Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Race for the Leader'kip.

Keep up with developments in the UKIP Leadership competiton with www.radiofreeuk.org.

But it is very exciting - maybe a trial run for the democratisation of the UK? Sweeping in to remove an unrepresentative elected body NEC/Parliament and put in place a mechanism for the public to exert direct democracy!

For direct democracy the missing link on the practical side is electronic voting. The recent referendum shows the time, effort and cost of using our traditional, reliable and trustworthy (postal votes not withstanding) system. I have long opposed all the electronic voting systems I have seen, having been a candidate I would not trust them over our existing system.

However, I have since created a method of running electronic voting that is simple to use, and allows voters to verify the result of the vote as complete and accurate without having to trust anyone else on the collation and counting of votes (not even the vote organisers!).

So the battle lines have been drawn following the retirement of the revered emperor Nigel Farage who for many years, somehow, successfully herded cats while coping with deafening heckling and barracking from opposing spectators, and often from his own. Being cats, they could not be commanded to the level required for one man and his dog, but they were managed well enough to get into the pen marked brexit, which stunned everyone. Although, in practice the game is not technically over until they exit the other side, via the gate marked Article 50 (or through the tunnel marked 1972 Act).

But the emperor having now retired and the machinery to replace him having been dusted down (and wire brushed to remove the rust), two opposing generals have emerged, one Douglas Carswell MP and one Mr Arron Banks. They each have their loyal staff, but the warlords and foot soldiers of UKIP are free to choose which side (if any to join). Their battle is for control of a the UKIP party infrastructure - which may or may not include some or all of its current members/supporters, as they are always free to come or go as they please - as are officers and electees.

While the generals are not themselves competing to replace the emperor, they each have declared favourites in the race, alongside some independents and other contenders for the crown.

First, Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP). Douglas is a contentious figure in UKIP, as UKIP's only MP he gets a lot of media coverage, even though he has made clear he only represents the people of Clacton, and despite a large (winning) vote for him in the General Election, how many of those voters are UKIP'pers rather than his own personal following or just anti-EU'ers is not clear (I wonder if the local party membership figures are available?).

Douglas's set includes core members such as Suzanne Evans (former temporary leader, currently suspended) and Patrick O'Flynn MEP (UKIP), his team includes others who may (or may not) be on his side more to oppose Arron Banks and co, than to actively support Douglas - such as Neil Hamilton WAM (UKIP).

Douglas has several books to his name, produced over the years, often with co-authors, setting out a vision for a new structure for politics in the UK - one recent book, with many co-authors, Direct Democracy 'A New Model Party' is available as a free download on his website. He certainly appears to know what he wants from politics and from UKIP and for the country, unfortunately substantial parts of it don't match what many existing UKIP supporters want - particularly as Brexit is now seen as a fait accomplis.

His champion in the competition would almost certainly have been Suzanne Evans who he employs as 'UKIP Head of Commiciations - Westminster', but due to her suspension from the party cannot run. She was suspended for bringing the party into disrepute, and like Douglas himself has a record of attacking the UKIP party leadership and UKIP members who supported it.

So their champion is Cllr Lisa Duffy - while she is relatively (totally?) unknown nationally/generally she is part of UKIP history as the leader of the first UKIP group to lead a council in the UK - any UKIP'per who didn't know this should be ashamed!

On the opposing hill, astride his horse, binoculars out is Mr Arron Banks - a man who made his fortune in insurance (founding major companies, not just gambling!), and who now collects diamond mines as a hobby.

Arron's main notoriety in UKIP is as a major donor, friend of Nigel Farage and founder of Leave.EU which headed Grassroots Out the 'other' leave campaigners in the EU referendum campaign - and as an activist(!).

Arron's likely preferred champion, Steven Woolfe MEP, like Douglas's preferred champion, is not in the competition. In Stevens case he was excluded because the application forms for his candidacy were logged as being received by UKIP after the (well publicised) deadline.

It is thought Woolf  had been the most likely candidate to win the leadership (but who trusts polls nowadays?) with his hard core supporters having said they would leave UKIP if he was excluded from the race, which he now has been.

This has caused a lot of friction in the party - with one member of the NEC finally issueing a public statement on Steven's exclusion. This account is particularly interesting as it says that in the closing minutes between Steven's successful payment of his deposit and late submission of his papers, another candidate got their papers in(!). So he was not the only candidate to leave it to the last minute...

However, the dissatisfied supporters, rather then leaving the party are now in a move to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), a move strongly backed by Mr Banks. The broad plan for which seems to replace the existing UKIP constitution with a new one - which would remove the NEC (who ruled that Woolf's late entry was grounds for exclusion - as per the UKIP rule book) and put in place mechanisms to give members a more direct, hands on say in the running/position of the party, rater than relying on the elected representatives of the NEC.

Getting an EGM is a huge task - with many, many members needing to want it and get their branch to ask for it - but Mr Banks, has contact with a very large section of the UK membership via his Leave.EU organisation so has put this in train.

The timings around Steven Woolf's application are most odd - that a last minute entry came in, and then his application was late... could it be he was effectively bowing out and handing on the baton? The only real surprise candidate in the competition is Diane James - while she is well qualified to run, she showed no inclination to do so before hand, so one wonders if she is the late entry? It would also be interesting to see which 50 members proposed each candidate, and when! But I doubt that will be publicly available...

As I see it, people should have the leader they want - UKIP members should have the leader they want, if UKIP doesn't have the right leader, maybe they need a new party to have a different leader?

But it is very exciting - maybe a trial run for the democratisation of the UK? Sweeping in to remove an unrepresentative elected body NEC/Parliament and put in place a mechanism for the public to exert direct democracy!

For direct democracy the missing link on the practical side is electronic voting. The recent referendum shows the time, effort and cost of using our traditional, reliable and trustworthy (postal votes not withstanding) system. I have long opposed all the electronic voting systems I have seen, having been a candidate I would not trust them over our existing system. However, I have since created a method of running electronic voting that is simple to use, and allows voters to verify the result of the vote as complete and accurate without having to trust anyone else on the collation and counting of votes (not even the vote organisers!).

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