UKIP’s oft-burnished reputation as a democratic grassroots party is set to take a battering with its own members — after the party’s top committee intervened to install one of their own number as the candidate for their #2 target seat.
With polling from Survation giving the party a massive 20-point lead, 22 year-old councillor and National Executive Committee (NEC) member Robin Hunter-Clarke is set to become the youngest MP in more than 30 years if he prevails in the Lincolnshire seat of Boston and Skegness, which is second only to Clacton in its demographic receptiveness to UKIP.
But emails leaked to Scrapbook lay bare a conspiracy amongst party top brass to install Hunter-Clarke as candidate. The day before the selection hustings was to take place, shortlisted candidates received a message from a local party official notifying them of “an anomalous situation”:
“I greatly regret that this situation has arisen and I hope that you will appreciate that it has done so solely as a result of the intervention of the NEC.
Apparently they’d decided to unilaterally install Hunter-Clarke on the shortlist, with corrupt former Tory minister Neil Hamilton withdrawing his name:
“The shortlist was duly drawn up and was submitted to the NEC. Unusually, they made adjustments to the list and one name was withdrawn and was replaced by another.
And it gets even more stinky. It turns out that Hunter-Clarke was not only on the NEC, which nobbled proceedings in his favour, but also the local committee which drew up the original shortlist in August — meaning he had seen his opponents’ CVs and had the inside track on their strengths and weaknesses.
The local party proposed sharing CVs amongst the other hopefuls — but UKIP’s head of candidates David Soutter didn’t respond until, errrr, the day before the selection meeting:
“Clearly, this was an undesirable situation and the only remedy seemed to be for all of you to have sight of each others’ CVs in order to create a level playing field.
“I wrote to [David Soutter] setting out the situation and suggesting the above remedy. That was 2½ weeks ago and I have just today received Mr. Soutter’s agreement as to this proposed course of action.
Hilariously, Soutter then refused to tell locals which candidate had prevailed at the meeting until a week later:
We’re currently awaiting a statement from ‘Kipper HQ, who insist the whole process has been above board.
UPDATE: UKIP statement: “Steps were taken to ensure that the selection in Boston and Skegness was a fair and balanced one. Robin Hunter-Clarke was selected by to fight the seat by an overriding and overwhelming vote by the Branch.”