Nigel Farage recently said in an interview that he wanted a party of free thinkers. For the last three years I believed that, up until November of 2012. I was elected chairman of Young Independence by 62% of the vote and the largest absolute majority in our organisations history, the NEC. The campaign was my first taste of what inside Ukip politics was like, with Ukip members sending out wide ranging emails attacking me.
The Young Independence council co-opted me in line with election results and our constitution. Things simmered until I appeared on the BBC World at One, where among many issues I was asked my opinion on Equal Marriage. I said then what I had said before and will say every time I am asked that question, I fully support equal marriage and believe it is one of the few good things this coalition has done.
The Party Constitution says that officials (like me) are allowed to disagree publicly with party policy so long as they make clear that it is their individual position - which I did - and they do not bring the party into disrepute - which I didn't.
Almost as soon as the show was broadcast the Party Chairman, Steve Crowther, emailed me telling me ‘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. I have no option but to take this further. I await your reply.’
The intensity and regularity of emails increased dramatically, all stemming from the initial one criticising me for supporting equal marriage. When I asked why Nigel could comment on drugs and prostitution I was told it was ‘in line with party policy.’ I happily tweeted about it only to be told I wasn’t allowed to, by Steve Crowther. Further action that followed was to remove me from my post in a unanimous vote. The email explaining the decision told me it was about policy issues.
Later, John Arnott, the Party Secretary, emailed me citing party rules and saying that I was persistently causing trouble.
I am sure I will find out what the official line from the party is. I am sure they won’t want me to come off looking good from it and them looking bad. I am a 21 year-old recent graduate who said what I had said many times before, something that I truly believe in. Before any of this had even broken I have received emails from UKIP NEC members calling me stupid and had comments on the private members forum attacking me for supporting equal marriage and have apparently now been called politically inept by my own party.
Ukip were the only party I believed in and trusted, I thought a party that campaigned for democracy and free speech would advocate something similar for its members, especially the youth wing. I feel let down and naive. I have always wanted to believe Ukip is the libertarian party it says it is, but with socially conservative candidates getting away with comments that many find abhorrent whilst libertarian members like myself get heavily attacked I can no longer convince myself it truly is. While Ukip is the only party fighting for true freedom and democracy on issues like the EU when it comes to Equal Marriage Ukip is on the wrong side of public opinion and the wrong side of history.