my view, we were being obstructed if not sabotaged at every step to the point that in the end, being a member of the NEC became a complete and frustrating waste of time and amounted to sitting through many long meetings as a spectator, watching things happen I did not approve of, which we got the blame for, with little or no ability to do anything about it or even get any answers to my legitimate questions as a company director.
So who was behind this obstruction?
3. Who runs UKIP?
Many members appear to hold the entirely reasonable but not entirely accurate belief that the NEC is very powerful and runs UKIP. So let me spend a few paragraphs describing how the Party is run – as best I can tell.
Members of the NEC comprise 12 elected members and some other voting and non-voting members, like the representatives of the MEPs, MPs, councillors and the various party officers. The NEC meets once a month; in between meetings, members are in regular contact by telecommunications.
The Party is also a limited liability company (so I shall interchangeably refer to “the Party” also as “the company”) which has a board of directors – the only persons who are members of the board of directors automatically are the elected members of the NEC, although the NEC can appoint any other member of the NEC to sit on the board. Members of the board carry all the same liabilities and responsibilities as the directors of any limited liability company.
The day to day running of the Party – at least the duties of the staff that are actually employed by the Party on balance sheet, more on this below – is in the hands of the Party officers – the Party Chairman, the General Secretary and the Party Treasurer – and those who report to them.
The Party Chairman is the CEO of the party, as well as the chairman of the NEC. By practice (poor practice, in my view), he has also been a member and the chairman of the board of directors – although this is not automatic. All the rest of the staff of the party proper report to the officers, primarily to the Party Chairman.
Members of the NEC can do virtually nothing, nor obtain virtually any information about the company, other than by going through the Party Chairman and the other officers.
In any normal company, the CEO is hired, fired and is accountable to the board, and if the CEO either fails to answer the board’s questions or orders the staff to obstruct board members in the performance of their duties, or fails to follow an order of the board, the board can, and will, fire the CEO. But in UKIP, the NEC and the board have no power to either appoint or remove from office, the Party Chairman, or even to veto his appointment (there is a sort of a power of veto to appointment but it can be overridden). These powers are entirely within the gift of the Party Leader, to whom the Party Chairman is solely accountable. The entire organisation then reports to the Party Chairman. In theory, the CEO reports to the board at the board’s monthly meetings – but when the CEO is not accountable to the board, and chairs the board, and the board has no power over him, what do you think happens in practice? Particularly since the Party Leader currently has an axe to grind against the NEC, and the Party Chairman’s loyalty is to the Party Leader, the NEC has effectively been almost completely cut off from any information and ability to take part in any meaningful decision making process, and we were unable to do anything much about it. However, as board members, legally the buck still stopped with us and we remained liable for any decisions, and continued to be seen by the membership as being behind those decisions – even when we had little or no ability to influence them, or even have any information about them, and even when the Party officers acted in direct defiance of NEC decisions, as has happened on a number of occasions, some of which I detail below.
Most of our members will not be familiar with (and why should they be) with the lack of control the NEC has over the way the Party is run. This is what one Party member wrote to me: “None of us ordinary members have any idea how UKIP is set up, who has access to what, how many data controllers there are, but I note that NEC members are company directors. I happen to be Chairman of a company and my board can order up whatever information they like. You can’t?” An eminently reasonable question. I, too, am a director of a number of companies, and I, too, can order up whatever information I want about any of the other companies I am director off, and it always just turns up on request. I don’t even have to follow up on it. In any normal limited company, those accountable to the board would not even consider obstructing a director in the performance of his or her duties. But when I first joined the board of UKIP Ltd and my fellow directors complained they could not get any information about the company and I suggested that as directors, we were entitled to have any information about the company we wanted and that not supplying it to us was an offence, I was laughed at. Now I know what they meant.
Things were, in my opinion, bad when Steve Crowther was Party Chairman but we had hoped things might improve once he left. However, in my view, they haven’t. They may have got worse.
As one Party Chairman reportedly said himself, the job of the Party Chairman is to “keep the NEC off the Leader’s back”. If any other member of any other board of directors admitted to that in all seriousness, in my opinion, it would likely lead to him facing criminal charges.
I will give some concrete examples of conduct of the last two Party Chairmen below – which might be seen to border on malfeasance, obstruction and sabotage of the NEC and the board, were it not for the fact that it is indeed a part of the Party Chairman’s job to keep the NEC off the Leader’s back and to ensure that the NEC can’t operate. Let me give just one example for now. After the August 2016 NEC meeting, I e-mailed the Party Chairman and the General Secretary various urgent and reasonable questions in my capacity as a director, so I could fulfil my duties as such. I received no reply whatsoever to any of my questions, or to any of my follow ups.
“Ordinary” members often complain that they write to the Party Chairman and get no reply, or no satisfactory reply to their questions. I know. It’s true. Members of the NEC can’t either. Some members describe the NEC as being opaque (and the communication with the members does leave something to be desired, more on this below), but how could NEC members report things to members if we ourselves couldn’t find out anything about them?
Eventually, the Party Chairman telephoned me and said that he would not reply to any of my questions in writing, but that he would answer all my questions verbally at the September 2016 NEC meeting. Considering that a number of questions were asking for sufficient disclosure to give me comfort that certain activities the Party was engaged in were lawful – why would the Party Chairman not want to reply to me in writing?
About a week ahead of the meeting, I e-mailed both the Party Chairman and the General Secretary a summary of my outstanding questions and requested that my questions either be answered in writing ahead of the NEC meeting, or at the NEC meeting itself, included in the Party Chairman’s report and the General Secretary’s report. There were about 20-25 outstanding and well overdue questions in all. The NEC meeting came, the Party Chairman’s report came and went, and none of my questions were answered. I challenged the Party Chairman. He replied that he did not understand I wanted the questions answered as a part of the Party Chairman’s report, although I had made it very clear in my written request to him that I did. He said that he would cover them under AOB at the end of the NEC meeting. This is what the Party Chairmen always do when they don’t want to cover something – put it at the end of the agenda, so we run out of time and the matter doesn’t get covered – as happened this time too. None of my questions – by this time, many urgent and yet outstanding for a month – was answered. I followed up by e-mail the following day, requesting that my questions therefore be answered in writing. You can guess yourselves how much of a reply I received. Well, I did get a reply telling me that the reason we had run out of time was all my fault because I had asked other questions during the meeting itself and that my questions can’t be allowed to dominate the agenda (but still no written answers either, or any explanation as to why, if there was no time at the meeting to answer any of my questions, they couldn’t be answered in writing before or after the meeting). I had asked several motions be included on the agenda, and the constitution sub-committee likewise asked that our report with propositions be included on the agenda. Our report came just before AOB, and guess what – we were given only a few minutes to present our report, while the Party Treasurer earlier on on the agenda was given over 20 minutes to present his constitutional ideas, even though the proper channel for such ideas is to put them before the constitution sub-committee, and we had already considered his proposals and were able to explain in 30 seconds why they were not viable. I explained that this was a duplication of effort and a waste of time. The majority of our motions were never discussed, of course. The Party Chairman claimed that we had been given 45 minutes to represent our report, but I know this to be untrue, because I was looking at the clock nervously and insisted we got our turn when the time came to about 4:50pm, and at 4:55pm I was told to stop because the room had been booked only until 5pm.
