The voters were asked to return Arlene Foster as First Minister. They did. Now show you deserve their trust, Arlene.

14632963_883832005051958_4824356257944449324_nThe UK is lurching towards a constitutional crisis as more and more of the political elite join with their chums on the more disgraceful side of the legal profession to attempt to block the people’s verdict on Leaving the European Union .  The recent judgement on Parliament needing to approve the triggering of Article 50 has threatened to plunge the United Kingdom into anarchy. This is exacerbated by the apparent ignorance of how the law works by three senior judges.

But matters are made worse by a large section of the political establishment here in Northern Ireland, including, scandalously, many senior so-called “Unionists” who refuse to accept that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that the United Kingdom people have voted to leave the EU.  Of course, we have had the usual expensive stage managed court performances, where a lot of lawyers pocketed a lot of tax payers money, to fail to overturn the democratic will.  Now anti-democrat politicians are seeking to jump on the band wagon of the recent judgement in London to yet again strut their blocking stuff before the media.

Northern Ireland has found itself in the absolute centre of the struggle to enact the will of the UK people.  Those who wish ill to the future of Northern Ireland and hate everything to do with the United Kingdom are throwing everything they can think of in front of the march to BREXIT.  Their chief weapon is to throw up uncertainty over the future of the UK/Ireland land frontier which will become a UK/EU border in a short time.  This, they say, is unprecedented and insurmountable.  They, of course, ignore the Common Travel Area which was established between Guernsey, Jersey,  Ireland (then the Irish Free State), The Isle of Man and the United Kingdom in 1923 and has survived to this day despite 42 years of EEC/EU rule. Most of you will quickly have noticed that of those five states listed above three are not and never have been members of the European Union. Yet citizens of all five may freely move and trade without passports throughout the Common Travel Area.

What makes things worse is that our First Minister, Arlene Foster, the DUP Leader, claims to be firmly in favour of BREXIT. Indeed quite a few DUP members campaigned vigorously for a LEAVE vote last June.
But the DUP Assembly Party are now chained firmly into a mandatory coalition with Sinn Fein, the chief protagonists of UK Baiting and BREXIT blocking.

Last May’s Stormont Assembly elections saw the DUP having a sweeping victory which owed much of its success to the twin campaigns of “Help Arlene stay as First Minister” and “Don’t let Martin McGuinness[Sinn Fein] become First Minister.” It worked brilliantly and we in UKIP were unable to put up a good counter to it at the time. However, there was a fatal flaw in the reasoning behind this campaign. Because of the highly flawed and continuously tinkered with “Good” Friday Agreement of 1998 the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in the mandatory coalition are in reality Joint First Ministers.

Sinn Fein are much better at playing the Mandatory Coalition Game than the rather naive DUP Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive. So, in effect, First Minister Arlene Foster, has to metaphorically carry the Deputy First Minister around on her shoulders at all times and, in the interests of the Executive and thus the Assembly not collapsing, must tow this great handicap with her in all BREXIT negotiations.

The time has come for our First Minister to decide which is the lesser of two evils. Does she jeopardise the whole future of the United Kingdom as a free country by allowing Martin McGuinness to drag anchor against the will of the British people or does she risk Sinn Fein collapsing the Assembly and Devolved Government in Northern Ireland.

I know which I’d chose. But is it a risk at all. I consider Sinn Fein to be too entrenched in the Assembly Gravy Train to want to jeopardise their cosy power base. But nevertheless they must be called out on it.

SO, COME ON ARLENE. CALL THEIR BLUFF. TELL SINN FEIN IT’S BREXIT OR EXIT.

I suggest that at the the earliest opportunity our First Minister summons her Deputy and says, “OK, Martin, you decide. Are you going to toe the line and recognise that ALL of the UK is on its way out of the EU? Because, if not, Martin, the DUP will walk away and this cosy little Executive arrangement will be over.

Prove you are a true Unionist, Arlene. Prove you are for the United Kingdom and not just for power in a glorified county council.

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UKIP NEC: Reform: Renew; Re-Energise.

14632963_883832005051958_4824356257944449324_nWhy am I standing for election to the UKIP’s NEC (National Executive Committee)? It’s a question I sometimes ask myself.

