PARTY REFORM: Suggestions For Constitutional Reform
It is fair to surmise that the original framers of the Constitution simply never contemplated that a situation which UKIP faced this last month would arise: that a Leader who suffered a unanimous VONC would even wish to continue in office.
If they thought about it at all they may have imagined a split NEC with only a bare majority voting to remove the Leader ~ such a situation would certainly have been more of a justification for a final decision from the whole membership ( though even then one would have thought this should take place via postal/electronic voting, but leave that to one side for the sake of argument ).
There are doubtless other provisions of the Constitution which, should the situations envisaged arise, would be found to be similarly ill thought through, leading to infelicities and expense at best and possible catastrophic outcomes at worst.
So how can the existing Constitution be changed for the better?
Bearing in mind that the existing provisions require a 2/3 majority to be amended, my approach would be not to attempt to go through the Constitution in minute detail and listing a dozen ( or more ) specific provisions which need to be abolished or amended : I suspect that to do this would lead to paralysis, because some at least of the provisions listed would not achieve the 2/3 majority the Constitution requires ~ yet they might well achieve a majority of just under that very high threshold ~ thus we would have UKIP labouring under a Constitution virtually written in stone ~ allowing the Constitution to become a millstone around UKIP’s neck, rather than a servant of the membership and duly elected officers.
My SOLUTION ( which of course itself would need to be passed by a 2/3 majority ) would be that there be an Amendment ( call it ‘The First Amendment’ if you like ! ) whereby :
‘The National Executive Committee of UKIP shall have the power to amend, delete or add to the provisions of the Constitution by Resolution attracting the votes in support of two-thirds of the elected Members of the NEC.
Unless the NEC determines ( by a 2/3 majority ) that there is a clear Urgency requiring an immediate Amendment to the Constitution, the proposed Amendment shall be notified to the membership of the Party at least ten days prior to the proposed Amendment’s being voted on, with a view to allowing the membership to express their view on the proposed Amendment to Party Head Office / NEC members ‘.
If it is considered that this gives too much power to the NEC there could be an additional provision allowing for the general membership to reverse the Amendment/s passed by the NEC at the next Annual Conference of the Party. ( So the Amendment/s would remain in force unless and until reversed by negative resolution at the upcoming AGM ).
I am aware, of course, that some will object that the method of election to the NEC; the mechanisms by which the NEC is composed ~are themselves in need of reform to make the NEC more representative.
My own view is that ( though as will be seen I do support some modification to the modes of election to the NEC ) the NEC members are much ( and unjustly ) maligned, by some at least, who ought to know better.
Like all human beings, and bodies composed of human beings, they are doubtless capable of error ( though I do not think to bring sandwiches to Meetings with a view to economising on their own or the Party’s expenses amounts to an example of such error ) but I certainly consider that the NEC system has worked impeccably in the matter of the removal of a person from the Leadership. We now know that the NEC’s recent VONC was at least in part driven by their having listened to the opinions of members who contacted them. So it should be.
The main reform of the mode of election to the NEC which I would like to see is one which actually does not even need Constitutional Reform : it would be to ensure that all candidates for NEC election are provided with sufficient space to set out their career and UKIP experience, and other matters or ideas which they believe to be reasons to solicit the membership’s votes.
The present 150 words limit is utterly insufficient for that purpose. It may well be that financial constraints preclude allowing all the many candidates to have a two x A4 pages spread in a postal mailing, but if this be the case, then at least all candidates could be provided with an equal online platform, and for the paper publication with candidates’ CVs to ensure that the web address of the candidates’ Manifesto is published.
I hope that the above, or something very like it, receives substantial support on this Forum, as I fear that anything more complicated will not achieve the necessary qualified majority the current Constitution requires, leaving said Constitution as a millstone around the Party’s neck, rather than what it should be: an enabling mechanism for the Party to conduct itself fairly and democratically, and in response to changing circumstances and situations arising which cannot always be predicted.