The leader of Ukip’s youth organisation has been stripped of his post by the party leadership, after expressing his support for gay marriage on national radio.
Olly Neville, who was appointed as chairman of Young Independence (YI) at the end of last year, was told by the party’s chairman that comments in support of gay marriage were “completely at odds with the party’s policy” and risked “seriously setting back the party’s current growth”.
Last night he confirmed that he been asked to stand down from his post. Ukip said that Mr Neville was removed for “misrepresenting Ukip policy” and not for his views on gay marriage.
In an email seen by London’s Independent, Ukip chairman Stephen Crowther told Mr Neville yesterday: “the NEC [National Executive Committee] has resolved that you should not continue to act as interim chairman of YI, owing to the problems regarding party policy and public statements about which we have corresponded over the past week.”
In an earlier email, sent on 2 January after Mr Neville appeared on the World at One programme on BBC Radio 4, Mr Crowther said that Mr Neville had been “politically inept” and criticised his deviations from party policy on gay marriage and on the importance of the forthcoming European elections.
The email reads: “…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.”
After publicising his dismissal on Twitter last night Mr Neville told The Independent that his party was on “the wrong side of history” on gay marriage.
“I think they’re probably going to throw me out,” he said. “But I wanted to have my side of the story. I wanted people to know what happened because there has been a lot of speculation.
“On gay marriage the party is on the wrong side of public opinion and the wrong side of history. It could be another burka ban issue for them, where they will look back ashamedly and wonder why we had that as a policy.”
He added that he felt “bullied” by the emails, which were circulated among senior party members.
Today Mr Crowther said Mr Neville had been removed from his post because he “did not appreciate the responsibilities attached to being an official of the party in terms of supporting the party’s policy publicly and stating it correctly.”
He added that Mr Neville had never been officially elected as Young Independence’s chairman because an election had been held before the party’s executive committee had established formal rules.
“There was an election being held because the existing chairman had stood down mid-term,” Mr Crowther told The Independent. “It came to the NEC’s attention that that election was not being held under a set of established rules and that as a consequence it was not running as an election should. The NEC therefore curtailed that election before it concluded. That election was never concluded and there was no count.”
Mr Neville claims that he won 62 per cent of a vote of 117 Young Independence members and said that the elections “were cancelled after I won the vote due to opposition to me”.
At the youth group’s Christmas party in December, Mr Neville was publicly declared as YI chairman in the presence of several senior party members. The group’s Twitter feed also confirmed his election.
Ukip opposes same-sex marriage. Party policy statements on the issue state that legalising gay marriage would “risk the grave harm of undermining the rights of Churches and Faiths to decide for themselves who they will and will not marry”.