I took legal advice as to whether the board (rather than the NEC) was empowered to remove the Party Chairman from his office, as I contend it can on the grounds that the board can exercise all the powers of a company, but the generalist legal advice I got was that the situation was complex and that we would need to seek the opinion of a specialist barrister.
Regarding scrutinizing the work of Party officers and asking them questions, “you must trust the Party officers” was the line we were given by the Leadership, and if we didn’t like it, we were told, we could resign.
I understand that until the 2015 crop of NEC members joined the NEC, the NEC were known either as the “nodding donkeys” because they always nodded with approval without any questions when the Leadership wanted something, and as “mushrooms” (because they were kept in the dark and fed bullshit). Steve Crowther described the 2015 NEC (to my face) as “bolshy”.
4. The Financial Situation of the Party
One of the first questions I asked, as a matter of course, when I first joined the board of directors of UKIP Ltd, was whether the company was solvent. No board meetings were being held at the time (board meetings are different and separate from NEC meetings) and most directors had no idea what the answer to that question was, although there were rumours circulating that the Party might be insolvent. I called a board meeting. At our first board meeting, the Treasurer made representations to us to the effect that we were solvent and that our assets exceeded our liabilities. By the second board meeting, we were shown financial statements which proved that the first set of financial statements we had been shown were far from correct – the Treasurer had failed to disclose several very large debts to us. The financial statements were circulated to us hastily, we were asked to initial them (presumably to confirm for the record that we had seen them) and then they were just as quickly whisked away from us – we were not allowed to keep (copies of) them. The statements were printed on a black and white printer so red figures could not be seen (since then, all the statements we have received have been printed in colour).
It turned out that the company’s net assets were minus £600k, and that the company was losing £100k per month, and was projected to continue losing the same amount for the foreseeable future with no visible prospect of recovery (the accounts have now been approved so this is now all public information).
How did we find ourselves in this position? The answer: massive over-spend during the General Election of 2015. At whose behest? I was not on the NEC then, but I know this much: not the NEC’s.
On the basis of this discovery, it was only at my insistence that we started to hold regular board meetings and to seek the advice of an insolvency specialist to decide (a) whether we were able to continue to trade at all and if so, (b) how to trade lawfully so as to fulfil our fiduciary duties to all our creditors and to help us get back to a solvent position.
Our financial position improved so that at our July 2016 meeting, our net assets were only minus £50k – but the Party has never been solvent for at least the past 15 months. The Leader has never accepted that we were balance sheet insolvent and attacked me at every board meeting he attended for using the word “insolvent” which I was told was a dangerous word to use, and apparently was not factual but my “opinion”. I noted that because of our insolvency, our fiduciary duties were owed to our creditors, not to our members, but this has largely been ignored by the board and the party officers. Director loans have been paid off and director salaries have been paid – and continue to be paid (off)! – despite our inability to pay off all our other creditors at the moment. I have been regularly objecting to this on the record – but to no avail.
The NEC has been accused of having unnecessarily prevented the spending of “millions” on the referendum campaign and on our other (Welsh, Scottish) campaigns. What millions? Our Leader wanted us to approve a spending plan which would have spent several hundred thousand pounds more than we did, all money we did not have, and which, if implemented, would have left us in a position we will face in about a month’s time (more on this below) but months earlier – i.e. by the time the referendum campaign was over. I was the only board member to insist that we ended the referendum campaign in the black and with 2-3 months’ reserves as we all knew getting donations after the referendum was going to be difficult.
In July 2016, our net assets were approximately -£50k. In August 2016, I understand they were -£100k. I say I understand, because, although I called a board meeting before that NEC meeting on that day too (as it is the legal obligation of a board of an insolvent company to hold regular board meetings and consider its ability to meet the company’s obligations to its creditors), the Party Chairman bungled things so the board meeting didn’t take place. Since it was his first meeting as Party Chairman, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. In September 2016, our net assets were -£180k and we were left with net current assets (i.e. net cash in the bank available to spend) of £105k together with £285k long term debt and a cash burn rate of about £80k/month.
With about £20k/week cash burn rate and about £100k in the bank, if we continue burning cash at this rate, we are 5 weeks away from being not only balance sheet insolvent, but also cash flow insolvent – i.e. unable to pay our current bills such as salaries, rent, utilities, HMRC etc.; 5 weeks away from hitting a financial brick wall, where if the board does not call in an administrator, our creditors will.
The Party Treasurer had advised us that for 3 months, Arron Banks had agreed to pay for the Leader’s security, which ran at £20,000 per month. Apparently, this did not occur, so the Party Treasurer made an ex gratia payment (by the Party) of £40,000 to the security company in lieu of these payments, “to stop them going bust”, and without prior board approval. How can we afford to spend this kind of money in our current financial situation? Why was the board – which remains liable – not asked for prior approval? What if, as a consequence, we now go bust instead?
I asked at our board meeting what the plan was to remedy the current financial situation. The Party Treasurer replied – raise more money and cut spending. That much is obvious. Raise more money how? “When there is a new Leader I’m sure he will bring in new donors” or words to that effect was the reply. Cut our costs how? The gist of the reply was that we were a political party, we couldn’t cut any more costs, or we might as well not keep going. This is the plan? There is no plan to raise any more money and we have no idea where any more money is coming from – we only hope the new Leader will bring it in – and we refuse to cut costs more than perhaps by token amounts? The Party Treasurer told us that we would look at cutting costs if and when necessary. Meaning it is not necessary now? How much more urgent could the situation be?
I pointed out that should we be lucky enough to have any donor willing to come up with the money in 5 weeks’ time to bail us out, we would legally have no choice but to accept their terms, whatever they were – if our options were to accept the cash, pay off our creditors and take the donor’s terms – whatever terms! – or not take the cash, and be unable to pay off the creditors, we would legally be under the obligation to take the money and take whatever terms were on offer, because due to our insolvency, our first fiduciary duty by law is required to be to our creditors, not to our political ideals or to our members. If we acted any other way, the board would be guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty to our creditors and possibly of defrauding our creditors.
I asked – say the new Leader were to be Diane James and the donor were to be Arron Banks and his terms were that he would give us £10m on condition that the NEC was abolished and we turned into a 5 star Beppe Grillo movement. What’s the plan? There was no answer. I can tell you the answer, though: the board, no matter who they are or what they believe or what they want to do, will have to take that offer.
Such conduct is, in my view, reckless.
When I was unable to get any information about the company which a director legitimately is entitled to, I sought legal advice on how to enforce my information rights guaranteed by the Companies Act, and the legal advice was that (a) having considered all the facts, my only available remedy if I was not satisfied was to resign, and (b) I should not resign if I believed that my continued presence on the board was required to protect the interests of our creditors. (b) is one of the reasons I remained on the board and the NEC for as long as I have done – I did everything I could to protect the interest of our creditors, with some success, but now the point has been reached where I believe I am no longer able to do so. Even without everything else, this reason by itself is sufficient to make one’s position as a director untenable.
When I first learned about our insolvency, I and some other of my fellow directors requested that we be provided the list of all our members of staff, details of their salaries, details of their duties and their contracts of employment. We did get a list of staff member names and salary numbers, but the rest was limited to short job descriptions in under about 20 characters for each of them. The salaries stated were not believable – many were down at £400/month or £500/month.
