I have known Andrew Withers since mid 2007, and have had the pleasure of working with him within LPUK since the party was founded in that November, publishing the original press release launching the Party on 1st January 2008 which we crafted jointly.
Much has happened to the Party since then in looking for the right balance to attract popular support, 3 party leaders (Patrick Vessey, Myself and Chris Mounsey), the standing of candidates for 3 parliamentary seats, the acquisition of a City Councillor in Stoke and a number of parish and town councillors.
Largely ignored by the media, this year has seen a small upsurge in interest in matters Libertarian, with many varied groups on both left and right all attempting to claim the label, but it has also brought the Libertarian Party itself into focus, resulting in a number of TV and Radio appearances (some good, some not) for the present leader Chris Mounsey, the Deputy Leader Andrew Withers, and the Director of Policy Tim Carpenter.
I am delighted therefore to bring you the results of a series of conversations that I undertook with Andrew Withers yesterday and today, on his forthcoming election campaign for the Leadership of the party in November, and to clarify some of the points that he made in his press release yesterday on his ongoing legal battle with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
IPJ: Andrew, first let us talk about your election campaign. Why are you standing for the Leadership at this point.
AW: Well, having been involved in the Party right from the inception, I was one of the 5 founding members, I have always taken a back seat. That was partly my choice, partly circumstances, as work and legal matters have had to take precedence up until now. As you will have seen from my press release yesterday those matters are largely resolved, so leaving me better placed to take a more robust and stronger role within the party.
IPJ: So tell me something of your campaign, and the platform that you are running with.
AW: By now you, and all Libertarian Party members, will have received a members communication which outlines my platform. I feel that if we are to gain wider public acceptance we must appeal to public concerns, and the biggest of those is a. the economy and b. the governance of the United Kingdom itself.
The LPUK have a fully developed economic policy which can be viewed on our website, and covers the key items of public service such as health, education, defence, security and all those elements that people constantly worry about, but in a way that does not require government to keep taking more and more in taxation from hard working people. It is our aim to develop policy that allows people to keep as much of their hard earned cash as possible, much more than present governments permit. It is the spending of that disposable income rather than borrowing that stimulates and sustains economic growth.
The second point will be addressed by a motion that I shall be putting to conference, to change the name of the party to The Libertarian and Constitutional Party.
I am submitting that we should aim to adopt a written constitution for the whole of the United Kingdom along the lines of the 1999 Federal Swiss Constitution, and incorporate the rights that are already granted in our present constitution under the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689, which unfortunately have been largely ignored and usurped by successive Fabian indulgent governments made up of the three main political parties.
Lastly, I think that I am now ready to take on the role of Party Leader, reinforce the party with some structural changes, to lead from the front and to debate vigorously and argue forcefully in order to promote the changes that this country so desperately needs. I think that these new elements will gain support across a wider range of voters fed up with the lies and deceit that we see and hear every day in Westminster.
I think that the public is looking for something honest yet tangible from politicians, and a written constitution that guarantees that no-one is above the law, that codifies the rights of the individual and controls the limits of the State goes a long way to achieve that. The very successful Swiss Federation, the mother of all democracies, can teach us a lot in that respect.
IPJ: You mentioned earlier your personal and legal problems, and I published on your behalf a press release yesterday, but I am wondering whether you would like to elaborate on the troubles that you have had to endure.
I asked you for instance whether you considered that the results of the various court orders could have been politically motivated because of your position within Libertarian Party, perhaps more aligned to personal ‘favours’ with regards to your ex business partner, a case of he who casts the first stone keeps the opponent on the back foot, or the more likely scenario of once an official error is made, its the cover-up that takes on a life of its own.
AW: I think that the Courts have been remarkably fair and just. The Judge was astounded at the last hearing to find that this piece of legislation (Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986) did not just apply to commercial companies registered in this Country, but to foreign companies that have a significant presence in this country (70% of manufacturing is owned by foreigners, I bet they did not know this).
The Act is so badly drafted that companies in the British Virgin Islands have been affected by it, and it covers management of unregistered friendly societies, darts teams, football teams, cricket teams, any building society, the definition of company covers any organisation consisting of more than one person, in fact the expression ‘unregistered company’ is defined as including any association section 22.1(1) of the Insolvency Act 1986. This is a piece of draconian, authoritarian Tory legislation from the eighties.
Under EU ‘Law’, Article 3 (1) EC Regulation 1346/2000 Courts can wind up companies in other members jurisdictions, except Denmark which has an opt out !
When I put this forward as an applicant in person, and the Secretary of State’s Counsel agreed with me that this legislation was far ranging in its effect. Hence the Judge feels compelled to insist that any association I have including that of a company I have a trading relationship with in the USA, is subject to his say so irrespective of whether the British Courts have any jurisdiction.
This includes the Channel Islands which are outside of the UK, not part of the EU, but the States and Bailiwick are constantly being bullied to conform to the EU and UK- which they are resisting for the moment.
The District Judge has been extremely even handed, and at the end of the day they are all that are between the individual and an opressive State, that is why I have the permission of the Court to remain a Director of two UK companies, by Court Order of the 9th July, and confirmed on the 11th October while all of these issues are sorted out.
My opinion is that there needs to be a wide ranging review of the CDDA, the Centre for Insolvency Policy and Law, and the Law school of Exeter University have been saying that this is oppressive and anti business for ten years at least. One academic writer has stated that anonymous public servants are acting as Prosecutor,Judge and Jury. An Act designed so that there is no possible defence The Official Receiver and Secretary of State in my case has some pretty serious questions to answer, the current responsible Minister at BIS has ordered a review of this case and a meeting with senior officials. I am still awaiting evidence that has been with held for the last year.
The Official Receiver in my case is based in Plymouth, I know only one other person in Plymouth, that is my son who started University last September . Yet the Libertarian Party and my neighbours have all received anonymous letters denouncing me with letters post marked Plymouth with £1 stamps on (!). The Party and my neighbours just handed the letters over to me, as they are fully aware of what has been going on, these letters and one unopened one were handed over to Avon and Somerset Police. The Police Officer who collected the material said this is not the first time this has happened, but it is proving who is responsible. BIS have been monitoring me for over two months, the data collected including IP addresses dates and times has been handed over to the Courts.
Largely this is pathetic intimidation and would be laughable were it not so serious.
This Act is one of the most draconian Acts since the Six Acts of 1819, since it prevents association with others. It is effectively a form of ‘commercial house arrest’, and this weapon was the last thing to have been placed in the hands of Mandelson, as could be seen on TV when he wanted the Directors of Rover ‘banned for life’, the maximum penalty is limited to fifteen years.in the most serious cases. The DTI/BERR/ BIS have a track record of political abuse going back to the Directors of Matrix Churchill being thrown to the dogs
IPJ: So the potential for your continued leadership roles within LPUK could ultimately be decided by a court, not votes. Likewise the potential for abuse by a government department is also there.
AW: Potentially yes. As I said yesterday I am grateful for the support of my legal teams in both France and England, to Liam Fox MP and to the members of the NCC of the Libertarian Party who refused to accept my offered resignation last June as Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Party, and that despite the Court Order of the 11th October 2010 examining whether the poorly written, oppressive anti business CDDA 1986 can extend its authority over companies that are not registered in this country and to political parties and to charitable organisations, I will continue to seek the leadership of the Libertarian Party. Therefore it is only fair that all members are aware of this cloud that hangs over me before casting their vote.
IPJ: Andrew, thank you for being so frank with your answers, and I am sure that this will trigger many readers to have questions of their own, which will no doubt appear in the comments.