THE UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) general election campaign has got off to a bumpy start in South Tyneside amid claim and counter-claim.
The party has issued a statement saying former councillor Steve Harrison has been removed from his position as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, because of a “failure to comply with internal party rules”.
That has been rejected by Mr Harrison, who says he stood down to concentrate on his campaign as UKIP’s Parliamentary candidate for the Jarrow Constituency at May’s general election.
The party was on a crest of a political wave back in May 2013 when its candidate in the South Shields Parliamentary by-election, Richard Elvin, polled almost 25 per cent of the vote in finishing second to Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.
A month later, the party enjoyed a political coup when three borough councillors joined its ranks.
However, Coun George Elsom, for Cleadon Park, left the party within three months, admitting his decision to join the UKIP ranks a “mistake” and returning to the council chamber as an independent.
At last year’s May local elections, Mr Harrison, another defector, lost his seat in Fellgate and Hedworth, leaving his fellow ward member Coun Linda Hemmer as UKIP’s sole representative on the council.
The party’s fortunes changed again in October last year when Coun Norman Dennis snatched victory in the Westoe by-election, but the general election campaign has got off to a less than smooth start.
The party has confirmed that Coun Dennis has been selected as its Parliamentary candidate for South Shields, just months after his by-election triumph.
The regional UKIP spokesman said:
“Steve Harrison was indeed removed as branch chairman of South Tyneside late in 2014 following a failure to comply with internal party rules.
“Mr Harrison had the right of appeal against this decision, but declined to exercise that right.
“The party’s membership locally continues to grow, and Coun Norman Dennis is an excellent candidate in an area where UKIP has high hopes, after gaining close to 25 per cent of the vote nearly two years ago in a Parliamentary by-election”.
Mr Harrison said:
“All branch committees have received a recommendation from the party chairman that any chairman or vice-chairman who has been adopted as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, should consider their position until after the general election in order to concentrate on their campaigns.
“After giving this careful thought, I realised the wisdom of this advice and have decided to announce at our branch meeting on Tuesday that I will be standing down as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, so that I can direct all my efforts into my Westminster campaign.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 23 Jan 2015
I’ve only seen a few final results so far, but it seems that overall Labour retain control. Not much of a suprise perhaps, but it’s good to see that the wheels appear to have come off the much-vaunted UKIP targeting of the North East.
They did achieve a number of second places, but generally a very long way behind Labour candidates – which seems to suggest that they were taking votes from the Conservatives, not Labour.
Of the 25 seats up for grabs, Labour took a total of 21, with the Conservatives winning three and one Independent. The overall turnout across Sunderland was 33 per cent
Mayor Bob Heron (Labour) lost his seat in the Copt Hill ward (Houghton-le-Spring) to independent Anthony Allen by 75 votes.
Sunderland remains a UKIP-free zone 🙂
There seemed to be a feeling that UKIP were going to make big inroads in South Tyneside. They didn’t. In fact, they lost one of the two seats they already held.
Labour maintained control, retaining 49 of the 54 seats.
It held 16 seats of the 18 seats up for grabs and took Fellgate and Hedworth from UKIP – though it lost Bede to the Independent – Putting People First group.
The overall percentage turnout was 34.4 per cent, compared to 34.1 per cent in 2012, with 39,462 votes cast out of a total electorate of 114,813.
The highest turnout was in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward with 44.7 per cent, while the Biddick and All Saints ward was the lowest at 27.7 per cent.
The new political make-up of the Council is: Labour: 49, Independent: 1, Independent – Putting People First: 2, Conservative: 1 and UKIP: 1.
Labour councillor Nancy Maxwell enjoyed the biggest majority of the night, romping to victory in Hebburn South ward.
She won nearly two-thirds of the vote, to record a majority of 920 over her nearest rival – UKIP.
Seems to be the nearest thing to a UKIP triumph so far…
Labour maintained its control of Hartlepool Borough Council winning six out of the 11 wards that were up for grabs.
UKIP won 2 seats, including the Jesmond ward from Labour by just two votes – after five recounts had taken place.
Labour maintain their 19 out of 33 seats on Hartlepool Council and overall control.
The UKIP winners were aged 63 and 72 respectively – which seems to be the age group they appeal to, if the various vox pops I’ve seen in various media sources locally over the past few weeks are any guide.
Which raises the interesting question of what will happen to UKIP in the next decade or so, as their candidates and voters die out ?
Also interesting to note the virtual abscence of the BNP in these elections. A few years ago they were standing in most Sunderland wards – this time, nothing at all. Did their voters transfer to UKIP ?