Which brings me to the next issue about which I have been asking questions for months (including being one of the questions to the Party Chairman for the last NEC meeting) and never got any answers.
5. Who runs UKIP? #2 (a.k.a. Off Balance Sheet Funding of the Party)
The NEC and the board of directors of UKIP Ltd having very limited input into, or knowledge of, the running of the party proper may sound bad enough. But it gets worse.
When the Party Treasurer at one board meeting provided us with two consecutive financial reports which claimed that in the intervening period, the company’s revenues were about £250k, expenditures over £100k, but that the balance sheet in the same period had improved by about £500k, I challenged the financial statements as not providing a true and correct state of the Party’s financial position. I kept repeating the question many times, but no satisfactory answers were forthcoming. Therefore, I and another director decided to drive to Lexdrum House unannounced and requested direct access to the company’s accounting records. We were severely castigated by the Party Treasurer for turning up unannounced, but we did not want to announce our visit because we did not want the Party Chairman, who lived nearby, to be tipped off, to turn up and (as we feared might happen) to obstruct our investigation. We discovered that most of “our” staff (i.e. people who spend most of their time in “our” London office and whom you would recognize as “UKIP” members and team) were not employed by the Party at all, but were employed either mainly, or entirely, off balance sheet – e.g. one staff member is on the Party’s books at £500 per month but we also discovered monthly payments to him of £10,000 off balance sheet. We now finally started to get some idea how “our” staff were employed and who paid them.
Most of these off-balance sheet funding comes either from ADDE, IDDE, EFDD or MEP payrolls. Despite repeated requests, we have never been able to see the corresponding employment contracts, contracts between the Party and these organizations or any meaningful information about these arrangements. No contract between UKIP and any of these organizations is kept at the registered office, the staff at the registered office told us they didn’t know where any contract might be kept, but speculated that it might be kept privately by one of the officers. The General Secretary told us that there is, in fact, no contract. The way this funding works is that UKIP pays a staff member some salary (e.g. in one case £500/month), it pays e.g. ADDE some further sum (in that same case £1500/month) and ADDE pays that sum on to the staff member, plus a top up (£8500/month in that case). What is the contractual basis for making these payments? Who decides who gets paid what? Who controls the money flow? Who hires and fires these people? Who do they report to? The payments between ADDE, IDDE, EFDD on the one hand and UKIP on the other go only one way – out of UKIP’s coffers and to some or all of these organizations – and these payments represent a very substantial proportion of UKIP’s outgoings. We are about to hit a financial brick wall and there is a liability on our balance sheet of about £18k to ADDE. Why are we spending this money? What are we getting in return? Are we still due to pay them more money? In our current situation, the board must know the answers to these questions – but we are unable to receive any. The board has no idea what we were paying for, nor any ability to find out. Our questions went unanswered for many months. Considering our insolvent position, the directors have an absolute duty to know what these payments are for and whether we can legitimately make them and still discharge our fiduciary duties to our creditors. We have personal liability but no ability to find anything out. One director told me she had asked these questions before and was told by one of the officers that this information was “above her pay grade” – with implication that it was not above his.
Furthermore, it appeared that many of these staff members may be working either exclusively or primarily on party political activities for the Party. Take one example – during the Welsh election campaign, the board received allegations supported with a certain amount of documentary evidence suggesting that our Head of Media was briefing the press against many of our own candidates and sabotaging our election campaign. There were legitimate grounds to consider having her dismissed. Guess what? She was not employed by us at all – her only salary came from Nathan Gill MEP and David Coburn MEP and her only employment contracts were with them. The board and the NEC had no control over one of the most important positions in the Party – Head of Media – we had no ability to sack her for alleged misconduct (if proven and appropriate), direct her behaviour, strip her of her responsibilities, control her salary, make her stop briefing against our own candidates – nothing. Since being on an MEP payroll by law requires that staff member to work on European related business only, a very serious question arose over whether these arrangements were lawful at all. Our Head of Media was based in Wales – did she ever set foot in Scotland? What European related work was she doing for David Coburn MEP? What were her duties for the MEPs and what proportion of her time was she spending working as our Head of Media and what proportion for each of the MEPs, and were these proportions consistent with the salaries being paid?
I understand that many MEPs may take part in similar arrangements, but one of them told me that he did not want to take part in it because he believed such arrangements to be unlawful. Douglas Carswell’s version of the story about the dispute over the Short Money was that he was asked to allow the Short Money to be used for off balance sheet funding of Party political activities, which he refused on the grounds that he also believed this to be unlawful.
Since this discovery, the board have been asking repeatedly for disclosures on these funding arrangements and sufficient information to confirm that the Party was not engaging in anything unlawful. It is perfectly possible that these arrangements are all above board. What is definitively not above board, however, is that the board was not being told anything about them, despite constant questioning. Even if something with these arrangements is questionable, the board needed to know and take steps to remedy it. The potential legal risk and reputational damage to the Party is enormous, and we, as directors, were the ones liable if anything was amiss. We were continuously rebuffed, obstructed and obfuscated. One of the NEC’s supposed great sins is the poking of our noses into these financial arrangements. We are told that we had no right to information about anything other than employees of UKIP Ltd and direct employment contracts with UKIP Ltd. Some MEPs were particularly annoyed about our poking around (I note that several MEPs now are among the most vocal people now calling for the NEC’s abolition – although some MEPs are of the opposite view). I do not know what proportion of the “UKIP family” financing flows off balance sheet in this fashion, all I know is that one staff member is paid £500/month on balance sheet and £10,000/month off balance sheet and of the many staff members milling around our London office, as far as I know, only one is paid on balance sheet by the Party. So the size of the off balance sheet operation totally outside of the control of the board is likely to be quite significant. I don’t know – nor have I been able to find out, despite asking many questions repeatedly – who ultimately controls this money either, as we were never being told. It’s not the NEC, however, and it won’t be the new Party Leader either.
6. The Welsh Campaign
During my time on the NEC, the NEC rattled the Leader’s cage, either by standing up to him, or asking too many questions, on only 4 occasions that I can remember. I don’t believe people generally stand for the NEC with the idea of obstructing the Leader, and the basic starting point for most of us, certainly myself, was to have a lot of respect for Nigel and what he has done for the Party. However, sometimes no is the only right answer and when this is the case, it is the duty of an NEC member and the NEC to give no as the answer.
I have already mentioned two of the four: (a) proposed (what we saw as over-) spending during our period of insolvency and (b) off balance sheet funding of the Party. The other two both related to our Welsh campaign and they were: (c) whether Neil Hamilton should be allowed to be an AM candidate, and (d) whether our Head of Media should be allowed to be am AM candidate. The Leader did not want Neil Hamilton to be allowed to be a candidate and he wanted our Head of Media to be a candidate, whereas the NEC took the opposite view. In the end, the matter was resolved by letting our members in Wales decide, and the members came back with the same answer and essentially the same candidate ranking as the NEC initially wanted to approve. Of the four issues, in my perception at least, by far the most explosive confrontation between the NEC and the Leader was issue (d). I believe the bulk of at least 3 NEC meetings was dedicated to discussing that issue, as well as furious e-mail correspondence in between – including a totally unprecedented personal intervention by the Leader’s wife in NEC business.
