9 Jan 2013

Ukip youth leader Olly Neville dropped in gay marriage row

The head of Ukip’s youth wing is dropped from the party in a spat played out on Twitter after being reprimanded for supporting gay marriage.

UKIP’s Olly Neville, 21, describes himself as an “anarchist” on Twitter and has been causing a stir online after claiming he was sacked from his role as chair of Young Independence for supporting gay marriage.

Mr Neville appeared on the BBC’s World at One on New Year’s Ever speaking about gay marriage and the European elections, provoking condemnation from Stephen Crowther, chairman of the party.

Last night emails from Mr Crowther to Neville were posted to Twitter, but deleted shortly afterwards, claiming the young activist may have “seriously set back the party’s growth”.

The stern email declared: “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.”

The email also chastised him for calling the European elections a “sideshow” as the party is seeking to use them as a “springboard to further progress, but acknowledged his sentiment was “realistic”.

A subsequent email stated: “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.”

Mr Neville claimed that the emails insulted his intelligence.

UKIP spokesman Gawain Taylor has confirmed that the emails posted are real but claimed that he was not expelled for his stance on gay marriage as he had not presented it as party policy.

Ukip say they fully support the concept of civil partnerships but oppose any move to legislate for same-sex marriage believing it would pose a threat to the Church of England and claiming the issue is being pushed by a “small but noisy minority within the gay community”.

Gawain Towler explained: “In relation to the party’s policies on areas including gay marriage, the European elections, the legalisation of drugs and prostitution among others, Mr Neville has been publicly at odds with the party over the past few weeks.”

“After a number of issues relating to the public presentation of policy on both broadcast and social media, we felt that Mr Neville was not adhering to the requirements of being an official spokesman for the Party.”

Ukip’s move has provoked a mutiny in their youth wing with a string of resignations being announced last night on Twitter. Mr Nevillle told Channel 4 News today he was touched by the reaction from some members of the party to the row and promised to stay within the party if they would allow him to.

The row brings to the surface the political tension between the party’s conservative wing and younger libertarian faction. Mr Neville, who identifies himself as an “anarchist” and proclaims “no gods, no masters” on his Twitter profile, has proved to be a popular figure with young Ukip members.

He has boasted of joining Ukip at the age of 18 saying it is “the only political party I have ever been a member of and the only one I would ever want to be in.”

Mr Neville was also chairman of Friends of Palestine in Ukip, a grouping that was seen as being at odds with the party’s broad support for Israel.

His political CV declares “I joined as soon as I possibly could and have done everything I can to help move this party forward. YI really is the future and I believe that my ideas for YI could make us a youth wing fitting for the third largest party in the UK.”

The growing tensions were highlighted just a month ago by libertarian political commentator Mark Wallace.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage recently told the Guardian: “Do I want a party where we’ve got some eccentrics and occasionally someone causes us an embarrassment – or do I want a party made up of a bland lot of ghastly people whose names I don’t even know?”

“I want Ukip to be a party of free-thinkers.”