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
An election candidate has been interviewed by police over allegations of campaign irregularities.
Colin Campbell was an independent candidate for South Tyneside Council’s Cleadon Park ward in South Shields at May’s local elections.
He polled 376 votes, losing to Labour’s Coun Jim Foreman, with 726 votes, and independent June Elsom, in third place, with 673 votes.
But Mrs Elsom, wife of Cleadon Park councillor George Elsom, subsequently made a complaint to the police regarding “lies and factual inaccuracies” in a leaflet Mr Campbell put out.
She also questioned the legality of a poster Mr Campbell put on display in a newsagent’s shop at The Nook during the campaign challenging his opponents to donate their attendance allowances to a local school.
Two detectives subsequently called at Mr Campbell’s home in Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon Village, to make him aware of the complaints.
No formal action has been taken, but Mr Campbell has labelled the allegations “vindictive and petty”.
Mrs Elsom, of Parkshiel, South Shields, said she raised concerns with police because of the “personal nature” of the statements Mr Campbell made in his election literature, labelling some of his comments “misogynist”.
Mr Campbell said: “I had a home visit from two detectives who do election complaints. Apparently, I had made an election misdemeanour.
“I put a flyer in a newsagent’s window at The Nook. It said I would be giving my allowance of £1,000 a month to Ridgeway Primary School and asked whether June Elsom and Jim Foreman would do the same.
“It was claimed that was bribing the public.
“Apparently, I didn’t say at the bottom of the leaflet who it was promoted and printed by, which is a legal requirement.
“The detective said giving me some advice for the future would be enough and that the bribery claim did not stand up.
“I regard contacting the police over this as just petty and vindictive.”
Mrs Elsom said: “There were two elements to the complaint.
“There were false and inaccurate statements, and there was the inference that, if I was elected I would do what George told me to do, which I regarded as completely misogynist.
“It suggests that I don’t have a mind of my own. The inaccuracies included his statement that George was the leader of UKIP in South Tyneside, which he has never been.
“They were personal statements made by a person I don’t even know. No one should have a right to do that.”
Mr Campell denied he was a mysogynist, saying he was merely questioning how independent a husband and wife councillor team would be.
A spokesman for the police confirmed that Mr Campbell had been spoken to and that no further action is to be taken.
This is the second time police have been asked to investigate events during last May’s election in South Tyneside.
Police also investigated a complaint by Coun George Elsom that Labour leaders in South Tyneside used town hall resources to promote the party’s local election campaign.
Police confirmed last week that they would not be taking any further action after an investigation.
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 July 2014