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Bolton’s new UKIP constitution

Henry Bolton made his proposed reforms to the UKIP constitution available today.

The need for reform has been one of Bolton’s themes since the leadership election campaign, and even more so in the run-up to the EGM next week, in which the UKIP membership will decide whether to endorse last month’s vote of no confidence in his leadership by the NEC.

I made my view on Bolton clear here. But the need for constitutional change is not just his personal obsession. Nigel Farage has also called for reform, memorably calling the NEC total amateurs who come to London once a month with sandwiches in their rucksacks.

So let us take a look at the proposed reforms on their own terms, before considering how, if at all, this should affect the vote at the EGM on Saturday.

I have a long-standing interest in the Governance of representative organisations, having been one of the authors of the constitution of the freelancers trade association IPSE (formerly PCG) in 2000, and a member of its Consultative Council (the rough equivalent of UKIPs NEC) ever since.

The basic dilemma of Governance is that to be democratic you need an elected body with real power drawn from the rank-and-file members, and to represent a reasonable cross-section of views it needs to be quite large. But such a body is by definition amateur. (If you were to pay them a salary , even if you could afford it, they wouldn’t be ordinary members any more). They don’t have time to spend more than a few hours each week keeping up to speed with developments, and they can’t react quickly enough to keep pace with the media cycle.

It is well established that effective executive decision-making is done by a body of 6-8 people: enough to provide a range of perspectives, but not so many as to induce paralysis. And you need a professional full-time staff to implement those decisions, issue press releases, write briefings, produce newsletters, answer the phones, give interviews etc.

So your directly elected body can’t run the organisation on a day-to-day basis, and should not try. But professional politicians and administrators necessarily have quite a different perspective to the ordinary voters they are paid to represent. (Possibly the biggest structural problem we have in British politics today is that the professional politicians in all the mainstream parties have gone native and now have far more in common with each other than with their electorates. That is why UKIP was needed to get us out of the EU). So the elected body must not be sidelined either. It’s members are not professional politicians but they will often be professionals in their own fields with a wealth of experience to bring to the organisation.

The problem, then, is to strike the right balance between the powers of the part-time directly elected representatives, the smaller and more focussed executive with strategic control, and the full-time paid staff. That can be done, but I firmly believe that human nature is such that it can’t be done without a more or less permanent state of tension between the different arms of the organisation. You are winning if you manage to make this a creative rather than a destructive tension. With that in mind, how do Bolton’s proposals stand up?

This is not a wholesale rewrite of the constitution but in large part a tweaking of the existing one. The main departure is to introduce a Party Management Board (PMB) to take on the role of the executive as I described above. The idea is that the NEC is responsible for oversight and the PMB is the primary decision-making body with day-to-day control. However the NEC retains the word ‘executive’ in its name which is likely to cause confusion. Perhaps renaming it the National Committee (NC) would be wise?

Nomenclature apart what is proposed is a fairly conventional structure. The main shortcoming of the existing structure, namely that too much responsibility is placed on the amateur and part-time NEC, is fixed. But the details are scrappy. For example at 2.6 we have:

To that end it shall be the policy of the Party that the United Kingdom shall cease to be a member of the European Union or take any decision that shall involve the surrender of any part of the United Kingdom’s sovereign independence.

That it not quite grammatical. Has this taken Bolton five months to put together? Or was it cooked up in the last couple of weeks with no time for proof-reading? New clauses clip the wings of he NEC and unsurprisingly the Party Leader gains powers:

36.2 The Party Leader shall have responsibility for the direction and management of all aspects of the Party’s policy and political organisation.

36.3 The Party Leader shall be supported by the Chief of Staff and the Staff in delivering his responsibilities.

NEC members become the regional chairmen. This makes sense for a political party because both council and parliamentary elections are inherently local.

The NEC retains very few powers that can’t be vetoed by the leader. But crucially it does retain the right take a vote of no confidence in the leader, to be confirmed, as at present, by an EGM of the members. So despite the somewhat hyperbolic language it would be wrong in my view to see the new rules as nothing but a power grab by the leader. The leader is also elected by the members and the members expect him to be able to lead. The no confidence/EGM mechanism is the right one, should the NEC decide the leader has gone off the rails. The proposed constitution provides a broadly reasonable balance between the NEC, PMB and leader and (subject to consultation and amendment) gets my qualified support.

