Her political descent has been a tragedy.
A year ago Suzanne Evans was riding high in UKIP. Appointed deputy chairman of the party, she was widely applauded for producing the party’s best-ever manifesto for the May 2015 general election and was seen by many as the next leader. Indeed Nigel Farage recommended her for interim leader after he resigned following his defeat at South Thanet.
But ten weeks ago Suzanne was sacked as deputy chairman and four weeks later suspended from the party for six months. As a result, she was dropped from the party’s London-wide list of candidates for yesterday’s London Assembly elections.
Since then she has become a minor celebrity both as a surprisingly inert panellist on the quick-witted BBC TV show Have I Got A Bit More News For You and as a participant in a women-only debate on the EU organised by the feminist Fawcett Society.
However, despite her disputed claim that she is still UKIP’s Parliamentary spokesperson (she is spokesperson only for UKIP’s sole and semi-detached representative in the House of Commons Douglas Carswell; she is not authorised to speak for the three UKIP peers in the House of Lords) and her stated hope that she still has a future in UKIP, her return to the party fold must be in severe doubt.
And I was an unwitting participant in her downfall.
In a recent post I wrote how, back in February after I had been selected as a UKIP candidate for the GLA elections that took place yesterday, my defeated opponent, gay activist and lawyer Richard Hendron, rushed off to the anti-UKIP Pink News to complain that I was a “vile nasty homophobic individual”. He resigned from the party too with the maximum of noise and self-publicity.
Within hours fellow UKIP gay activist Richard Hilton set up a public petition accusing me of being “an outspoken homophobe who has addressed ‘gay cure’ meetings” (I haven’t) and demanding that I should be removed from UKIP’s list of approved candidates.
Suzanne was still deputy chairman of the party at the time so it was astonishing that she immediately joined the baying herd. She tweeted excitedly that she had signed Hilton’s petition. She informed the twittersphere that “Alan Craig’s views have no place in @UKIP” and commented on the petition website that, by choosing me as a candidate, the party’s selection process “has clearly failed”.
I immediately emailed her suggesting that, as a matter of courtesy let alone party protocol, she should contact me before publicly criticising both my selection and me. There was no reply. Instead the same day she gave an exclusive interview to Pink News . She told them she was confident that I would not remain a candidate.
The next day I emailed her again, asking what evidence she had to back up her statement that there had been a “failure in the party’s selection process.” Again, no reply.
Two weeks later she was sacked as deputy chairman.
A month after that, following a disciplinary hearing of UKIP’s National Executive Committee, she was suspended from the party. The NEC cited as the reason a complaint that she had “publicly criticised a fellow candidate in breach of party rules”.
In an attempt to prevent her suspension, Suzanne sought an injunction in the High Court. Acting on her behalf was, yes, the same Richard Hendron. In the documents presented by Hendron to the court Suzanne repeated the Pink News falsehood that I have compared gays to Nazis. She also claimed that she publicly signed Richard Hilton’s petition because she “did not agree with Mr Craig’s stance on ‘gay cures’ for homosexual people” – a stance about which clearly she had no knowledge except what the hopelessly biased, unreliable and foolish Hendron-Hilton-Pink News faction had told her.
The High Court rejected her application. Her suspension went ahead.
Of course there were many bigger factors leading to Suzanne’s downfall including her perceived lack of loyalty to Nigel Farage. But it seems her unfounded public criticism of me was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Certainly it was the trigger for her suspension.
In Greek tragedies the demise of the hero is often self-inflicted. In her rush to censure me and her zeal to climb aboard the shrill Hendron-Hilton-GayNews bandwagon, Suzanne didn’t check the facts. She didn’t restrain herself from knee-jerk public criticism of a fellow party candidate and the party’s selection process. Nor did she demonstrate the discretion and adherence to party protocol expected of a deputy chairman.
She also lacked judgement. She leant on broken reeds; she relied on her unreliable friends.
In the end she brought her demise down on her own head.
It was a tragic waste of talent.