In one instance, a motion regarding this candidate was proposed to the NEC. The Party Chairman put it to an e-mail vote at 10am and said he would close the voting at noon – a very short timescale, within which many NEC members would not have become aware of the vote. At noon, the vote was going the wrong way for the Party Chairman, so he refused to declare the vote closed. At about half past noon, one NEC member e-mailed in to say he wanted to change his vote (in the Party Chairman’s favour) and a few hours later, the vote closed, very narrowly in favour of the outcome the Party Chairman wanted.
Parenthetically, I will now relate two other stories of how the Party Chairmen, shall we say “massage” NEC and board votes.
The first occasion was when UKIP endorsed Leave.EU for the designation. I woke up one morning to find several e-mails in my inbox. The first e-mail pointed to a link to a newspaper article saying UKIP had endorsed Leave.EU. The second e-mail, a little later, invited NEC members to vote to endorse Leave.EU. Four or five e-mails that followed were votes in favour of such an endorsement, then an e-mail objecting to this process, then an e-mail from the Party Chairman declaring the endorsement motion had received the support of 9 members, which is sufficient to carry it. All these e-mails were sent while I was away from my computer and I received them all at around 11am or so before I had any idea a vote was taking place. Then followed an e-mail asking the Party Chairman to share the names of these 9 NEC members who had voted in favour. Then there was a lot of silence. Then more challenges to the Party Chairman asking him to release the 9 names. About 10 hours later, there was another vote e-mailed in in favour, and then the Party Chairman revealed the 9 names of people who had voted in favour – but to have the 9, he relied on the last vote which only came in 10 hours after he claimed to already have had 9 votes in favour. So how could he have had the 9 when he claimed he did, and declared the motion carried?
The second occasion was when I moved that the board elect someone other than Steve Crowther as the chairman of the board. It is very poor corporate governance for the chairman of the board to be an executive director. We voted to remove him as chairman. The vote was 5:4 in favour of him being removed. Steve Crowther just sat there and kept looking around, refusing to declare the motion carried. Eventually, one member changed his vote, and now the vote was tied and Steve Crowther exercised his casting vote to keep himself as chairman – even though he had an interest in the matter and was thus ineligible to vote and even though the Articles of Association state that “32. A person who is a director by reason only of his holding office as Party Chairman, Party Secretary or (as the case may be) Party Treasurer shall not be entitled to vote on any question arising at a meeting of directors and in each such case membership shall merely confer the right to attend at directors meetings.”
I will relate one more such occasion, still relevant, in the section “Leadership Election” below.
Minutes are kept of board and NEC meetings. They are prepared by the General Secretary. At one point, meetings started to be audio recorded and the General Secretary started to transcribe the audio recording in full, and then prepare a set of summary minutes. Even the summary minutes are quite a long document – the draft summary minutes of the September 2016 meeting ran to 9 pages. Draft minutes for one meeting are presented in printed form to the NEC at the beginning of the following meeting, and the NEC is then asked to vote to approve them, subject to NEC members reading them afterwards and e-mailing in any amendments. I never, except on two occasions, had the time to read the minutes afterwards. I don’t know if anyone else did. I never voted to approve the minutes, because I had not had any opportunity to read them before so voting, but most of the NEC always voted to approve them – without having been able to read them. On the first occasion that I did read the minutes afterwards, at the meeting itself some members of the NEC had an issue with a candidate list the NEC was about to approve. The Party Chairman suggested we establish a vetting panel which could revisit the lists afterwards and that Liz Jones and I could be on the vetting panel if we wanted to be. On this basis, the deadlock was resolved and the debate ended so we could move on. The minutes we received (in paper form), however, read as me asking if I could be on the vetting panel (which I never did) and the Party Chairman saying no, I couldn’t be. I e-mailed the General Secretary asking him to amend this aspect of the minutes. He replied thanking me and confirming that it has been taken care of. I e-mailed him asking to send me the amended minutes for my records. He now replied that he could not find the statement I wanted to correct anywhere in the minutes. It turned out that the General Secretary only had an electronic copy of the verbatim transcribed minutes, which did not contain the incorrect statement. The summary minutes which did contain the incorrect account had been prepared by the Party Chairman (rather than the General Secretary as had been our understanding), who had the only electronic copy – this is why the General Secretary could not find the error in his version. The second time I read the minutes of a meeting was the draft summary minutes of the August 2016 NEC meeting; I did not recognize any of the statements attributed to me and e-mailed in to object to the minutes. I give some more detail in the section “Nathan Gill” below.
It has been alleged that voting in MEP selections and NEC elections may have been rigged in the past. Given what I have experienced directly, it would not surprise me one bit if this in fact turned out to be true.
After the Welsh members returned our AM candidate lists, our Head of Media ended up as number two on her list. A young man, totally unknown to all of us on the NEC, called Gareth Bennett, topped the list. I spoke to Gareth many times since and in my opinion, he is a very pleasant young man. The NEC, however, received written complaints from witnesses who stated that the Leader’s preferred candidate, however, insisted that she had been promised an electable position and that she was threatening to sue the Party because she had been made such a promise and was not given one (number two on the list was not seen as electable). Promised by whom? Not by the NEC. Not by our members in Wales. So who has the right and power to promise what outcome the democratic process in Wales and/or the NEC, in a free vote, would deliver? Since the top slot in that region was virtually guaranteed to become an AM – who had the power to promise an AM position to someone and why?
This is what one member in Wales told me: “As for [candidate] … well, she was suddenly sprung on us at our branch hustings in autumn last year. None of us Cardiff branch members had ever seen her, she was suddenly there, as one of the candidates for the AM. Two other candidates came from other branches. One other candidate was not known to us, but she was from another branch. The other two – Sarul Islam and Gareth Bennet – were of course our branch members. … I was stunned by [candidate] because she was, for me, the epitome of a candidate parachuted in with no connection to the constituency. She didn’t have a clue about Cardiff problems or indeed Welsh Assembly problems … She is the perfect reason why these things should be kept at branch and regional level, with no interference from Head Office. In retrospect, I’m relieved that what our American cousins call ‘bullshit meter’ did work perfectly: I knew she was a wrong’un from the moment she started her performance.”
The whole machine in Wales, particularly those employed by Nathan Gill, went into overdrive. We received allegations and supporting accounts that our own Head of Media (who was also the number two candidate on the list headed by Gareth Bennett) may have been briefing the media against our own candidates, Gareth Bennet particularly, to try to get him dislodged as a candidate. His only sin appeared to be to come top of his list and ahead of someone else who wanted his spot. Steven Woolfe – whom, as far as I know, was not particularly closely acquainted with Gareth Bennett and his situation – even made a negative comment about him in the media.
It is my firm view that it was this standoff, which the NEC won, which sealed the fate of the NEC and which is why there so much baying for the NEC’s blood now.
Of the four battles fought between the Leader and the NEC, this is the one that stood out by far as the most vigorous, fierce, bloody, long standing and personal.
