UKIP’s Natasha Bolter fiasco and the perils of poor background checks
UKIP's increasingly embarrassing Natasha Bolter fiasco is the latest in a long line of public humiliations for the political elite. But Labour and the Conservatives have also suffered from fast-tracking candidates who appear to look the part, without doing their due-diligence or running a proper background check
To UKIP’s communications team, Natasha Bolter probably seemed like a dream come true. After months of intensive media speculation that the party embodied and promoted racist attitudes and was dismissive of women, they had finally found a candidate to counter such attacks on multiple levels.
For according to her backstory, Natasha Bolter was a highly successful working class woman who had defied her background to secure five A grades at A-level, going on to achieve a first class degree from Oxford University.
Better than that though, she had just defected from the Labour party, which treated women as tokenistic and was keen to become a candidate for UKIP on the national stage.
With the rise of UKIP dominating the media agenda, the decision to offer her a prominent speaking slot at UKIP conference to tell her inspiring journey to the public seemed a no brainer. As the cameras flashed, many thousands of voters were captivated by her address to the nation, with her speech errors and poor delivery easily dismissed as the nerves of a woman out of her comfort zone.
Unfortunately for UKIP, large chunks of Natasha Bolter’s story were better suited to the fantasy fiction section than the factual. We now know that Oxford University has no record of her ever attending there and her school contemporaries have questioned her ability to achieve such exceptional A-levels given she was in the middle stream of classes.
Added to this, her highly publicised allegations of sexual harassment against UKIP’s Roger Bird have been called into question, after he released a string of emotional text messages, alleged to have been sent to him by Ms. Bolter.
This increasingly embarrassing scenario is the latest in a long line of public humiliations for the political elite. Both Labour and the Conservatives have also suffered from fast-tracking candidates who appear to look the part, without doing their due-diligence or running a proper background check.
For it is only when these token candidates fail to get what they want that they turn on their party, inflicting catastrophic damage.
David Cameron, now a much wiser man since the A-list days, has had his fingers burned several times by candidates who enjoyed his blessing, only to use the platform he has provided them to damage the party when they didn’t get everything they want.
These political landmines are something Nigel Farage will need to become more astute at spotting if he wishes to be a serious political force in the long-term. Many of his hires and fast-tracks, although clean-cut and perfect to put in front of the media come with baggage, some of it toxic.
I recall several occasions where Conservative members have celebrated the departure of troublemakers, knowing full well that within a few months they will inflict havoc of biblical proportions on the UKIP machine.
The problem you have with a fast track candidate, who has never had to work for their position, never had to win hearts and minds of their political colleagues and suddenly finds themselves at the centre of national attention, is that they can and will turn against you. After all, if they worked for nothing and gave nothing to their party in the first place, how much easier is it for them to walk away?
Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator @stevengeorgia
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