Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Barring Steven Woolfe from standing for leader is the last straw

Steven Woolfe has been ruled out of the party leadership election after computer problems prevented him from submitting his application on time.

Woolfe paid his £5,000 deposit well before the deadline and but was unable to submit his application until after the deadline had passed due to computer problems. He provided evidence before the deadline to someone in the party that he was trying to submit his application and that it wasn't working but the NEC have ruled that he is ineligible to stand.

If the NEC had ruled him out for failing to declare a conviction for drink driving a decade ago then that would be understandable but it is clear that Woolfe submitted his application before the deadline and technical problems prevented it from being processed. In the absence of any evidence to prove that the fault lay on either side he should have been given the benefit of the doubt and his application allowed.

Attempts were made to bar Steven Woolfe, Jonathan Arnott and Bill Etheridge from standing last week which appear to have proven fruitless. Meanwhile, Nathan Gill has been threatened with expulsion from the party if he doesn't resign as either an MEP or Welsh Assembly Member despite there being no ban in law or the party rule book for holding both offices at the same time.

Three members of the NEC - Ray Finch, Victoria Ayling and Mike McGough - have resigned from the NEC in protest, accusing the remaining NEC members of jealousy and megalomania. Three resignations aren't enough, we need to sweep out the current NEC members and hold fresh elections. Most members don't bother voting in NEC elections and this is the result - a group of politicians and hangers on more interested in furthering their own ambitions than what's right for the party.

Branches that feel strongly that the NEC is damaging the party may wish to forward a motion of no confidence in the NEC, forcing an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) at which they can be sacked. According to the party rules an EGM can be called to debate a motion of no confidence in the NEC if 20% of branches and constituency associations drawn from at least 4 regions forward a motion to the party chairman, accompanied by a payment of £100 toward the cost of holding the meeting. At the EGM 250 members must attend for the meeting to be quorate. It's too late to affect this leadership election but by purging the NEC and starting again we can at least point the party back in the right direction.