7. Leadership Election
When allegations surfaced that Steven Woolfe (and indeed two other Leadership candidates) might not have been keeping their membership subscriptions up to date, I called Lexdrum House and requested access to the company’s accounting records, specifically bank statements confirming which candidate paid us what, when, so that I could determine conclusively for myself whether the allegations were true or false (without any prejudice or preferred outcome on my part). Lexdrum House staff (whom, incidentally, I have mostly all met and whom I believe to be fundamentally very honourable, underpaid and professional) told me they were very sorry, but they were not allowed to give access to the relevant accounting records to any director other than the Party Chairman or the Party Treasurer, by the order of the Party Chairman. I can only guess that this was as a result of our earlier unannounced visit to Lexdrum House and inspection of the company’s accounting records. I pointed out that under Articles 386-389 of the Companies Act, (a) the company had a duty to maintain proper accounting records, (b) had a duty to make the same available to any director on demand at any time for inspection, and (c) it was an offence punishable by up to 2 years in prison to fail to observe (a) and/or (b). I was told I would be required to sign a Data Protection Act form to get access to the accounting records. I took legal advice and was advised this was unnecessary, but I signed such a form ex gratia nevertheless to get the process moving, explaining that I did not accept this was necessary. The form required counter-signature by the Party Chairman or General Secretary. Unsurprisingly, such a signature was never forthcoming, so I had to kiss goodbye the idea of seeing the accounting records.
Had I been given access to those accounting records, we could have countered the allegations about Steven Woolfe there and then, as in the end, it turned out that all the Leadership candidates had properly maintained their membership dues. I say it turned out to be the case, but of course I cannot vouch for this personally, because I have never been able to access the company’s relevant accounting records and have to rely on the report of the vetting panel, who in turn (I believe) relied on an investigation by the Party Treasurer.
When eventually, Steven Woolfe was disqualified because his application was received late, the NEC received no opposition to this from the Party officers whatsoever – indeed, quite the contrary is true. Regrettably for Steven Woolfe, I believe that the decision made was legally correct and the only one we could take. However, what is poignant here is that if the Leadership had wanted Steven Woolfe in the race, we have seen in the case of the Welsh campaign what would have happened, rules or no rules. On the contrary, in this case, the General Secretary and Steve Crowther were fully on board with the disqualification. Two days before the deadline, Diane James was persuaded to stand and became the anointed “ditch the NEC” or perhaps it should be called “5 star Beppe Grillo movement” agenda candidate; I believe Steven Woolfe may have been dropped at the same time by that camp and that this sealed his fate. I cannot say for sure why, but I take the comment from the Party Leader that had he known about Steven’s drink driving conviction when he stood for PCC, he would not have let him stand, as the message that Steven was being dropped.
What I find more interesting is the shenanigans around the 5 year vs. 2 year rule. The NEC was asked by the Returning Officer to approve the length of membership requirement for a member in good standing to be allowed to stand for Leader. The options made available were 30 days, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years or 5 years. I suggested 5 years out of the last 8, or some variant of that, specifically on concerns that some members’ memberships might have temporarily lapsed and to provide some kind of grace period for those circumstances. My proposal was ignored and the NEC, after about a week of considered discussion, approved the 5 year rule. Then suddenly, the Party Treasurer and another NEC member sprung upon us a proposal to change the period to 2 years, and in a snap vote, without any debate, the NEC voted to change this by a narrow margin. I objected to changing the rules mid-contest. Legal advice was obtained by the Party Chairman stating that we could, and I obtained opposing legal advice privately stating that we couldn’t – because a candidate had already submitted his application and paid his fee while the 5 year rule was in effect; we already had a contract in place. The NEC voted again and reinstated the 5 year rule.
Steve Crowther, who was then the Party Chairman, went absolutely berserk. He went ahead and announced the 2 year rule to the members despite the NEC decision to revert back to the 5 year rule. He tried to shut down the NEC forum, and he instructed the chairman of the technical committee to disable the functionality on the forum for the NEC to vote on any motions, he shut down debate in some forum threads and he insisted that no e-mail votes were valid unless he gave his approval to a motion being voted on (all this, in my view, is absolutely unconstitutional interference in NEC’s right to conduct its affairs as it deems fit, unconstitutional interference in NEC democracy and free speech). He also purported to impose arbitrary restrictions with no constitutional basis on what conditions NEC votes had to satisfy in order to be valid and binding. The Party Chairman and the Party Treasurer certainly seemed very committed to changing the rule to a 2 year rule – this was at about the time the “ditch the NEC” horse in the race was being changed, and I understand the new favourite did not meet the 5 year requirement.
I suggested to my NEC colleagues that we insist that an announcement be released that the 2 year change was announced without proper authority. Reactions ranged from “it’s already done, it’s too late, it’s already out there” to claims – from those favouring the 2 year rule – that the last vote was somehow deficient. Because the Party Chairman had not allowed voting on that motion (there is absolutely no requirement that he should have to), because there wasn’t enough time to vote (the voting was open for a lot longer than many snap votes the Party Chairman had held previously), because there wasn’t an absolute majority of 8 in favour (the vote was 5:2 – but there is no requirement that there should be an absolute majority in favour), because there was too much activity on the forum and some members were not aware the voting was taking place …
At the following NEC meeting, I brought up the issue of us being unable to change the rules mid-contest, particularly because there was a contract with one candidate already in place. The General Secretary admitted that I had been correct, we were not legally able to change to the 2 year rule because the contract had already been in place, but waved a waiver from that candidate in my face, saying we are OK with the 2 year rule now because we got this waiver. I asked the candidate in question and he told me that he was accosted on 31 July by the Party Chairman and the General Secretary who told him he had not yet been approved by the vetting panel (which met on 3 August), but was assured that he would be, however would he please kindly sign this waiver right now, because if he did not do so, it would open the door to (what the candidate tells me was implied to be Suzanne Evans) being able to enter the race, and he was leant upon to sign the waiver there and then. I know for a fact that no such lawsuit was on the cards and that his failure to sign a waiver would not have resulted in Suzanne Evans entering the race, so it was all cobblers. I asked the General Secretary to explain to the NEC what he had said to the candidate in question to induce him to sign the waiver, whether what he had told the candidate was true, and evidence to prove it was true – this was another one of my 20-25 questions for the September 2016 NEC meeting which has gone unanswered and which remains unanswered.
When Steven Woolfe was disqualified, members wrote in to suggest that we asked the other 6 candidates to sign a waiver to extend the 12:00 deadline to 12:30 and that if we did so, Steven Woolfe would be allowed to stand. While I disagree with changing the rules mid-contest, how am I supposed in good faith and in good conscience to defend the Returning Officer’s actions in light of this contention, given what I know went on in relation to the 2 year rule?
What is worse is that the NEC vote which reinstated the 5 year rule in my view legally still remains validly in effect, although everyone conducts themselves as though it doesn’t.
At my first NEC meeting, the NEC was pitched the Lyoness shopping card by a UKIP member and a business partner of our Deputy Treasurer Peter Jewell. We were told this would be a great money maker for UKIP. I understand that this was not the first time this shopping card was pitched to the NEC, nor the first time the NEC rejected the pitch. The way the card works is the Party signs up our members, they get issued the card, they use the card at shops to buy groceries, and the Party gets a commission on any of their spend. And the man who introduced the card to us also gets a commission – but he didn’t tell us this until we asked him. I don’t know whether Peter Jewell also benefits from this financially, or not.