I have been a member of UKIP for 10 years and over that time I have noticed gradual but steady changes in the way the party operates. The UKIP I joined was still, on the surface at least, a libertarian party fiercely defending the principles of free speech. What slowly became apparent to me was there was reluctance on the part of party professionals to encourage those principles within the party membership and structures.

This was at a time when social media was becoming a major weapon in the hands of any political or campaigning group which recognised its potential and UKIP members quickly seized on this means to put their message across to much wider groups than could ever have been contemplated before. The use of social media was never a substitute for the tried and tested methods of contesting elections, especially door to door canvassing, but it was an extremely powerful means by which UKIP could expand its reach to ever more potential members and voters.

Sometime later an official Party Forum was set up on line as a place where only members could discuss issues of the day and, especially, argue out UKIP policy in a relatively secure electronic environment. This Forum did not last long. A comment made on it by a party member got picked up by the press and media and became a brief anti-UKIP story. What was done about this? Instead of dealing with one or two individuals the whole of the Forum was taken down and a valuable channel for membership input was removed.

This was partly due the paranoia that some senior party officers seemed to hold about members getting off the leash and causing the establishment press and media to say unpleasant things about UKIP.  It also marked the beginning of a new culture within sections of the party to isolate the rank and file membership of UKIP from the daily activities of the party.

The party officers responsible seemed not to realise that most of the publicity they were trying to avoid, while it might not have gone down well in establishment political circles, was just the thing that UKIP needed to raise its profile among voters and show hard working people, who felt abandoned by our political system, that there was a party which shared their concerns. The closing down of the Forum was a precursor to an unprecedented attack on the use of social media by members. Homily after homily was issued by our wise elders on how much damage free ranging use of social media would do to the party.

I think the worst example I witnessed of this attitude was in a speech made by a high profile new member of the party (soon to be elected an MEP) at the 2014 Spring Conference in Torquay. Party members present were told (I am quoting these figures from memory) that the Party Leader was responsible for 90% of UKIP’s support, the Deputy Leader for 5% and the ordinary members only about 5% if they behaved themselves. I don’t intend to belittle the fantastic invaluable contribution that both those two people were and have been making to the party and the country. I firmly believe that were it not for Nigel and Paul working with the whole membership of UKIP the UK would by now have been consolidated in its colony status within the European Union. However, back in 2014, the speaker went on to castigate the members about the potential liability they could probably be and how they could destroy the party by their free speech I became seriously concerned.

Party officers’ attacks on the use of social media use by members have since continued unabated and increasingly draconian directives on how to behave has been issued to members in general. Indeed, at the September 2016 Bournemouth Conference, in spite of the election of a new Leader who was very much in favour of maximising the benefits of social media use by members, the perceived disadvantages were still trumpeted from the platform.

Thankfully, during the 2014, 2015 and 2016 elections and during the EU Referendum Campaign most members and candidates ignored the supposed party line on social media. But we need the whole party to be moving forward like this and not have permanent braking from the professional party, an increasingly opaque NEC (of which more below) and, I regret, some of our MEPs.
Getting back to the closing down of the Members’ Forum; one of the regular features was the publication of the minutes of the monthly NEC meetings. I can’t remember but they were probably published one month behind after the NEC representatives had approved them at the next meeting. This gave members an insight into the work being done by the people they had elected to NEC. Once the Forum was closed those minutes were no longer available to members.

Things have gone downhill since then. Party members elect representatives to the NEC on a rotating annual basis. These representatives are now apparently prevented, by what mechanism I don’t know, from revealing what goes on inside Fortress NEC. Further, UKIP members are not allowed to know who, on the NEC, voted for or against any motion or rule change. In fact ever decreasing amounts of information seem to leak through to members these days. Those bits and pieces of information that do get handed down are often in the form of prohibitions.

Recent high profile events have been accompanied by email leaks and counter email leaks from the NEC or, more recently, statements, counter statements and “there was nobody there” statements from MEPs.

This, of course, opens the whole operation of the party to rumour and counter rumour and gives free reign to damaging feuds provoked by those who want to see the party become a hierarchical centre party, keeping its members well “on-message” and fitting well into the Westminster Political Bubble. This is no way to run a radical libertarian party which so many hard working voters look to as defenders of their legitimate interests.

