BY-ELECTION WATCH: Where Are The Candidates?
The problems facing the incoming new leader of UKIP were thrown into sharp focus today with the news that in this weeks principal authority local by-elections tomorrow night (Thursday) UKIP is only fielding a candidate in ONE of the seven seats up for grabs. The party were decimated in the local elections in May, losing all the seats they were defending, although they did gain one in Lancashire. This followed several years of good performances at a local level, with the number of UKIP councillors creeping up year on year. However, the recent setbacks in both the local and general elections have clearly placed a strain on local activists with nobody seemingly prepared to put their heads above the parapet.
The honourable exception tomorrow night is Hazel Day, who will be flying the UKIP flag in the Three Rivers District Council ward of Chorleywood. However the other six seats (Two in Didcot, Two in Middlesbrough, and one each in Elgin and North Warwickshire) will all see no UKIP names on the ballot paper.
The party will need to realise that it can be a long path back to power after a set of bad results and they could do a lot worse than follow the Liberal Democrat model of working hard in local authority by-elections. This strategy delivered a string of gains in the run-up to this years general election and meant that in areas where they had been campaigning the party infrastructure was pretty strong. This was part of the reason why, despite a fall in actual votes, Tim Farron’s party were able to increase their number of MP’s by 50% from 8 to 12.
If UKIP are to retain relevance with the public then it is vital that they continue to give them the opportunity to vote for them in every electoral contest to maintain public awareness and then eventually to help rebuild the party from the ground up.
Westmonster Dave is the editor of alt-politics.com