Arrogance & Self-Obsession: Henry Bolton’s Constitutional Proposals Epitomise His Top-Down Leadership of UKIP
On Sunday, Henry Bolton, the leader of UKIP, unveiled his plans to reform the UKIP constitution. Those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be at the event had to wait another few days to see the reforms but I’ve finally had a chance to have a quick read of them. And I really, really do not like what I see.
Before I indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of Mr Bolton’s proposals, I should point out that I am hardly a fan of the UKIP NEC. I am honoured to say that I was one of the many who stood in a delighted standing ovation after Steven Woolfe first announced his policy of scrapping & reforming the NEC in 2016, where we truly saw a great future for our party with the change it so desperately required.
After Mr Woolfe was blocked from standing, I was involved in lobbying the NEC and branches to reverse this decision and did what I could to push for an EGM to allow him to stand.
I suppose you could say that I was a firm Faragista, and I still absolutely believe that our NEC is not fit for purpose and needs very serious reform in a number of ways.
But the type of reform that I want to see is reform that places the hands in the power of the people; reform that gives the amazing grassroots of our fading party the real say in how we work. For there is nobody who better knows how to structure a party than those who already make up that structure and understand it inside out. There is nobody better to invent and discuss policy than those who knock on doors weekly and talk to the public about it. There is nobody better to manage election campaigns than those who have for so long fought hard to win elections at every level in their area under the proud UKIP banner.
There are countless ways of doing this – regional NEC representation, joint NEC tickets, increased policy consultation and an elected chairman are a few ideas that come to mind. Each have their merits and their flaws, which can be discussed and debated and hopefully, one day implemented.
However, this is not even remotely akin to the proposals that our leader has put forward. On the contrary, his proposals take powers away from the members and instead places them in the hands of the leader and his mostly appointed management board. This, as far as I am concerned, represents the anti-democratic ideas which the grassroots of our party have spent so long fighting against on so many levels.
While I shan’t dwell on the gruelling specifics (which you can read more about in the excellent piece by Steve Crowther here), I will give a few examples of what I am referring to. For instance, under the new constitution, Henry Bolton will be entitled to a salary from the party. However, the size of this salary will not be determined by an independent body but will instead be determined by the new “Party Management Board” (or is it the “Party Executive Board”? The terms are used interchangeably throughout the constitution) – a board which is almost entirely comprised of individuals appointed by the leader. In fact, the leader can, as they see fit, remove any member of this board. This, to me, appears to be a little suspicious.
Further, the only body which is actually elected by the members – the reformed NEC – has virtually no power whatsoever besides ensuring transparency from the leadership. While, of course, this transparency is very commendable, it is not unreasonable to ask that the elected body might be the most powerful one rather than one mostly appointed by a single, all-powerful individual who (at least with the example of Mr Bolton) was elected by a somewhat small minority of members.
Perhaps, however, the most concerning part of the constitution is that it declares no member may take any action which “is liable to undermine the cohesion and unity of the Party”. While in principle that sounds somewhat appealing, what it will really mean in practice is that any dissent from unfaltering public agreement with our leader will lead to expulsion or suspension from the party.
But I digress; I am writing today not of the ins and outs of Mr Bolton’s constitution but of how the ethos within it is a reflection of his leadership style.
Since the day Henry Bolton was declared UKIP leader, we have seen nothing more than arrogance, disinterest and exclusion directed at anybody whom the leader might possibly take issue with. He began his tenure by declaring that his victory stopped the party becoming the “UK Nazi Party” – aggravating the thousands of members who voted for Anne Marie Waters to set up a new party. He then decided to roll back on his pledge to appoint David Kurten as Deputy Leader, his pledge to appoint the elected YI Chairman as UKIP’s Youth Affairs Spokesman and changed many aspects of his plans with regards to funding branches.
This smacks of arrogance and a scary lack of willingness to stand by his word; two traits which epitomise the very attitude of the careerist establishment politicians whom we are seeking to fight.
Furthermore, when Henry Bolton first met the newly elected YI Chairman – Nathan Ryding – he was pressed on the young members’ fee increase, to which Mr Bolton simply said “Chin up!” and walked straight past Nathan. When the two met once more – in London last month – Henry again refused to negotiate over the fee increase and stood firmly against Nathan on a vast rift of issues which were brought up, leading to our party’s youth wing declaring a ‘crisis’.
When the vast majority of Mr Bolton’s shadow cabinet resigned, his attitude was not one of even slight remorse or concern but rather that of unfounded self-confidence and certainty that the party’s MEPs, local candidates, spokesmen, young members, NEC and even Deputy Leader were all totally wrong and indeed that he was utterly 100% right.
These are but a handful of very serious and disastrous failings from Henry that – even when the entire situation around Jo and his lack of direction are discounted – make him totally unfit to be anywhere near the leadership of a political party – not least one as important as UKIP is today.
It is for these reasons that I was not in the slightest bit surprised to find that Henry’s proposed constitutional reforms were nothing more than a display of arrogance and self-obsession in such a way as to grant himself supreme power over virtually all decisions within the party.
Even if these reforms are blocked or modified if Henry stays on, the very fact that our leader – of the party that should be the people’s army – would even contemplate such anti-democratic and bureaucratic proposals, let alone use them as a basis for his political survival shows a very grave level of incompetence that we cannot allow.
Tempting though reform may sound, Henry Bolton’s proposals are nothing more than a cheap power-grab in a last-ditch display of arrogance and self-obsession, the likes of which we as a party have fought for decades. If you – like me – want to see reform of our party then I urge you to vote against Mr Bolton and his frightening proposals and instead kick off a UKIP grassroots rebellion to set our party on a trend of people power and democratic reform.
There is a huge opportunity for our party tomorrow; we just have to recognise that we are big enough and we are bold enough to take it.
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