Saturday, 14 August 2010

NEC Election Interview: Rob McWhirter

The second in our series of interviews with NEC Election Candidates is with Rob McWhirter.
Rob, you've had a bit of a chequered past with UKIP. You once left the party after some disagreements before rejoining to reform from within. This sounds suspiciously like the Tory policy on the EU! How committed are you to changing UKIP for the better?

I did resign for a year, 2008-9, after being a founder member - I believe the party should treat all paid up members equally, as does the constitution, and when they told me I wasn't getting a vote in the EU candidate list selection ballot, because I live abroad (even though I am a registered overseas voter), this was the straw etc. etc. There were other things - the John West video fiasco (John Whittaker had me investigate), and the Alan Bown donations fiasco, and I thought why am I bothering? But then I cooled down and decided to be constructive and work for reform from within, rather than carp from without. I also found I was still shouting at bad party websites daily (and offering free advice)!!!

How committed to improvement? Very. I've stood for the NEC before, but people didn't see the importance of the internet then - now its forced the London Chairman to resign, for example, they might look at things differently!

My campaign website - - has a range of detailed discussion ideas, including:
  • Moving conference main day for more media coverage
  • Better liaison with overseas bods (I'm one)
  • Custom candidate domain names featuring on all campaign bumf
  • Moving most NEC meetings to weekends (so ordinary workers can manage to commit to attend)
  • Better attention to all areas of the internet
I also include cartoon strips I designed and had drawn up when I was standing in London - I'm a great believer in humour to get your message across...

Practically, I am running a load of websites - see for specifics, have written a party website style guide: (hosted by fellow party member David Platt) , and offer free advice/ help to those with websites in need of assistance. All my signatories have had web help or bought websites from me.

I've also taken on board Lord Pearson's call for better comms. with the overseas bods - see above - and my proposer, Sonya Porter, who was the party's first overseas coordinator, tells me I'm the ideal person, based in Switzerland, to sort matters out!

Having been there since the beginning, I've seen all the flaws/ mistakes before, and can hopefully advise how not to make them in the future!

You mention that you live in Zurich which begs a very important question - how will you attend regular NEC meetings?

Simples: fly to London on a Friday night, as a large number of NEC meetings should now be held on weekends.

For the few weekday meets remaining, I will use part of my annual leave quota.

We could, of course, in the long term, look at the possibility of video conferencing, but let's sort the basics first - moving most meetings to weekends!

The wonders of modern technology. As a party we do seem to be reluctant to embrace new technology. You're the resident web monkey and clearly have a more than adequate grasp of technology as well as the vision to realise its potential - how will you convince the technophobes in the party of the value of the internet and other technology in campaigning?

Leading by example, e.g.,

The press office are supportive - what we need to do is get the balance of power shifted on the NEC, and then we can make the regions, and then branches, and candidates follow suit.

It's absurd, for example, that a month ago London region's website was still promoting Paul Wiffen as chairman! If the regional sires are cr&p, then why should the branches bother?

Webby stuff needs more space allocated for exposition in Independence News, with clear examples - horror stories of how misuse brought down campaigns, and success stories, e.g. Chuck Devore's iPhone app, from the same firm - PurpleForge - that did ours. Our app should be prominent on our web homepage, along with the review that said it was the best of all the British political apps!

We should also make it a job requirement - any RO, for example, who doesn't see the web as a priority, for the region and branches under his pastoral care, should have a card marked at interview.

So broadly carrot and stick.

One final question: if every member of the new NEC was given the chance to introduce one change unopposed, what would yours be?

Require all candidates to have a domain name, e.g., for any election apart from local, and make sure it is up-to-date and used on ALL campaign literature. See for examples.

Thanks Rob, good luck in the election.