The scheme is a pyramid scheme. The NEC did some research on this card and decided joining the scheme carried far too much reputational risk and that it was not something we wanted to recommend to our members. We also flagged up that we were effectively being asked to market financial services to our members, which was potentially an FCA regulated activity. So even if we had decided to approve the scheme, we would first need to get legal advice as to whether we required an FCA licence and then possibly to obtain such a licence. What would be the expected revenue from such a card, and how does it compare to the cost of getting such legal advice and possibly obtaining such a licence?
Despite the NEC’s rejection of the scheme, we got wind of the fact that Peter Jewell was planning to nevertheless market the scheme at the chairmen’s conference on 30 July, because someone had forwarded the agenda for the latter event to some NEC members. The NEC passed a motion saying that the scheme shall not be promoted at UKIP events, and shall not be promoted by UKIP officers to UKIP members, and that a violation of this ban shall automatically be considered to have brought the Party into disrepute. The Party Treasurer was instructed to communicate this to the Deputy Treasurer, which he advised us he did (and the Party Chairman advised us he did the same) but not before frantically proposing a motion, which he heavily lobbied for, that we should reverse our earlier decision and adopt the scheme – a motion which the NEC also rejected.
Regardless, I received complaints from members saying that Peter Jewell did promote the scheme at the conference despite the NEC ban. I received a photograph of the Lyoness stand taken at that conference, and witness statements from members confirming that the scheme was being marketed at the conference, that Steve Crowther was on the podium when Peter Jewell talked about the scheme and said and did nothing (despite being aware of the NEC ban).
I challenged the officers on this, and was forward a reply purportedly from Steve Crowther saying he had received no complaints about the marketing of the scheme, only questions from members at the conference as to why the NEC would be so daft as not to approve it.
Now consider the possibility that such marketing of financial services is an FCA regulated activity – a question I tried to answer by reading the FCA handbook myself, but which without legal advice, I have not yet been able to answer – then the Party might have engaged in a licensed activity without a licence. I know someone on Sark who is currently serving an 8 year sentence in jail for doing exactly this. Who do you think is responsible for ensuring compliance and carries the legal risk and liability? If you answered “the board of directors”, you answered correctly.
One of the 20-25 questions I asked to be addressed at the September 2016 meeting by the Party Chairman was also what was being done about this marketing in defiance of the NEC ban. I received no answer, except verbally on the phone from the Party Chairman saying that Peter Jewell did not promote the scheme at the conference. Er, what about the photographic evidence and the witness statements from members saying the contrary? Why would attendees of the conference pull this idea out of thin air that some scheme called “Lyoness” was being promoted at the conference if in fact nobody had mentioned the scheme and its name there?
To add insult to injury, because this promotion was being done without the approval of the NEC, I can only assume that the Party would not be receiving any commission arising from it, but the promoters likely still would.
The Lyoness example is a perfect example of the relationship between the Party Officers and the NEC and the impotence of the latter.
What action could we take against the Deputy Treasurer? Remove him from office? This is the prerogative of the Party Treasurer. Take disciplinary action? There are two routes to this – emergency action under Article 11.9 of the Constitution, which is the sole prerogative of the Party Chairman. And the regular Disciplinary Panel route under Article 11.3 of the Constitution – which is entirely under the control of the General Secretary.
I know of one party member (more on this below) who has been waiting for an Emergency Disciplinary Panel appeal for 8 months, and a disciplinary complaint which has been waiting for 6 months to be heard by a Disciplinary Panel.
Under the Party Constitution, the NEC has no power to take disciplinary action other than by individual NEC members making a disciplinary complaint, like any other member in good standing, to the General Secretary.
9. Our London Offices
Because of our insolvent balance sheet, the board is under an obligation to hold regular board meetings and to monitor all expenditure which could prejudice our ability to pay off our existing creditors, and the board passed some standing orders to the effect that expenditure and liabilities could not be incurred by the Party officers without board approval.
Yet earlier in the year, we were advised that the General Secretary signed a lease for a London office at a cost of £15,000 to the Party, which we were told was a bargain.
We held one NEC meeting at this office. Then, we were told that the board was no longer welcome there. So every time the NEC and/or the board wanted to meet, we had to hire an additional room for our board meeting, at an additional cost to the Party. That is for the room only – we provided the sandwiches and the juice (and any rucksacks) ourselves. The board was unable to enter the premises we had supposedly leased, and paid for.
We were told our lease paid for one floor (the 3rd floor) of a 3 storey building which we shared with our landlord. I asked why we could not use our floor for our board meetings. The answer was because the Party had swapped our floor with one of the landlord’s floors. So why could we not then use the floor we had swapped the third floor for? Because the landlord can legally use our floor, but we cannot legally use their floor – was the explanation. Does this sound like a “swap” to you? So what did we pay the £15,000 for? And how can we afford it?
Since the board had not given our approval to enter this lease, I asked with what authority the General Secretary had signed the lease. With the authority of the Party Chairman and the Party Leader, was the answer. In other words, without proper authority. And why did the Party Chairman not see fit to ask board approval before doing so? Well, at least Steve Crowther was kind enough to answer the question (a rarity) – because it had not occurred to him to do so. Is this a sign of deference and fear of God in the Party Chairman before the all-powerful NEC?
I proposed that the lease not be renewed, and this was one of my motions for the September 2016 meeting. It never saw the light of day. The Party Chairman intimated to me before that he would not be renewing the lease, but has he really done so and why was this not reported at the meeting?
10. Nathan Gill
I have written about the Nathan Gill saga elsewhere. Suffice to say that the NEC voted to expel Nathan Gill from the Party and that his expulsion became effective at 12:09pm on 8 August 2016. I did most of the constitutional research (although credit for the discovery of Article 12.11 of the Party Constitution is due to John Bickley) and drafted the motion, as well as 6 other variant motions – all the different options the NEC could pursue, from little more than a minor reprimand, to an unconditional expulsion. The NEC decided to approve my draft Motion number 3, which was conditional expulsion – give Nathan 7 days to quit double jobbing or be expelled automatically. Nathan was expelled under Article 12.11 of the Party Constitution:
“12.11 … the NEC shall have the right to regard all undertakings signed by candidates prior to their election or subsequent to it as morally binding and binding under the Rules of the Party and shall have the right to … expel from the Party any member who is in breach of any such undertaking, under this Article.”
At the 8 August 2016 NEC meeting, the Party Chairman and the Party Treasurer put forward the idea that Nathan should be un-expelled. But this is impossible. Once a member is expelled, and all the appeals exhausted (there is no appeal to expulsion under Article 12.11), the member’s contract with the Party is terminated, there is no relationship between the member and the Party, and the only way for the (former) member to become a member again is to re-apply for membership.
However, Article 4.3(e) of the Party Constitution forbids a formerly expelled member from being readmitted:
“4.3 If, after becoming a member of the Party, a person e) is found to be a person who has been expelled from the Party, the Party Chairman shall revoke their membership forthwith.”
This can be over-ridden under Article 4.4.1 of the Party Constitution, but only in exceptional circumstances:
“4.4.1 In exceptional circumstances the Party Chairman may, with the agreement of the NEC, cause to be admitted to membership any applicant who would otherwise be prohibited from membership.”
So, at the 8 August 2016 meeting, a couple of hours after Nathan was expelled, at the instigation of the Party Chairman and the Party Treasurer, the NEC voted to give our consent under Article 4.4.1, should Nathan decide to re-apply for membership, and the Party Chairman suggested that he would call Nathan and invite him to re-apply. The Party Chairman later confirmed that Nathan did re-apply and was re-admitted.
