UKIP have removed the chair of their youth wing, Young Independence, allegedly due in part to his stance on gay marriage.
Olly Neville, who had been elected chairman of the organisation last year, confirmed that he had been removed due to outside influence, tweeting that:
YI elections were cancelled after I won the vote due to opposition to me. I won 62% of the 117 votes.
— Olly Neville (@OllyNeville) January 8, 2013
In another tweet, now deleted, Neville reposted an email sent to him from the party's chairman, Stephen Crowther, which informed him that:
…the NEC 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.
A second email posted by another member of YI recounted the specific problems Crowther had with Neville:
On the BBC World at One on New Year's Eve, you were interviewed and said that (a) the European elections were a "sideshow", and the real action is at Westminster; and (b) that you were a supporter of Gay Marriage and that the Prime Minister was right about it.
While Crowther's concerns about the first point are rather revealing – he tells Neville, "if you are quoted as saying the 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" – the fact that Neville was partially removed from office for supporting gay marriage strikes at the heart of UKIP's self-image.
Although the party has roots in a single-issue opposition to the EU, with a healthy dose of anti-immigration rhetoric and social conservatism, it has also been adopted as the UK's de facto Libertarian Party by many younger members (a slight blow to the UK's actual Libertarian Party, but there you go). Indeed, many in YI – Neville included – describe themselves as anarchist or anarcho-capitalist.
Now that the party hierarchy has cracked down on that tendency, however, the future of UKIP as a party placed firmly to the conventional right of the Conservatives seems assured. That will come as a relief to the Prime Minister, who was facing a battle on two fronts with the fringe elements of his own party; libertarian conservatives are left, once again, with nowhere to go.
UKIP has rid itself of some of its strongest members. In contrast to the "odd people" David Cameron criticised over the weekend – the anti-gay PPCs and Malthusian eugenicist council candidates – the youth wing is slick, forward-looking and making arguments which have the potential to appeal to floating voters. Or was, at least. Whether it can continue to do so against the wishes of its parent party is another question.