John Bickley: UKIP Leigh Branch Report
On the 1st February, NEC member John Bickley joined UKIP Leigh to discuss the Vote of No Confidence against Henry Bolton, the current state of internal party affairs, as well as his interesting perspective on Bolton’s personal life and UKIP’s future.
Mr Bickley began his 1 hour long speech addressing one of the most pressing matters facing UKIP today: the NEC.
The relationship between the NEC, the membership and the party leader has always been fraught with difficulty and power play, and these difficulties have become central in the debate about whether Henry Bolton is still fit to serve as our leader. Whilst many UKIP members have been vocal about the need to reform the NEC and the Constitution, many have also supported their decision to vote through a No Confidence motion against Bolton.
John Bickley talks about the difficulties the NEC had with Henry; no clarity on his plans, no evidence of progress and the worry over personal finances. He does not, however, forget to mention the excitement and feeling of relief he, and certainly a lot of the membership, felt about electing an ex-military and ‘family man’, especially a man who was backed by Nigel Farage.
Of course, as we all know, this was turned on its head when the revelations about Henry’s personal life became public, with most of the membership feeling very much betrayed by Mr Bolton. And this is what Bickley turns his attention to next, addressing the concerns of the members present and also to the wider membership. His comments and observations reflect a lot of what members felt and continue to do. Bickley raises important questions over the UKIP vetting procedures, in relation to Henry, and discusses how future leadership candidates should be put through a more rigorous vetting process to ensure ‘skeletons’ are not exposed later on. He raises a very good point about Henry’s incapacity to explore Jo Marney’s social media to protect himself, and the ‘lack of self-awareness’ is something that has astounded many members.
Bickley then moves on to discuss the financial situation of both Henry and UKIP. It became clear early on that Bolton was struggling to fund himself, and it was the NEC that forked out around £10,000 to keep Henry afloat. This is despite claims made by Henry that he had been given no money during his time as leader.
All the leadership candidates were told that the job was unpaid, and you would assume that all candidates would be financially secure enough to keep themselves going in the event that they won, and it is clear that Henry forced the NEC into a difficult position. Bickley discusses these realities very openly, and clears up much of the confusion and uncertainty surrounding Bolton’s finances.
Lastly, Bickley touches briefly on the Jane Collins libel case, stating that Jane was poorly advised, and that the party had a ‘moral obligation’ to help her out, and funded part of her libel case (£36,000 over 4 months), which she later lost. Due to this ‘help’, UKIP face a court case next week to clear up the libel case entirely.
The concerns of members have been ignored by the leadership, and many members are desperate for a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. The time, money and energy dedicated members have spent over the years fighting to keep UKIP’s cause alive cannot be wasted because of this scandal, and Henry Bolton must listen to and address the concerns and worries of the membership, or face losing them completely.
Overall, John Bickley’s speech was incredibly raw and honest, and reflected the feelings of many UKIP members. The NEC has its faults, and even its members will admit that, but I do believe its members have the best interests of our party at heart, and have fought incredibly hard to keep UKIP afloat whilst it tears itself apart.