|Farage: Facing challenges within his Party|
Seems we are not alone in this opinion.
Senior Regional and Branch Officials within Ukip have had enough, and have penned this joint letter to Nigel Farage and Steve Crowther (although we are unsure what authority Crowther has anymore)
The internal communication, exclusive to us, paints a damning picture of how Ukip is run.
The following statement which was sent to SLATUKIP is the text of a letter, agreed upon by a group of UKIP Branch Chairmen and Officials, which is currently being sent to Nigel Farage and Steve Crowther in an attempt to clean up the party. We have published it verbatim, without editing.
Dear Mr. Farage and Mr. Crowther,
This letter is written with a genuine concern to see UKIP achieve greater things. The comments and proposals that we put forward are not revisionist, revolutionary or rebellious but are designed to enhance and further our joint aims and aspirations. We stand four-square behind UKIP’s brand of outspoken common sense.
Our anxieties relate to the power structures and communication failures within UKIP. We offer an analysis of our concerns, together with solutions ranging from changes in the party hierarchy, voting and disciplinary procedures, to recruitment of salaried staff and the processes of consultation with members.
Power structures within UKIP
It is a truism that an excessive and/or inappropriate use of power at the very least demoralises the rank and file of an organisation, and UKIP has now attained that situation. For example:
- Threats and the arbitrary exercise of power have resulted in the splitting or dissolution of branches, and/or the suspension or dismissal of branch officers.
- There have been abuses of the process of selection of election candidates. Upper echelons of UKIP are unjustifiably over-ruling the preferences of local areas. There are many highly skilled and experienced potential candidates available locally where there is no justification for the parachuting in of others. Local candidates are required for local elections.
- The NEC and senior levels of the UKIP hierarchy exercise too much power in respect of disciplinary procedures. Section B7.2 of the Rule Book seems to give absolute power to the Party Chairman in the event of intra-branch disputes and also provides a contrivance to dispose of ‘unhelpful’ people and their opinions. Section J3.14 is a suppression of free speech that has almost Stalinist overtones.
- There has been a neglect and an abuse of past PPCs including a rejection of their past experience coupled with a threat of de-selection if they do not campaign in other constituencies, e.g. at the recent Oldham by-election. As well as that neglect, there is also no consideration of their other work commitments which, on the other hand, do not constrian those in full-time paid employment by UKIP. Those latter people should have more appreciation of the considerable amount of time and money that the PPCs have already invested in the Party.
- The Party hierarchy is not empowering or improving the performance of the grassroots activists.
One of the strengths of UKIP is that its adherents come from across the political spectrum. There is a surprising amount of common ground between ex-Conservative and ex-Labour supporters. The combined experience and attributes of these members at local activist level are ignored by the UKIP leadership at the peril of the Party.
If UKIP continues to dictate its agenda from the top down, history - as seen by calamities in other parties - will repeat itself.
A frequently quoted complaint is that there is no central contact who is responsible for volunteer Party members. The existing chain of command - from Branch Chairmen, through County and Regional Chairmen, to the Party Chairman - is cumbersome and ineffective. The consequence is disillusionment and the loss of a number of members from the Party. Indeed, the absence of effective communication has led to an impression that members are being purposefully kept in the dark.
Who chairs the NEC and what are its terms of reference? Despite its members being elected by the membership, the NEC does not represent members’ interests. It is appropriate to note at this juncture that NEC members have legal responsibilities under the UKIP constitution and are also jointly and individually liable for their actions as part of the UKIP directorate.
Regional officers and organisers were invisible during the last election. The regional offices are now funded by MEPs for their own purposes and the regional officers work for, and are also funded by, those MEPs. Indeed, many ROs have become unwelcome intruders whose sole aim seems to be to direct the membership down a pre-determined and prescribed route. There is a palpable frustration amongst the grassroots membership with Head Office and many regional officers which is growing rather than receding.
In other organisations in the public eye, be it in the private or the public sectors, there is transparency in respect of the appointment and remuneration of people in positions of influence and responsibility. The processes of advertisement for posts, the job descriptions, recruitment and appointment procedures, and the remuneration received, are (or should be) in the public domain for all to see. By comparison, in UKIP none of those factors are in evidence.
We do not know how certain officers have attained their positions - whether by suitability, by the back door to reduce costs, and/or by nepotism. Are posts advertised and/or put out to recruitment agencies and who ratifies appointments? We should know who are salaried (with an indication of their salaries) and who work voluntarily. Nor do we know to whom Party officers report, or the ability of those to whom they report to define and measure their successes or failures against defined performance targets and objectives. All these things should be available for members and other interested parties to know.
We feel that the lack of communication outlined above effectively means that the Party has turned its back on the PPCs, branch chairmen, officers and members who achieved nearly four million votes for the Party at the General Election.
- There should be a designated member of the Party, working at your level, who is directly responsible for, and answerable to, the membership. A more democratic system is required that values its grassroots members.
- The current plethora of levels of hierarchy, and so-called ‘chain of command’, requires streamlining and making more fit for purpose.
- The election of NEC members should be on a regional rather than a national basis. The regional members should then canvass the views of their members in respect of policy-making.
- At every level of the Party - from the NEC to Branches - the voting system needs to be revised so that Chairmen only vote if a result is tied but do not vote as part of the initial process. Thereby, autocratic/authoritarian chairmen (i.e. those acting solely at the behest of the Party hierarchy) would be brought to heel with a status of no more than primus inter pares.
- The higher echelons of the party should be subject to the same rules as are the grassroots members. This particularly applies to the processes of candidate selection for all types of post, respect for autonomy at local level, and disciplinary procedures.
- The disciplinary procedure needs to be revised and rationalised, particularly in respect of the time limits imposed, and with a revision to a ‘trial by peer’ procedure rather than trial by Chairman and NEC.
- Information should be disseminated and circulated between regions and counties. Much more can be achieved if the UKIP hierarchy consulted with the membership to obtain, share, discuss and prioritise their views. To that end the Party should hold AGMs that are for members to attend.
In UKIP there is a frustrating tendency to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than to listen to the message. We emphasise that we wish the Party well and simply want it to do better and to achieve the aims and objectives that were the reasons that persuaded us to join in the first place.
We are looking for structures and transparency that are currently absent. Instead there is a very heavy top down approach which ultimately will cause the Party to fail if it is not rectified. The contributions of grassroots members are just airbrushed away.
It is our desire to support the leadership which is in need of such support from the loyal - and well-informed - membership. Ultimately, this will be of greater benefit to the Party than financial assistance. The Party needs to nurture rather than to alienate its most valuable resource - its members.