UKIP continue lurching from cock-up to disaster as the latest leader, Dick Braine, has sent a statement to party members saying he will be boycotting his own party conference this year. At least the captain of the Titanic had the decency to go down with his sinking ship…
Some members are speculating the conference may not go ahead at all due to depressingly low ticket sales. According to one activist, the party hired a 700-seat venue but have struggled to sell more than 100 tickets and “stand to lose a fortune”, and it is only because of the party’s chairman’s insistence that the event is still going ahead.
Many party members are also deliberately boycotting the conference over the NEC’s refusal to accept Gerard Batten’s appointment as deputy leader – including Batten himself. Today’s UKIP would struggle to organise a piss-up in a spoons.
UPDATE: Read Braine’s email to party members here:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
on the 2nd of August the Chairman was informed by the Treasurer that we were facing a very low turn-out for conference.
I raised this issue at my first NEC meeting on the 17th of August and proposed an alternative conference in the North East or other region in November. The Chairman told the board that 170 tickets had been sold and reassured us that we could expect to reach 700 to 800 delegates. Head office confirmed that in fact only 113 two-day tickets had been sold. It is my view that the Chairman’s too optimistic reports of ticket sales has misinformed the board’s decisions.
I raised the issue of the low attendance again at the NEC meeting of the 7th September. Again the number of attenders was misrepresented, and again we were assured that all would be well. In particular we were led to believe that ten ten-packs of tickets had been sold to branches, but this is not reflected in the numbers provided by head office. Again, I think the board was not given accurate information in order to consider the urgency of the situation and to consider my advice to postpone conference and hold it in a smaller venue.
As of today the number of tickets sold is 201 for Friday and 219 for Saturday, and I have made clear to the Chairman and NEC that I would not attend unless something drastic was done to increase ticket sales, namely returning Gerard Batten to good standing to heal the rift with the many members who are boycotting conference for that reason, and installing one of the two candidates I have put forward to be Chairman.
At the NEC meeting of the 7th of September it was clear that many NEC members hoped Gerard Batten would speak, despite the fact that he is still held not to be in good standing by the NEC.
The conference venue contract entered into by the Chairman apparently contains no indemnity or release. But spent money does not justify further mistakes.
My advice was that a refund be given to those who have bought tickets, and limited cover to those with non-refundable hotel bookings. With so few tickets sold this may even have cost less than the various extras to be incurred by going ahead with a barely attended conference.
That advice has been rejected and I think this matter has been mishandled by the Chairman and the NEC. It is the Chairman’s conference, planned before I became Leader and continued against my advice. The failure to face up to the reality of a level of attendance which would damage the Party, and the failure to opt for the obvious solution, means that it will be conducted without my presence if it goes ahead.