So it is time for major, radical REFORM of the internal structures of our party:

The NEC must return to being proper representation for members’ views and input.

The Party Chairman, answerable to the Party Leader, presently chairs the NEC. This promotes an immediate conflict of interests and, more importantly, puts a barrier between the NEC and the Leadership.

It is essential that the NEC elects, on an annual basis, its own chairman from those elected to it by the membership.
The party’s professional officers tend to act as a filter between the NEC and the Party Leader and it is natural that they feel the need to present the NEC’s findings to the Leader is a smoothed out form. This reduces the effectiveness of the NEC and its rôle as a bridge between Leader and members.

It is vital that the NEC should report directly to the Leader and Deputy Leader, if the latter post still exists, without having its deliberations filtered by a Party Chairman.

It is indefensible that NEC representatives are gagged from communicating with the members who elect them. The minutes of the monthly meetings of the NEC must be made available to members as soon as they have been agreed by the following meeting.

It must be made easier for members to replace an under-performing NEC. With only a third of elected posts on the Committee being contested each year change cannot be made at all rapidly. However, some continuity is desirable.

I propose that elections to the NEC are for 2 years rather than 3 as at present. This would require half of the members to step down every year and make the Committee less cut off from members’ concerns.

I do not wish the National Executive Committee to be reduced to a Regional squabble box.

Therefore, I wish to see the preservation of the present arrangement where NEC representatives are elected by the National rather than regional membership.

Regional interests should be represented on the Regional Organisers’ and Regional Chairmen’s meetings (RORC). These meetings should be the arena where regional squabbling (not necessarily an unhealthy activity) should take place. The remit of these latter meetings should be strengthened if necessary. There should be close (meaning direct) liaison between the NEC and RORC with their signed off minutes being mutually shared.
The rôles played by the NEC and the professional officers of the party in matters such as discipline, candidate selection, electoral rankings and vetting procedures need urgent review. I am not going to make suggestions now as I need to study the workings of the committee as an elected member (if members decide to elect me) before forming a final opinion.

Finally, as a party that presses for proportional representation in local and national elections it is unfortunate that our internal elections are still conducted by the old fashioned “first past the post system.” A member may want to vote for a promising new candidate but may be concerned that by doing so she could allow a candidate whose views she holds unsuitable to overtake a safer candidate. This can result in bland not very innovative candidates being elected at the expense of innovative risk takers.

I am therefore floating the idea that all internal elections which have the whole of the National membership as electors should be conducted by single transferable vote(STV).

Under STV it is easier to support new candidates with a fall back to other choices if your first preference fails to make it. STV is much closer to true proportional representation than the alternative vote system used in many devolved elections in Great Britain. STV maintains the constituency link. STV allows the voter to vote for the person rather than the party. I’ve fought elections under the STV system and, apart from very long counts (let the party officers earn their money), it’s a simple efficient way to vote.

So I, Alan Love, am asking for your vote in the 2016 UKIP NEC Elections. I and candidates such as Ryan Waters, Victoria Ayling, Anish Patel and Michael McGough will be seeking to bring radical reform to the internal structures of our party and help bring our membership back into the heart of decision making in our party.

Reform, Renew and Re-energise

Let’s take our UKIP back!

The Northern Ireland Peace Process is History: Time to Move on.

Members of Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly (MLAs) return from their Summer holidays tomorrow. The Assembly still has a relatively new makeup following last May’s elections. However, on paper, the Executive makeup is apparently very different from before – or is it?

There have been a few minor changes in party strengths since the 2011-6 Assembly but the overall party position is little changed. It is the makeup of the Executive which is substantially changed.

In the previous Assembly the Executive was made up of a 5 Party Cosy Coalition under the rules which make mandatory coalition compulsory. Collective responsibility is not required. Democratic Unionists (DUP), Sinn Fein (SF), Ulster Unionists(UUP), Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) all supplied ministers to the Executive. The UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Green Party and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), all with a single MLA each, and an Independent MLA formed the nearest thing to an opposition – 4 out of 108 MLA’s.

