The NEC consists of grass roots party activists elected by all the members of the party from among themselves. Our role is to oversee the party hierarchy on behalf of the members. We are not “party elites”. We are volunteers, we do not get paid, we put in our own time which we frequently have to take away from our paid employment. Our goal is always to try and represent what is right and fair for our fellow members in accordance with the Party’s Constitution and Party Rulebook. There are NEC elections every year.
On Tuesday 2 August, a panel was convened to assess the eligibility of the candidates applying to be leader of the Party. It was clear that in the case of Steven Woolfe, the eligibility criteria had not been met because his application had not been received by the Returning Officer by 12 noon on 31 July.
The panel's findings were presented to the whole NEC. The NEC was supplied with legal advice which made it very clear that the rules of the election were that "complete applications MUST be received by 12 noon on 31 July" in order to be accepted. If the NEC made an exception for one person and accepted an application that did not comply with this requirement, such a decision would not stand up in court.
Any other candidate, or indeed any member entitled to vote, would have had the legal standing to sue if Steven Woolfe’s application had been accepted. If we lost such a challenge, the party would not only have had to pay its own legal costs, but also the other party's costs. That is money that the party can ill afford. Alongside this, the legitimacy of the whole leadership election would have been thrown into chaos.
A clear majority of the NEC voted to approve the panel's recommendations.
Although Steven Woolfe appears to have accepted the situation as a predictable risk of not lodging his paperwork earlier, others are attacking the NEC. They are led by the same people who have long wished to abolish the NEC for reasons wholly unrelated to Steven Woolfe's candidacy, but who have a hostility to UKIP’s internal democracy.
Things have gone too far. If you were to arrive late at an airport and missed your flight, would you vilify the airline, call for it to be disbanded, or post pictures of people wielding rifles on Facebook calling for the airline's management to be shot? That, in essence, is exactly what members of YI have done (the chairman and deputy chairman of which are on Steven Woolfe's payroll).
We have had no reason to treat Steven any differently than any other candidate - nor did we.
The NEC did not take Steven Woolfe off the ballot paper; Steven Woolfe took himself off the ballot paper.
Piers Wauchope, Adrianne Smyth and Toby Coke
Members of the UKIP National Executive Committee