Nigel will not stand for the leadership
Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Nigel Farage made clear that he would not be standing for the party leadership this time. I am grateful to him for this clarification, which helps clear the air.
As someone who served him loyally and urged him to stand down at the peak of his success, I believe this is the right decision. The party must prove it is not just the Nigel Farage Club, and can grow and evolve as one of the country’s major political parties, with a new mission and sense of purpose.
Although Nigel is not a big fan of the party’s elected NEC, he was one of those responsible for putting the party’s governance in the hands of elected grassroots members in 2000, specifically to curb the power of an autocratic Leader.
I believe he did the right thing, and set a democratic tone for the party which is cherished by the membership today. For most of my six years chairing the committee, for all that it contained people with strong views and independent minds, it supported the Leader with remarkable consistency, while always seeking to keep the party true to itself.
We certainly had some difficulties, now well documented, when the MP that Nigel brought in, in such a brilliant coup de théâtre, turned out to be working to a different agenda to the rest of us.
Nigel makes a plea for more professional management, and indeed it is something we should strive for, but without compromising our independence. I believe in an administration function comprised of committed party members and overseen by the NEC and its officers. It may not always be as slick as we would like, but it is vastly preferable to an arms-length commercial operation, in my view.
Nigel is the éminence grise of our party, to whom we owe much of our success. When he says that the party must change or another vehicle will come along to replace it, we should heed his warning.
But we should also have the confidence to follow his example, and build our strength through our grassroots members, our democratic principles and a radical, popular mission, under a fresh new Leader.
Spokesman: some changes
As an interim Leader, I don’t think I should monkey around too much with the machinery, but as well as delivering the reforms previously pledged I did promise to make some changes and fill some gaps in our front-bench team.
I am pleased to say that delegation head Ray Finch MEP has agreed to speak on Foreign Affairs. This is a job that needs a senior and experienced operator inside the European Parliament, to monitor the ongoing negotiations.
I have asked Dr Julia Reid MEP to take on the important Health portfolio. Julia has spent most of her career in the health service. As a member of the European Parliament’s ENV Committee she has also been developing a strong Environmental policy group, and so for the time being she will keep that portfolio as well.
The Local Government spokesman will now be Cllr Tim Aker MEP, succeeding Cllr Peter Reeve.
Constitutional Affairs will now be overseen by Party Chairman Paul Oakden; and Jonathan Bullock, who will join the MEP delegation in August to replace the retiring Roger Helmer, will speak on Tourism.
I am delighted that Roger has agreed to keep the Energy portfolio for the time being, despite his retirement from the Parliament. He is a genuine expert on the subject.
Election expenses! Next Friday!
Don’t forget that if you stood in the General Election your election expenses return must be completed and handed to your Electoral Services department, with all supporting documents, not later than NEXT FRIDAY (July 14th).
[If you were one of the handful of seats that declared their result on the Thursday night, you only have until next Thursday, July 13th.]
Even if you spent nothing at all, failure to put in your return is a criminal offence. So please do it.