Again, at the Party Chairman’s and the Party Treasurer’s instigation, the NEC voted to commission a ballot of our Welsh members, at the likely cost of £5,000, to ask them whether they wanted Nathan re-expelled or not, and then re-expel him if the members so wanted.
There are a couple of problems with this.
First, Nathan now has a new membership contract, whereas his “no double jobbing” commitment was made under the old membership contract (before expulsion), so in my view, his commitment is no longer binding and the NEC has no constitutional or legal mechanism to expel him from the Party, if the members ask the NEC to do so, for the pre-conditions of Article 12.11 no longer apply. So, in my view, the only way to expel him is via a disciplinary process – but the disciplinary process is a quasi-judicial process which must apply the law to the facts, and cannot have its decision pre-determined and prejudiced by the outcome of a popular opinion poll. So the whole members’ poll, in my opinion, is a waste of time and money. If the members ask the NEC to re-expel Nathan, and the NEC tries to do so, and he sues, in my view, he will be successful and the NEC will look really stupid (as, in relation to this issue, in my view, it already does).
A credible institution considers the evidence and makes a decision: either to expel a member, or not to expel a member. It does not spend three monthly meetings in a row deciding to expel, un-expel and conditionally re-expel someone. The only person who proposes such a course of action is someone (in this case the Party Chairman) who wants, deliberately, to make a body look like a bunch of incompetent idiots. I proposed, as an alternative, us keeping the expulsion and polling our members in Wales, then re-admitting Nathan to membership if our members in Wales so instructed us. I may have been seeing things, but I could swear the nervousness I appeared to detect in the General Secretary and Party Chairman when I made this proposal was palpable. Fortunately for them, the Party Treasurer made sure my motion went nowhere.
Steve Crowther and Paul Oakden have very different modi operandi as Party Chairmen. Steve Crowther defied the NEC more or less overtly. Paul Oakden tells the NEC he is on the NEC’s side, but then advises and steers the NEC to do the daftest of things that make the NEC look stupid, incompetent and like the NEC is failing to do the right thing. For example, in the case of Steven Woolfe, I proposed that we should communicate with the membership openly, frankly and immediately, whereas Paul Oakden advocated very terse and minimal communication, which view prevailed because the members supposedly don’t have the attention span to read detailed documents making full and frank disclosures. When the NEC found itself in a burning building, I found Paul Oakden’s advice generally was to do nothing, because he did not want to add oxygen to the fire. Better to remain a sitting duck, do nothing and just burn down without a fight.
One consequence of his temporary expulsion meant that all Nathan’s offices in the Party (e.g. Leader in Wales) terminated when he was temporarily expelled. But the Party Chairman maintains that this is not the case, and that Article 12.11 of the Party Constitution still applies, because Nathan was not re-admitted to membership, but was “reinstated” by the Party Chairman.
The minutes of the meeting omit all references to Article 4.4.1 of the Party Constitution, although this Article was very extensively debated and constituted the core of our discussion. The minutes read instead that “With the support of the NEC the chairman at this meeting exercised his powers to reinstate Nathan Gill”. But the Party Chairman has no power to reinstate a member to membership once he has been expelled. No more than you can reinstate an employee you made redundant without that employee’s consent. A new contract, in this case a membership application, is required. The Party Chairman has no power to “reinstate” a member – he is trying to conjure up this power from thin air (I have asked what the legal or Constitutional basis is for this purported power, and got no answer, of course, as there isn’t one) – only the power to re-admit him to membership, with the consent of the NEC, under Article 4.4.1 of the Party Constitution, but only if the latter re-applies for membership.
Some of the 20-25 questions for the September 2016 meeting I asked of the Party Chairman was (a) on what legal basis did he believe the NEC retained the power to re-expel Nathan Gill if the membership wanted the NEC to, (b) to confirm on what date Nathan Gill re-applied for membership of the Party. Because the way I read the Party Chairman’s communications, Nathan may not have re-applied for membership at all, as the Party Chairman maintains he “re-instated him” rather than “re-admitted him” to membership. In my view, if Nathan has not re-applied, he is not a member, but if he has, he is a member (while not being Leader in Wales), and he cannot be re-expelled. Either way, he was not a member of the Party for the required 28 days when the Leadership ballots went out, so under our rules, he shouldn’t have been able to vote in that election, but the Returning Officer wouldn’t confirm if this was the case or not either.
11. Member’s Questions
Being a member of the NEC is somewhat analogous, within the Party, to being an MP – while the Leader might be analogous to being the King, and the officers his Ministers, with the Party Chairman as the Speaker-cum-Prime Minister.
This means that one of the duties of an NEC member – as grass roots members representing grass roots Party members to the “salariat” – is to ask questions on behalf of, and pursue causes for other grass roots members who have been wronged. NEC members have (at least theoretically) some powers to ask questions and demand answers which other grass roots members (“ordinary” members) do not.
When on the NEC, I was regularly contacted by members whom I’d never heard of before, with such questions and requests, most of them entirely legitimate, and sometimes horrifying.
I was contacted by a member who had disciplinary action taken against him in January 2016 by a Regional Organiser and who has been waiting now for 8 months for the Emergency Disciplinary Panel to hear his constitutionally guaranteed appeal. I have raised this issue by e-mail and at NEC meetings several times. I have never received an answer. The appeal still has not taken place.
Worse, the Party Rulebook rule under which the Regional Organiser took this action is unconstitutional. The Constitution empowers only two bodies in the Party with such disciplinary powers – the Disciplinary Panel and, in an emergency, and on a strictly temporary basis until an Emergency Disciplinary Panel can be immediately convened (“as soon as possible” is the exact wording in the relevant article of the Constitution – Article 11.10; how’s 8 months for “as soon as possible”?), the Party Chairman. The Constitution provides no ability for this power to be delegated and rule K.13 expressly prohibits such delegation.
Under the auspices of the constitution sub-committee, I made a proposal for the September 2016 NEC meeting to revise this, and a number of other, unconstitutional rules in the Party Rulebook, all of them related to all kinds of people exercising disciplinary powers for which the rulebook furthermore provides no right of appeal – but which the Party Constitution guarantees. The Party Chairman ensured these amendments were not even debated.
This is not the first time I tried to get this matter remedied – I have been trying to get it remedied for months.
Another member wrote to me to alert me to the fact that members of his branch had validly called an EGM of the branch and that the branch committee had refused to call the EGM within the required 21 day period. I have been raising the matter repeatedly at NEC meetings and the Party Chairman promised the NEC personally to ensure that the EGM would be held and that he would personally chair it – none of which has happened, and all of my follow up questions have fallen on deaf ears. This was another of the questions I had put on the September 2016 NEC agenda, and another question which the Party Chairman refused to answer.
This is not the first time I tried to get this matter remedied either – it is another one that I have been pursuing repeatedly.
