Thursday, 12 March 2015

Southend UKIP

I have so far avoided commenting at any length on the recent events in Southend’s UKIP group – it felt a bit like kicking a dying dog – but there comes a time when it is difficult to avoid.

I don’t pretend to have any detailed inside knowledge and base my thoughts on public council meetings, recent newspaper coverage, political blogs and the tweets of their ex group leader, but the whole situation becomes increasing bizarre and it is interesting to contemplate the reaction of the Ukippers and their “Independent” party chums if it had been members of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat groups who had been acting in this way.

It is important to remember that in recent campaigns both UKIP and the independents have been happy to run campaigns which have attempted to play personalities as much as policies – making highly critical comments on the ability and motivation of main stream party councillors and urging support for their “new politics”. In football parlance they have been successful playing the man rather than the ball.

In such circumstances you set the bar high if you are then elected. What have we seen from UKIP’s Southend councillors? Infighting, division, poor attendance and a failure to do what they were elected to do namely represent their residents in an effective manner and provide a credible opposition group helping to hold the administration to account. If you don’t believe me spend a few hours watching the last couple of full council meetings, available on the council’s website to assess for yourself their attendance levels and contribution. Admittedly you probably need to feel mentally and emotionally strong to endure the pain, even with a medicinal glass of claret – and that is just surviving Leader Cllr Woodley’s budget speech!

We have now seen a major spat between the then UKIP group leader and his successful opponent over the candidature for the general election in Rochford and Southend East, either the biggest example of sour grapes ever witnessed or serious misconduct (depending on whose account your believe), the suspension of four fifths of the party’s councillors, the permanent expulsion of the ex group leader and a completely divided and ineffective group.

Based on the national press these problems are not unique to Southend and in a few weeks we will be urged to elect new UKIP MPs who will once again try to ride on the back of an anti-Westminster wave. If anyone needs a salutary lesson on why a vote for UKIP would be a disaster look no further than recent events in Southend. Imagine if a group of inexperienced and newly elected UKIP MPs, with no established party organisation and without older and experienced voices, held the balance of power. It is the stuff of nightmares.

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