However the way this has been launched less than a week before the no-confidence EGM must raise suspicions that it is at least in part a diversionary tactic. How long would we have had to wait for a draft constitution and a timetable for consultation if the Marney text messages had not surfaced? As Bolton puts it  “This is the opportunity – reform or die”. This isn’t about me or my racist girlfriend, it’s about this new constitution. Vote for me or the constitution gets it!

But the EGM is not about reform. The only motion on the ballot is about the fitness of the leader. There seems to be very broad agreement that reform is needed, and there is nothing particularly clever about the proposed changes. Any professional governance consultant would have come up with something very similar. Why should we suppose Bolton is the only leader who could deliver it?

There is also a danger of fetishising process. Reform must happen, but what the party needs most urgently at present is sound policies and strong leadership, and Bolton has given no indication he can provide either.

On Monday night I attended a meeting of Gloucester UKIP at which Bill Etheridge (UKIP MEP), Gareth Bennett (UKIP NEC and WAM), Reece Coombes (founder of kippercentral.com) and several others spoke. The consensus among many members who had dealt (or tried to deal) with Bolton was that if you were not in his inner circle, you could not get to talk to him. He was described as aloof and arrogant. His treatment of Young UKIP in failing to listen to their concerns about raising the student membership fee from £2 to £20 came in for particular criticism. His complete failure to support Gareth Bennett in his freedom of speech dispute with the Welsh Assembly was hard to comprehend.

Perhaps surprisingly, Bolton’s private life was hardly raised as a reason for voting against him. For many activists and NEC members  the Marney affair appears to be the last straw, serving to underline the leader’s poor judgement, lack of integrity and inability to conduct himself appropriately.

Nevertheless it is clear Bolton has pockets of support around the country, particularly in the West Midlands where the EGM is to be held. Nothing can be taken for granted. If you are still a UKIP member and you think this vote matters, you have to be in Birmingham on Saturday.

We need an EU Tariff Mirror

Back in 2016 I suggested the idea of an EU “tariff mirror” in a change.org petition. I wrote:

The UK must be prepared to trade under WTO rules if necessary, but should prefer no tariffs. Between those extremes the UK should offer a “tariff mirror”, i.e. match whatever tariffs or taxes the EU imposes on broad categories of goods and services from the UK. Mutual interest would require such tariffs to be low.

What I didn’t cover was how to put this into practice in a way that would not fall foul of the WTOs “most favoured nation” rule. This has now been addressed by the idea of an Import Excess Tax (IET) promoted in an article at Brexit Central by David M. Owen.

In essence, we would not set tariffs on EU goods as such, but would levy a new tax on UK companies with net imports from the EU. The rate would be set to exactly balance any tariffs the EU puts on the UK’s goods, and would be paid through the quarterly VAT return. So as in my original proposal, if they don’t charge us any tariffs, they don’t have to pay any.

As I understand it, such a policy would comply with WTO rules provided we set a global zero tariff on all imports. This policy has been strongly advocated elsewhere.

I will defer to David M. Owen on the details of WTO tax regulations. I do however think that Tariff Mirror is a rather more catchy and intuitively understandable name for the idea than Import Excess Tax. What do readers think?

Support Drains from Bolton

Here we go again …

In March last year I was moved to write this post concerning UKIPs previous leader. Paul Nuttall hung on until after the 2017 General Election, when UKIPs disastrous showing made his resignation inevitable. But really Nuttall’s leadership became untenable when he was exposed as a serial fantasist (or at least compulsive liar) with a string of false claims about his past including having been a professional footballer and having a PhD in History. This both called his character into question, and made him the story.

Ten months later, here we are again. Henry Bolton has been in the news, first for leaving his wife and two young children and taking up with 25 year old UKIP activist Jo Marney, and secondly for her racist text messages about Meghan Markle revealed in the Mail on Sunday.

The perfectly valid point that it is monstrous for the private communications of a person who is not themselves in the public eye to be made public and used to denounce them and discredit those associated with them has be well made by Spiked Online and I will not repeat it.

The issue here is not that Bolton should go because of his private life, nor because he is somehow responsible for text messages sent by his (now ex-) girlfriend before he met her. It is the appalling lack of judgement evidenced by these episodes. Bolton has become the story and can never now have a hope of presenting UKIP in a positive light.

As it happens I generally hold the we anglo-saxons should be rather less censorious about politicians private lives. This is one area where a more french attitude would be appropriate. People marry, people get divorced, people marry again. It is their private business, and not normally of public interest or political relevance.

