Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Olly Neville removed as YI Chairman

There is much rumour, outrage and (as you'd expect) blatant lies about the removal of Young Independence interim Chairman, Olly Neville, from his position.

Twitter exploded earlier this evening with rumours that Olly had been removed from his position over his support of gay marriage. UKIP doesn't oppose gay marriage but believes the Tories have got it very wrong because the EU courts will force the church to conduct gay marriage on equality grounds so sacking him on the grounds of supporting gay marriage would be pretty odd.

Press officer, Gawain Towler, issued a clarification on Twitter that the NEC had removed him because of his promotion of non-party policy. Olly responded shortly afterwards with copies of emails from party Chairman, Steve Crowther, confirming that he had been removed because he had strongly promoted gay marriage, stating that David Cameron was right on the subject, at a time when the party was saying that Cameron had it completely wrong and for saying that the EU elections are a sideshow while the party is making much of UKIP's predicted win. This, the NEC apparently believes, is damaging to the party and not appropriate behaviour for the Chairman of Young Independence.

This is being widely reported (mainly by Tory bloggers and lefty haters) as punishment for supporting gay marriage when clearly it isn't. Gay marriage was the policy he went publicly off message on but it was for going too far off message that he has been removed from his position, not his views on the subject which are broadly in line with party policy.

What has happened poses two important questions. Are we really a party that sacks people for disagreeing with the party in public and is his treatment equal to that of, for instance, Winston Mackenzie who is still a party spokesman despite saying gay adoption is akin to child abuse?

The answer to the first question is clearly yes because it's just happened. The jury is still out on whether it was justifiable. The answer to the second question is clearly no because what Winston said was highly offensive and said in the run-up to an important by-election that was being watched by the world's media yet he has kept his job as spokesman on culture and sport and the commonwealth.

If the party intends to discipline officers that stay too far from the party line then so be it but if a line is drawn the officers need to know where it is in advance and the rule needs to be applied fairly and equitably. Olly is well known as a maverick and has spent most of his time in UKIP being completely off-message, surely someone should have thought to set some boundaries when he was appointed Chairman in the first place? Maybe they did. But that's a secondary issue to that of fairness and it's an undeniable fact that Olly has not been given the same lenient "sentence" as Winston  despite Winston's comments being far more damaging to the party.