St Albans Leadership Hustings Report

AN excellent leadership husting was held by the St Albans Branch at the Golden Lion Pub in London Colney and was well attended with 8 (see later) of the contenders taking part.

Unfortunately, 3 of them couldn’t, for one reason or another, make the event which denied those present the opportunity to really get a comparative measure, and those there were significant with over 80 attendee’s.

Each of the candidates had a 3 minute window to outline their position and how they saw the role of leader should they be elected, and this as followed by an open question session from the floor and a 1 minute summary from each.

The three who didn’t come were, Peter Whittle, John Rees-Evans and David Coburn.

So the 8 remaining were:

  • David Allen
  • Henry Bolton
  • Jane Collins
  •  David Kurten
  • Marion Mason
  • Aidan Powlesland
  • Ben Walker
  •  Anne Marie Waters

I will state here that, at the last leadership election I voted for John Rees Evans….

Now, I was looking for a number of things at this hustings, and it was a real shame that not all were there. I wanted to see how they came across and the perception I got before they even spoke, from my background in events and corporate communications, I know that often, a persons decision or preconception about what somebody is, is developed before they even speak, therefore the appearance, how they dress and how they present themselves is I believe of vital importance.

Secondly is how they commence their presentation, are they confident, do they have ‘presence’, how well do they speak, and here it was actually helpful that the venue didn’t have a functioning PA system, as it made the candidates work hard, could they actually speak to that audience confidently without the PA system?

Thirdly, what were they saying, did they have the background, the strengths to actually lead, how did they come across, did their ideas hold water and were they appropriate to the position of leader of the party, and, importantly could they actually lead, did they seem to have the strength of character and the leadership skills to take UKIP with them, and most importantly connect with the public in a way that would bring UKIP success in the near future.

Now here an interesting comment from one of the candidates, that they had not come to give their CV as it wasn’t a job interview…… Well, I’m sorry, but that is exactly what it was, and knowing the background and the strengths of the candidates could be vital when making your decision.

So what was my impression?

Well one of the 8, David Allen, dropped out of the race by declaring his backing for another candidate in his opening speech and then explained why he would be backing the other candidate. Not really fair as it gave that candidate 6 minutes promotion rather than 3, but David was then quite fairly I believe, asked to leave the stage and join the audience for the rest of the evening.

Of the others:

(This is my notes on the night mildly expanded, and it is my personal view, I will not edit it..)

Aidan Powlesland

Aidan failed to impress in any way and I could not see him being the leader, he had little presence, and was very meandering in his speech and his answers to questions. I would not consider him a potential leader. Did not have a commanding presence nor did he look the part.

Marion Mason 

Had some good ideas, but again, although she spoke reasonably well, she had little presence on stage and would not be a good communicator in the media. Came across as a very nice person, but not a potential leader. Again, this was effectively an interview and did not look like a leader and I would have expected a little more effort at self presentation.

Jane Collins     

As an MEP one would expect Jane to be comfortable speaking and so it proved, spoke well, looked reasonable, but failed to be commanding on stage. It was also evident that she didn’t want to rock the boat too much which I think many in the room would expect some move to change the culture of the Party.

David Kurten    

Again, as a regular speaker on the London assembly, one would expect David to be comfortable speaking and he was, he looked well turned out though casual and he was comfortable speaking and answering questions. He didn’t however have much presence on stage and didn’t give me a leadership feel to him. Again, he’s a little soft on change in the party.

Anne Marie Waters   

Started off nervously but picked up as she went through, Her body language though is very poor, and she does not have the stature on stage to be a commanding presence. She is very strong in her views, but a little hectoring in her replies, and her use of pointing fingers doesn’t go down well with many audiences. Again, does not have the gravitas or appearance to inspire confidence and that leadership quality is missing in her performance.

Ben Walker

Bit casual for this I felt, but cannot deny he had stage presence, speaks well and confidently and certainly was one of the top two in terms of performance, putting his point across and his communication skills, he’d also be pretty media friendly in his appearance. My only concern is his rather abrasive approach and speech, and I know that were not a bunch of snowflakes, but sometimes a difference in tone will get people onside and not antagonise them. His focus seemed to be on the party and it’s organisation, rather than on leadership of the party.

Henry Bolton

Henry I found very interesting. He was the only candidate that actually dressed appropriately to be viewed as a party leader! He came across as calm, in control, with a very very good understanding of what’s needed within UKIP. He spoke well and clearly, he can communicate well, and he also outlined his background which is impressive and should have equipped him well for leadership of an organisation. He answered all questions clearly, as did the majority of the candidates, but he also had a commanding presence on stage, and I’m sure his military background helped here

My view on the result of this hustings:

Based on this and having looked at the other candidates, the candidates I would have considered were:

John Rees Evans

Henry Bolton

Peter Whittle

Ben Walker

Ben Walker is a little too raw to be leader this time around, but a little more experience and I would see him being an excellent leader. However, if we, as a party membership want reform of the party structure, I would consider that he would probably make an excellent chairman where his desire to reform and professionalise UKIP could be put to good use.

John Rees Evans impressed last time, and again he is putting up a good campaign. However, his is a little accident prone in the media which at present we can ill afford. His use of a hand held device for prompting on his speeches can be distracting and detracts from his performance and the message he puts across. He needs to be involved at a reasonably senior level and his ideas on direct democracy deserve serious investigation. Again, one for the future.

Peter Whittle has been good on the London Assembly, and his speaking is improving, however, he again lacks that presence and drive to be a good leader, he is also I think too close to the current leadership and management of the party which, if we want change is not a good place to be.

Of the four I would suggest that again Henry is the best candidate, he has the right credentials, he dresses appropriately and has the presence that would create the instant perception of a leader that is so important. He has been trained in leadership skills, and it shows. He is also very considered in his speech and is, I think less likely than some to others to say something embarrassing.

I stress again that this is my view, and I know many of you will disagree, but I have looked at this purely based on the hustings and recent events and my view of what we need as a leader in UKIP. All have their own view on the future of UKIP, most want some form of change in the party, but it was not a policy event and this didn’t enter into the discussion. One comment though, we should not be looking for a Nigel Farage 2, there is not one of those around!

I won’t comment here on my views on other comments that have been made outside of recent weeks but obviously there are some things that could be said about what we need, or don’t need as a leader, and if the editor wishes I may comment on that later


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1 Response

  1. Andy says:

    Thank you. I found that useful as I had whittled (no favouritism intended!) it down to two candidates and it has helped clarify my choice.

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