Why is this different? Because it indicates a man who is impulsive, of poor judgement, and unable to deal with the pressures he would inevitably face as the leader of UKIP.

Henry Bolton was entirely unknown until he stood for the UKIP leadership. Suddenly, he finds himself leader of a national political party and being interviewed regularly on the nation’s top current affairs programs – a role in which he acquitted himself fairly well given his lack of experience. Was he not aware, or had no one warned him, that there is a certain kind of young woman who is drawn to older men with status and influence? (An affinity that is not necessarily mercenary, though it may be. Some women are genuinely attracted by the trappings of power). Apparently no one had.

Within a few weeks of meeting Jo Marney at a UKIP Christmas party, Bolton had abandoned his family’s Christmas Eve celebrations in Austria and flown back to the UK to take up with the 25-year old model. Early suggestions that Bolton was already estranged from his wife when he met Marney appear to be inaccurate.

Maybe Marney was not the first young activist to take an interest in the 54-year old leader since his election in September this year. But she could hardly have been a less suitable partner for a UKIP leader.  If – to put the best possible interpretation on events – you are inclined to troll friends with outrageous racist opinions you don’t really hold – surely anyone with a half a brain would know not to put them in writing? Surely everyone in this day and age knows that not only social media but emails and text messages come back to haunt you? That a man in a sensitive political role would take up with a new partner exhibiting such poor judgement at such short notice reflects very poorly on his own judgement.

UKIP has had some success defending the position that wanting to control immigration isn’t racist. That wanting to accord some rights to your own citizens that you don’t accord to non-citizens isn’t racist. That failing to invite every self-proclaimed refugee in the world into your country isn’t racist. That wanting to be governed by your own elected politicians rather than foreign bureaucrats isn’t racist. The last thing we need in fighting that battle is UKIP members saying stuff – even in private – even in jest if that is what is was – that genuinely is racist. That is why UKIP takes such a strong line on racism and anyone who does not understand that has no place in UKIP, and certainly no place within 100 miles of the leader.

The picture is of a man who is unable to resist the temptations that a role in national UK politics may bring with it, and is simultaneously unable to understand the effect that giving in to them will have on his reputation and by association that of his party. He has to go.

Whether there is a future for UKIP after the implosion of its fourth leader in 18 months remains to be seen. There is certainly no future with him at the helm.

Updates

21 January 2018

Henry Bolton unanimously lost a vote of no confidence from the UKIP NEC. Since then the following UKIP spokespersons have resigned:

  • Star Anderton (Equalities and disabilities)
  • Bill Etheridge MEP (Sports)
  • Margot Parker MEP (Deputy leader)
  • John Bickley (Immigration)
  • Mike Hookem MEP (Fisheries and veterans affairs)
  • Tim Aker MEP (Local government)
  • William Dartmouth (Trade)
  • David Kurten AM (Education)
  • David Meacock (Culture)
  • Peter Whittle AM (London)
  • David Sprason (Work and pensions)

Other senior figures have left the party:

  • Jonathan Arnott MEP
  • Susie Govett (Bolton’s leadership campaign press aide)

25 January 2018

This evening I attended a meeting of the Hereford and South Herefordshire UKIP branch and we discussed the leadership situation.

The meeting unanimously agreed a vote of no confidence in Henry Bolton, and asked the branch chairman to write to the party chairman and the leader to ask that he stand down immediately and avoid a divisive EGM.

 

Boys don’t wear princess dresses

boys-princess-dresses

The shaming of Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton the formula 1 racing driver has stirred up a twitter storm after being accused of “shaming” his young nephew for wearing a princess dress. A snapchat video he posted on boxing day shows him mock-chastising the laughing four year old boy and ends with him saying “Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas? Boys don’t wear princess dresses!”

After coming under fire from the usual suspects he issued a grovelling apology on twitter for his “inappropriate” words and begged for forgiveness: “I have always been in support of anyone living their life exactly how they wish and I hope I can be forgiven for this lapse in judgement”.

So far, so 2017. But this time the apology itself seems to have stirred up something of a storm, with most of the subsequent twitter traffic either supporting Hamilton’s original sentiment, or decrying the lynch mob mentality that forced him to apologise for a personal opinion shared by probably 90% of the population. Several people have quoted Brendan O’Neill at Spiked: “If you think Hamilton’s video was ‘horrifying’ but this response is okay, then your moral compass is officially broken.”

