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UKIP remove interim Chair of youth wing after 'politically inept' comments

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UKIP have removed Olly Neville, the interim Chair of Young Independence, after he was interviewed on BBC’s The World at One.

The party were upset with him for openly backing the Coalition’s plans for equal marriage, and saying that ‘the European elections were a “sideshow”’.

Neville claimed on Twitter that the party machinery has always been against him, tweeting: “YI elections were cancelled after I won the vote due to opposition to me. I won 62% of the 117 votes.” He released screen grabs of emails he received from the UKIP Chairman, Stephen Crowther, in which he expresses the Party’s unhappiness and notifies Neville that the Executive have decided he should step down.

Crowther on Neville’s comments about European politics (revealing UKIP anxieties over being seen as a single-issue party with no Westminster clout):

"Taking the first point, while the general sentiment you expressed may be realistic, politically your message was contrary to party policy; UKIP is seeking to win the European elections in 2014 and to use that as a springboard for further progress...you are quoted as saying that Westminster is where the action is, it is self-evident that we have no MPs...You are therefore providing ammunition to the media and our opponents to say that we are irrelevant. This is politically inept."

Crowther on Neville’s backing of equal marriage:

"Secondly 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...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."

Youth wings of political parties have often been criticised for veering off the party line – however, this is more shocking for three reasons: firstly, reprimanding Neville for taking a positive stance on a matter of equality; secondly, UKIP failing to take similar action against other members for saying far more offensive things; thirdly, the importance the Party puts on libertarianism and freedom of speech has been undermined by punishing the chair of their youth wing for speaking freely.

Young Independence has been seen as the reasonable and respectable face of UKIP for some time, representing libertarianism and economic conservatism, eschewing the more right-wing rhetoric the main party finds acceptable. Several YI committee members have said they will stand down in light of Neville’s removal, weakening the strongest and most dynamic front UKIP has.

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