Guest Post by James Dalton.
Part 2. Another Leadership Election for UKIP. 9th June 2017 – 1st October 2017
In the aftermath of Paul Nuttall’s resignation, Steve Crowther was announced as the Party’s Interim Leader with Paul Oakden continuing as Chairman. In the days after SC was announced as Interim Leader, John Rees Evans sought clarification with respect to the rollout of Direct Democracy in the light of the change in circumstances at the top of the Party. John Bickley, the Party Treasurer was tasked as JRE’s contact with the UKIP management in respect of the Direct Democracy rollout by the new leadership team. Funding previously earmarked for the work to progress the UKIP Direct platform was not forthcoming and it became clear to JRE that the interim leader, the Chairman and the Treasurer had no enthusiasm to continue with the reforms which PN had commenced on the 28th of March.
In view of the perceived change of policy within the Party on the rollout of UKIP Direct, and with no other proponent of Direct Democracy standing for Leader of the Party, JRE decided that he must again stand in the leadership election if he were to see his vision of Direct Democracy being embraced by UKIP. From 28th March to early July when JRE invited representatives of what we now know as ‘Affinity’ to his launch event of 13th July, JRE had not engaged in further discussions with Affinity.
On 13th July in London, JRE launched his leadership campaign. Included in the audience of approximately 80 people were (at least) two individuals associated with Affinity. In the following days, JRE convinced the Affinity representatives to not launch their Party and to give him the opportunity to persuade the UKIP membership to embrace Direct Democracy as its new core purpose. Affinity agreed to support JRE in this endeavour by waiting for the outcome of the UKIP leadership election. However, it was made clear to JRE that no further delay to their plans would be entertained should he not be elected leader – that in October 2017 a political party would be establishing as its core purpose: to introduce a system of Direct Democracy to replace the current, failed UK model of Representative Democracy.
JRE’s campaign for leadership was a detailed offer to have Direct Democracy as the unique selling point of the Party and to shape UKIP into a political party with a new purpose, as expressed in his published manifesto. It would be fair to say that those members who listened to JRE speak in the recent hustings or in presentations, understood that John was not focused on selling himself, but on selling his idea for the future purpose of the Party. Certainly I was in no doubt of this.
From early in his leadership campaign, following discussions with Affinity it was clear to JRE that there were two possible outcomes. (i) JRE elected as leader and Direct Democracy rolled out in UKIP or (ii) JRE not elected as leader and a new Party, Affinity, created with the purpose of implementing Direct Democracy.
There were seven members on the ballot paper for the leadership. JRE gained 2,021 votes and finished fourth in the election with Henry Bolton the elected winner with 3,874 votes.
During his presentation to a fringe meeting of Young Independence at the Torquay Conference on Saturday 30th September, HB advised the meeting that he is not a “…purist buyer-in of direct democracy ….. and I know that some of you are…”. Henry was being honest and making clear that the vision and ideas of JRE would not be realised under his leadership. I had followed the leadership contest closely and was aware that HB had not shown enthusiasm for Direct Democracy and in this HB has been consistent.
Ultimately, outcome (i) came to pass. John Rees Evans was not elected leader of UKIP. JRE rejects the idea that UKIP can compete as a minor Party in a two Party system – that good policy ideas and directions will always be ‘adopted’ by the Labour or Conservative Parties in advance of elections, with traditional habitual voting habits maintaining the Labour/Conservative hold on power indefinitely. To break the cycle that has led to the UK’s broken politics a different approach is needed. JRE sees Representative Democracy and the two party system failing to represent the people’s will and he wants to see his vision realised – a vision including a Direct Democracy platform to oblige decision making to conform to the expressed will of the people. As such he is following his vision with a new Party that has, at its core, the determination to re-establish the British Constitution and implement a system of governance that will ensure the will of the people is reflected in legislative decisions and the traditional rights and liberties of Britons are protected through the implementation of Direct Democracy.
At the time of writing, Affinity has not completed the registration process with the Electoral Commission. This will happen over the coming days, as will the registration of ‘For Britain’, the new Party established by Anne Marie Waters who finished second in the UKIP leadership election with 2,755 votes. The coming months represent an uncertain time in UKIP, and in British politics. Currently there is much division amongst those who once coalesced under the UKIP banner in the fight to leave the EU. The UK has still not left the EU and this division in the face of moral and intellectual weakness and corruption within the Conservative and Labour Parties plays into the hands of the EU and the incumbent establishment.
We are certainly living in interesting times. “…a week is a long time in politics…” is a phrase that may well be overworked in the coming months.