MIKE HOOKEM MEP: Without Communication – “My Time As UKIP Assistant Deputy Leader”
My tenure as Assistant Deputy Leader of UKIP under Henry Bolton can be summed up in just a few words – a total lack of communication!
We are not talking about just a few missed phone calls here, although, there were plenty of those. Instead, I am talking about abject inability to listen to what was said; act upon information; comprehend advice, or delegate critical tasks to the appropriate people.
While UKIP today stands paralysed by Mr Bolton’s refusal to resign, in my opinion, the rot had already set in before newspaper revelations regarding his personal life emerged in January.
It was with great expectation that I supported and cheered Mr Bolton’s ascension to the UKIP leadership in September last year. On paper, it seemed that Henry had the qualifications and experience to move UKIP forward into the post-Brexit age.
It seems I was wrong!
While I was honoured to be appointed as one of two assistant deputy leaders of our great party, it soon became apparent that teamwork was not high on Mr Bolton’s agenda.
On taking up my post, the immediate concern of the ‘deputies’ was to prepare the party for the local elections in May. Earlier in 2017, UKIP had suffered a devastating local election campaign that resulted in a heavy loss of hard-won seats.
My colleagues and I were determined there would be no repeat in 2018. However, on finally communicating our concerns and action plans to Mr Bolton, we were reassured that preparations were already in hand and that a plan was “being devised.”
To my knowledge, UKIP still has no plan to aid candidates, nor a manifesto for the upcoming local elections this May.
This is a situation I find abhorrent, as, despite our recent woes, we have campaigners and candidates now taking the brunt of the blame for Mr Bolton’s actions and failures on doorsteps around the country.
But lack of planning was not the only issue. Time and again, on a wide variety of issues, I would call to speak directly to Mr Bolton, only to be greeted with an answerphone greeting. Leaving a message proved fruitless, as did text messages and emails; the vast majority of which remain unanswered to this day.
I think the only text that garnered a quick response during my time in the post was that declaring my intention to make public my resignation as assistant deputy leader.
The fact is, very early in his leadership, Mr Bolton had become an enigma within his party.
On the few occasions, the phone was actually answered, Mr Bolton was invariably “on a train.”.
As the phone line constantly cut in and out, it was like discussing politics and the critical state of UKIP with Norman Collier; a stand-up comedian speaking only partial words in any given sentence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQjmqfZX9CA).
It was suggested to Mr Bolton that rather than run around the country in person, he instead appeared at branches and events via a two-way video link; allowing him to focus on his other duties as leader. However, this suggestion – which would have also saved the party a great deal of money – was quickly rebuffed.
It soon became apparent to me that Mr Bolton would not listen to professional advice and seemed determined to continue his run of what can only be described as “car-crash’ media appearances. Therefore, missed opportunities for comment on critical political events quickly became the norm; with the leader’s role shifting away from promoting the views of UKIP and its members, to one of micro-management over all aspects of the party.
Less than a month into Mr Bolton’s leadership, it was evident that things needed to change; with many members criticising his non-existent media presence (30 interviews in 5 months, many on Russia Today and other niche platforms); and his lack of communication with the wider party membership.
One person, I have worked closely with even branded Mr Bolton with the nickname, “MIA” (missing in action).
Therefore, it will come as no surprise that communication was high on the agenda for many of the spokespeople attending UKIP’s first and only ‘cabinet meeting’ that took place in London in November.
This meeting was itself like being trapped in an Ealing Comedy. Dogged once again by a lack of communication over the arrangements, attendees were left to set up a room too small for all the attendees on their arrival; before being lectured at length by Mr Bolton about his plans for the party.
Meetings are usually a two-way discussion, but this one was one-way traffic. Mr Bolton was in talk mode, and there were few opportunities for debate and discussion, leading to a meeting of little practical value.
While many of the plans put forward at the meeting by Mr Bolton had merit if properly funded and implemented; time and experience have proved much of what was said was nothing more than ‘talk.’
The fact is, Mr Bolton can talk the talk but does not back his words with actions.
I can’t count now how many times Mr Bolton has been “about to launch” his much-hyped new communications platform. This entails a revamped UKIP website and reform to the email system which many members do not currently receive.
But surprise, surprise, we are all still waiting for UKIP’s digital media revolution, and I am not going to hold my breath for it coming anytime soon.
The fact is, without communication between the leadership, the membership and our core voters, our party is nothing!
Had Mr Bolton been a more forceful and accessible presence to the membership prior to the January revelations, I believe he would have found a more forgiving attitude. However, as a leader more focused on management tasks than keeping core members on-board, he always faced an uphill task upon coming to mainstream media grief.
But what of the future I hear you say?
For a political organisation that only two years ago, was biting at the heels of the establishment parties, we have fallen a long way. In the process, we have let down our members, our donors and our four million voters.
To rise once again as a potent political force; UKIP must rebuild its self-confidence; strive for its objectives with focus, and once again become the voice of real change.
Rather than expending our energies on the infighting that has caricatured the last two years; we should instead be taking the fight for a true Brexit, to the doorstep of those who seek to undermine our democracy.
Instead of jockeying for personal aggrandisement, we should be extolling the virtues of what we, as a unified political party, can achieve as a team.
And rather than briefing against each other, we should be offering our message of hope to the millions of people in this country, who feel disenfranchised by the Westminster political elite.
However, none of this can happen under our critically wounded leader.
That is why I am supporting the quick removal of Mr Bolton at the forthcoming EGM and for a strong, interim leader in the form of Gerard Batten MEP to be put in his place.
Gerard last week launched his 12-point action plan to revive UKIP’s fortunes and put our party at the front of the Brexit fight. This party needs the purpose and unity that Gerard’s plan offers, and I think under his guidance, UKIP can grow once more into the political force it always threated to be.
Gerard Batten – “A Vision for UKIP”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh4ZQt_TBWg