12. Communication with the Members and Conclusion
Members complain that the NEC does not communicate with them enough and I agree. As a member of the NEC, one is in quite a difficult position because of the rules on NEC confidentiality and the rules which forbid NEC members criticizing NEC decisions in public – even when they violently disagree with them. There is some merit to both these requirements, but I believe that the rules on NEC confidentiality are being applied incorrectly. The decision as to what is NEC confidential and what is not is the sole prerogative of the Party Chairman, and I got castigated a number of times (by the Party officers, most often by the Party Treasurer) for copying an e-mail addressed to NEC members also to party members who were not members of the NEC, even where the subject matter was not NEC confidential and was relevant to the members in question. In my view, there should be a presumption of openness and NEC confidentiality applied only when there is a good reason for it. One case where I believe there is a good reason is in naming individual NEC members re. what they said or how they voted, when they had an expectation this would remain private, i.e. unless it was made clear at the time that their contribution or voting record would subsequently be made public (which would be a reasonable practice, provided it is established in advance).
When Steven Woolfe did not make the ballot paper, there was an urgent need, in my opinion, for the NEC to communicate with our members. I drafted what I believed was an open, frank and detailed communication and proposed the NEC release it. The Party Chairman preferred to communicate more tersely. I sought permission to communicate directly myself, even though by doing so and defending the NEC as a body, I was putting myself personally in the firing line. To be fair to the Party Chairman, on this occasion he had no issue with me communicating directly myself. I waited for a few days to see if the NEC and/or the Party Chairman would coalesce around a joint statement – I believe our release should have happened much sooner – but after a few days I fired my own communication off anyway, taking a bit of a risk. Then later on came some official communications too.
If I remained on the NEC, I would not have been comfortable releasing such a detailed communication as this letter and possibly would not have been able to at all.
At the time of my resignation, my term on the NEC had only one or two more meetings left to run. The last two NEC meetings have achieved absolutely nothing, and I don’t expect the next one or two would have achieved anything either. Being a member of the NEC entailed an enormous amount of work, liability, and frustration as I felt I was being obstructed and sabotaged.
There are a number of successful business people on the NEC with a lot of life experience – all elected by you.
But none of this experience is being put to good use, because the NEC is being vilified and the Party is being run by a few young people with little life experience who were not accountable to us. Remind yourself, who appoints the chief of these, the Party Chairman?
Who has done a better job choosing a competent and qualified board – the members or the Leader?
This letter is very long (for which I apologize – I did not have much time, and have some pressing other deadlines to get onto) so if you are still reading, I assume you are interested in hearing what I have to say.
So what, in my opinion, can you do?
Take a step back and ask yourself – what do you want to achieve?
What I want is the restoration of some liberty into this incresingly authoritarian world. There is a tremendous opportunity to do this in the UK right now, such as there probably isn’t and won’t any time soon be, available anywhere else in the world. In order to achieve this, a strong and successful UKIP is required.
We need to clean up our act, but we need to stay united, and ensure a) Brexit happens, b) Brexit happens soon, c) Brexit happens on the right terms, and d) in order to achieve a-c, Brexit is negotiated by the right team. Once Brexit is delivered, we must ensure that we have a strong libertarian Party which can credibly claim to be a challenger to the corrupt establishment parties – not be as bad as them, or worse than them. The voters are not stupid.
What we must not have is a civil war, infighting, or the dismemberment of UKIP by forces trying to create a competing party modelled on the “5 star Beppe Grillo” lines. We must not have attempts to destroy internal party democracy.
I hope this letter will help diffuse some of the violent, vitriolic ire directed at the NEC in recent times.
Should you then, instead, direct your ire in an intolerant fashion at the Party officers or the Party Chairman and post pictures on your Facebook page calling for them to be shot, like some YI members did about the NEC members?
No. Here are my views.
One, I encourage you to not quit, stay on and keep up the fight, because the stakes are very high and the prize is well worth it.
Secondly, I encourage you not to be intolerant towards the NEC, and to resist calls for the NEC’s abolition. I can say this now, no longer being a member of the NEC, without risk of being accused of having a vested interest and wanting to self-perpetuate. Yes, there are probably members of the present NEC who aren’t much good. But the NEC is the only means of democratic control within our Party – the NEC is elected by you, and abolishing it means the end of democracy within the Party. Is it a rational reaction to one candidate not making the Leadership ballot to abolish democracy within the Party (Steven Woolfe not making the ballot paper has nothing to do with the calls to abolish the NEC, which were made by Arron Banks long before then). Or even a rational reaction to our former Head of Media not being able to be an AM (which I personally am persuaded had more to do with these ideas)? What kind of a message does it send to the public if we do not even believe in internal Party democracy and want to be a personality cult and a dictatorship of the Leader? That, if elected, we will abolish Parliament and want the country to be run in the same way, because this is more efficient, so that the executive Leader can “get on with it” without the inconvenience of scrutiny from a body of elected representatives of the grass roots – be it the NEC or Parliament?
The sort of abuse the NEC has been getting will discourage any good candidates wanting to stand. Who wants to put themselves to such abuse and be a member of a body which is getting such a bad name, and then spend all their time being frustrated and obstructed by an appointed salaried employee? If good people don’t put themselves forward, this would lead to the worst possible outcome. New NEC elections are coming soon, and this will be an opportunity for you to elect members of ability, industry and integrity – if any are willing to put themselves forward.
I have suggested to the NEC that NEC elections should be a more elaborate affair. The NEC is (supposed to be) our ultimate governing body, yet we elect members on the basis of a photograph and a 150 word write-up. I believe members should be given more information to base their votes on – hustings, videos and/or Q&A sessions I believe could all be in order.
At the next NEC election, there will likely be a slate of NEC candidates whose manifesto will be to abolish the NEC. I urge you to vote against this slate.
I urge you to elect a leader who will unite the Party, who will defend internal party democracy and take it forward to a libertarian future.
I further urge you, if you are capable, industrious and have selfless integrity, to put yourself forward for the NEC and I urge everyone else to vote for such people – you need a strong, competent, tenacious NEC whose members have integrity and are not there to pursue a personal agenda.
Secondly, the NEC as a body is indeed dysfunctional. This is true. But the reason for this is that it is chaired by a Trojan horse called the Party Chairman. No body can function unless its chairman is accountable to it, works in its interest and enjoys its confidence. In relation to the NEC and the Party Chairman, none of this is, in my view, the case. The role of the Party Chairman needs to be split. The chairman of NEC meetings needs to be elected by the NEC members from among themselves, and must be accountable and removable by them. The CEO must be a separate role and must be accountable to the board. The board carry the ultimate legal liability for the actions of the Party, so they must also have the ultimate authority over those actions. The board must also be the body to hire and fire the CEO. The constitution sub-committee made such a proposal to the September 2016 NEC meeting, but this proposal was also suppressed. I would encourage you to – calmly and politely – support and lobby for this constitutional change.
The biggest risk is that the Party may not survive until the next NEC elections – because it might run out of cash before then, and have to accept whatever bailout conditions are demanded of it. In my view, this was done deliberately, and the NEC will get blamed for it, even though it was not caused by the NEC and the NEC has been the only body standing in the way of this happening sooner. I don’t see any solution to this, unless the Party Treasurer is able to find a way to cut expenditure drastically and immediately, because most sensible donors will not give money to the Party under the present conditions and no white knight will be able to be found. I don’t really have a solution for this problem – but one thing I am sure of, it will not be solved while there is infighting and things continue as they are.
End of statement by Dr Tomaz Slivnik
first published on the Right Way Campaign WordPress.Com blog on 13th September 2016