Gareth Shanks has been removed from his position as treasurer-elect of YI because of his views, particularly on freedom for Palestine.
Speaking to me earlier (I do not claim to be anything other than a Shanks partisan) Gareth said: “UKIP can simply no longer claim to be the party of free speech and democracy. Young Independence is a joke now and it will damage us long term.” He thinks, and I agree, that the way Ukip seems to conspire with YI officer to ‘deal with’ fellow members (as seen in the disgraceful e-mails between Sean Howlett and NEC goon Neil Hamilton) is self-defeating, and only serves to create animosity between people who are supposed to be on the same “team”.
Whatever his views, and even if he has been an ‘embarrassment to the party’, as he has recently been described, he does not deserve a blanket ban on his freedom to speak and run for office in a party which claims to be tolerant. The cabal of Farage flunkies which now infest the over-powerful National Executive Committee demonstrate a pernicious influence which Nigel seems to invest his friends with.
This is rank hypocrisy when Ukip tolerates members, such as Douglas Denny, who compare gay relationships to a “crime against humanity”. This is repeated with other party figures, like the charismatic, but homophobic, Winston McKenzie. It shows Ukip’s social conservatism and fundamental dishonesty. If its members are disciplined from speaking out, what incentive is there for the ‘freethinkers’ that Farage seems to yearn for to actually join the party? That the party is not just criticising errant members, but actually preventing them from holding office, is deeply shameful for anyone who claims to value free speech and thought.
I would be genuinely surprised if any Ukip members who consider themselves libertarians feel that this action is fully justified. Other party youth organisations are more open to dissent, and the authoritarian structure (ingrained with the nepotism of Nigel’s pals) of Young Independence is a disgrace to the party.
What we need to continue is the freedom of speech, for all people, even if the opinions expressed are not congruent with our own. Even if you disagree with Gareth on Palestine, just as you may have not liked Olly Neville’s views on equal marriage, they deserve a right to speak freely. Dissent and disagreement should be encouraged. The hypocrisy which Ukip exhibits in these matters only diminishes trust in the party which supposedly endorses ‘straight talking’.