During the 2011-6 period a few upsets, mostly involving the UUP, caused a bit of variation. Two UUP MLA’s jumped ship to form their own party (NI21) about half way through the 5 year term. The latter party split spectacularly two days before the 2014 Council and European Parliament elections with its 2 MLAs remaining as Independents. Late on in the life of the Assembly the UUP withdrew its Minister from the Executive but this had little effect on the Cosy Coalition which continued in a state of cross-community stasis arguing among each other over welfare reform and the state of paramilitary ceasefires. The inability of the Assembly to pass any controversial legislation remained unchanged.

So what has changed since the election? Well we still have a mandatory coalition (supposed to produce power sharing between Unionists and Nationalist/Republicans). Now, though, the Executive is made up DUP(38 seats), SF(28 seats) and a single Independent. The latter was appointed to get over the fact that neither DUP or SF were prepared to trust their Executive partners with the Justice Portfolio. So, in theory, 67 MLAs back the Government.

Meanwhile, with some provision for an ineffective opposition having been agreed between the parties last Christmas, UUP(16 seats) and SDLP(12 seats) went into opposition. Their parties have a total of 28 MLAs between them.

Finally an assortment of 8 APNI, 2 Greens, 2 People before Profit (PBP new to the Assembly), and one TUV make up a group not joining either the Executive or Opposition. That is all well and good with a veneer of normal politics possibly appearing.

However, let’s look at the other way of dividing up the Assembly Members. All Assembly Members are required to register a “Designation” when they are elected. They can change this later if they want. The Designation is important because it affects the outcome of some types of votes in the Assembly and, in theory, control of the Mandatory Coalition. MLAs can register as “Unionist,” “Nationalist” or “Other.” The First Minister is drawn, in the first instance, from the largest Party of the Largest Designation. The Deputy First Minister (in reality more of a Joint First Minister) is chosen from the Largest Party of the Second Largest Designation.

The more sinister importance of the Designation is when 30 or more members of the Assembly put down what is known as a “Petition of Concern” in advance of a particular motion. When this happens the relevant motion can only be passed if voted for by majorities of both the Unionist and Nationalist Designations. This particular regulation was originally intended to protect minorities but, in one of the more spectacular ironies of Northern Ireland politics, was last used towards the end of the 2011-6 Assembly to quash legislation for the introduction of same sex marriage which had actually achieved a majority had the vote had been straightforward.

In the new Assembly the Designations cut right across the Executive/Opposition divide. At present there are 56 MLAs registered as “Unionist,” 40 MLAs registered as “Nationalist” and 12 registered as “Other.”
The 56 “Unionists” consist of 38 DUP and 1 Independent from the Executive Parties, 16 UUP from the Official Opposition Parties and 1 TUV from outside both those groupings.

The 40 “Nationalists” consist of 28 SF from the Executive Parties and 12 SDLP from the Official Opposition.

The 12 “Others” consist of 8 APNI, 2 Greens and 2 PBP all from outside the Executive and Opposition groupings.

Please try to keep up – I’ll ask questions later.

In short, the Designations, which influence the weighted voting of Petition of Concern motions, no longer have any relevance to the Executive/Opposition set up. What are they for? Why do the larger parties not want to put their abolition up for negotiation?

The essentially sectarian nature of the Designations and Petitions of Concern dates back to 1998 when what was known as the “Peace Process” was in full swing and the main argument used against their abolition is still that that process would be damaged. However, the undoubted real reason for the larger parties, particularly DUP and SF, wanting to preserve the undemocratic system is that they are becoming increasingly comfortable and entrenched. While those two parties usually remain at loggerheads on most issues, they will now do anything to avoid losing what they suppose to be power in our Devolved Government. That is why nothing important ever gets done by Stormont.

What the rest of us have woken up to is that The Peace Process is OVER. The Executive and Opposition now cut right across the Sectarian divide. We are no longer operating our democracy while staring down the barrels of Republican and Loyalist Paramilitary guns. There is no more need for Designations, Petitions of Concern nor Mandatory Coalitions.

The Cosy Coalition and most of the Cosy Opposition at Stormont don’t want to listen to the alarm clock. It is up to us in the real world outside the gates of Stormont to ensure that the 2021-6 Assembly consists of radical reformers who will tear the whole unworkable structure down and build proper democratically accountable devolved government in its place. This can be achieved by the ordinary hard working citizens of Northern Ireland. My party, UKIP, stands ready to support them.

Alan Love
11/09/2016