Friday, 30 January 2009

Proposed changes to the Party Constitution

So, the NEC wants to change the party constitution. Does it need changing?

Some senior UKIPpers think not and have sent a letter out to most of the membership saying so. The letter is signed by Sir Richard Body, Roger Knapman, Piers Merchant, Bruce Lawson, Martin Haslam, Tim Congdon, Dr Eric Edmond, Del Young and Dr David Abbott.

Del Young is a current NEC member, Congdon and Body are ordinary members and the rest are ex-officials. All should know better than to use membership data for unofficial activities which is, of course, illegal.

The account of the NEC meeting at which two NEC members and the deputy treasurer were removed is not an accurate one and the claim that it was nothing to do with the BNP is also false. However, the Knapman letter does make some valid points and it's a shame that the authors compromised themselves by putting misinformation in with their very valid points.

There is another letter - this one is an official response from the NEC to the Knapman letter and can be read on the UKIP forum (you must be a member to read it). This letter is signed by Nigel Farage, David Campbell Bannerman, Paul Nuttall, Rachel Oxley, Jonathan Arnott, Mike Zuckerman, Marta Andreasen, David Challice, Lisa Duffy, Bob Spink MP, Mike Nattrass, Godfrey Bloom, John Whittaker, Derek Clark, Gerard Batten, Alan Bown, Jeffrey Titford, Councillor Jill Seymour, Douglas Denny and Lord Willoughby de Broke. All these people are officials or elected politicians (except for Lord Willoughby de Broke of course).

This letter disagrees with Knapman's letter and claims that changing the way the disciplinary panel is constructed so that it is appointed from regional shortlists instead of elected at a UKIP business meeting will improve accountability because the business meetings are poorly attended. This is amendment 4. It also says that members' rights to vote on the party's accounts will not be removed as the Knapman letter claims but the vote will be moved from a business meeting to a conference or rally which is better attended. This is amendment 2.

I am inclined to agree with amendment 2 - more people attend conferences and rallies than business meetings so the accounts will be open to more scrutiny than they currently are. However, I am inclined to disagree with amendment 4 - appointment by committee is what New Labour like to call "indirectly elected" which is another way of saying "unelected" and is the favoured method of appointing yes-men to quangos. There may be more people present at the meetings to choose who to put forward for the disciplinary panel but that doesn't make the NEC any more accountable than the current system.

Details of the other amendments haven't been made public yet so I'll reserve judgement on the whole package but I hope we get to vote on each amendment in isolation because if not, there's a good chance I'll have to vote no to the whole lot.