Late Tuesday night twitter was alive with the news that the chair of Youth Independence (UKIP’s youth wing, similar to Conservative Future or Labour Youth) had been removed from his post for his support of gay marriage among other comments that made him “at odds” with the party. While this is hardly global news and will change nothing in Britain’s political world, it is shocking to see how harshly young party members can be treated, something which I’m sure is not just a UKIP only thing, but is most defiantly evident here. This instance is just one of many that show how little room for error there is for aspiring young political activists in the world of political parties and how one mistake can essentially kill any dreams you had for a future.
In case this story is all new to you I will begin from the start. During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s The World at One last month, Olly Neville said that he was a supporter of Gay marriage, also saying in the same interview that if the party wanted to make a real difference, it would be “ in Westminster politics”. While I can understand the annoyance at the comment about difference being made in Westminster as UKIP currently have no MPs, I cannot understand the furore over his position on gay marriage and especially am puzzled by his removal. Immediately after the broadcast on the radio, Stephen Crowther, the Chairman of the UK Independence Party, sent a sternly worded email to Olly. The email reads: “…your stated position on Gay Marriage is quite simply completely at odds with the Party’s policy. Our policy on Gay Marriage is extremely important to us at this time. We have said specifically and repeatedly that we are opposed to the government’s proposals on this, and that the Prime Minister has got it spectacularly wrong. For you to say precisely the opposite, on national radio, as the representative of YI, is absolutely unacceptable, and risks seriously setting back the party’s current growth.”
As I have already said, I can see how Olly’s comments would cause some annoyance but this would clearly have not been intentional and could easily have been glossed over. At just 21, he should warrant some forgiveness as he has not made the comments out of malice but rather out of aspiration as the Party looks to gain parliamentary seats in the coming years. To punish him with expulsion has undeniably dented his own future in politics, although I have never met him, Conservative Future members I work with have all noted he is a genuinely nice person and something he does not deserve to have happened to him. Thankfully and a true testament to other YI members is that many of the other leading young members of UKIP have also resigned in support of Olly.
Olly’s own opinion on what has occurred can be found in this link.
And so I will leave you with the final message Olly was sent, a short and rather aggressive email that shows that youth is no longer linked with naivety, and that if you make a mistake or do something your superior disagrees with, you are finished.
This is to let you know that the NEC has resolved that you should not continue to act as interim chairman of YI, owing to the problems regarding party policy and public statements about which we have corresponded over the past week. The General Secretary will send you the specific resolution.
I suggest that your Vice Chairman take over the coordination of YI activities in the interim, while the rules for the election are finalised and approved by NEC. Perhaps you could ask the VC to make contact with me.