Let’s take a step back for a minute. Of course there is no fundamental biological reason girls wear dresses and boys don’t. It is a social and cultural convention. But it is, as a matter of fact, the convention in the UK and much of the rest of the world today. Families instruct their children in a huge number of social conventions, many of which have no strong practical rationale, from how to eat with a knife and fork, to how to say please and thank you, hello and goodbye. All of these things are done differently in other cultures. But there can be no shame in explaining to a child the conventions of the society in which he lives.

For the SJWs who have attacked Hamilton there is no need for debate. If there ever was a debate, it concluded long ago and you, I and Lewis Hamiliton were not invited to take part.

This is not to say those conventions can’t be questioned. Clearly they can and do change. Three generations ago it was shocking for women to wear trousers. Six generations ago boys commonly wore dresses until the age of seven.  A whole gamut of rules about the wearing and taking off of hats are now observed by practically no one. Doubtless conventions of dress and much else will change again. All these things are up for debate.

But that’s the issue. For the SJWs who have attacked Hamilton there is no need for debate. If there ever was a debate, it concluded long ago and you, I and Lewis Hamiliton were not invited to take part.

What is worrying here is nothing to do with whether a small boy should wear a dress. It is the rise of virulent form of cultural fascism. A small group of activists and intellectuals have decided that all traditional gender distinctions have had their day, and they have decided they can make this come about by pretending it has already happened, and acting with horror and outrage towards anyone who does not accept the new rules.

Of course this is bluff. Does Hamilton really imagine the majority of his twitter followers – presumably predominantly motor racing fans – are signed up to this stuff? Of course they aren’t. So why not call the SJWs bluff? My guess is that if Hamilton told them to fuck right off he would gain more followers than he would lose.

The reaction to Hamilton’s apology may indicate that the usually good-tempered British public have been pushed too far. The SJWs have massively overplayed their hand on gender ideology and many other issues. Social conventions change. But they do so organically, with the assent of the people. They are not imposed by Governments, nor by self-appointed mobs of humourless enforcers. The backlash may have already started.

The Gender Pay Gap Myth

The BBC has a number of articles on its website to mark “Equal Pay Day”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41805053

Campaigners highlight 10 November as the point in 2017 when a woman on an average wage stops being paid relative to their male counterparts.

But in some parts of the UK, the gender pay gap is so wide, it is as though women work unpaid from September.

This is complete nonsense. There is no gender pay gap. Men and women are paid the same for working the same number of hours in the same job. That is the law.

There is a gender earnings gap because women are choosing to do different jobs from men for a smaller number of hours. This is almost entirely due to women with children working part time and closer to home. Young single women earn the same or more than men the same age. Couples are deciding freely how to divide up work and childcare responsibilities. No one is being discriminated against.

Why does the BBC not publish data on the gender spending gap caused by men working longer hours further from home to provide money for the mothers of their children to spend, while the men are working and commuting? Spending is surely a more realistic measure of economic power than earning.

It would be closer to the truth to say that women stop working on 10 November and spend the rest of the year shopping and playing with the kids. (Though that too would be tendentious of course).

The “gender pay gap” is a divisive feminist myth and the BBC should stop reporting it as fact.

Reality Check Check

The BBC’s Reality Check today says this:

The claim: The UK trades with “the rest of the world” (non-EU countries) under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Reality Check verdict: This is wrong. With regard to tariffs, the UK trades with 24 countries and territories under WTO rules alone. With 68 others it has, as part of the EU, free trade agreements, either fully or partly in place, which all enable trade on better terms.

If you check here you will see that the list of 24 countries with which we trade on WTO rules includes our biggest non-EU trading partners, the USA, China, UAE, Hong Kong etc. Adding these up, they account for 32% of our global exports, which is 57% of our non-EU exports. So more than half our non-EU trade is conducted under WTO rules. (I don’t know why India with 1.1% of UK trade is not included here, since the EUs trade negotiations with India are currently stalled).

In fact much of our trade with the other 68 states mentioned is also conducted under WTO rules. The EU lists 50 FTAs, but on closer examination only a handful of these are fully comprehensive FTAs (see here and here) leaving much trade conducted under WTO rules. It would be complicated to calculate exactly how much, but it is clear the UK trades with most of the rest of the world on WTO rules.