LOCAL ELECTIONS 2018: Fighting The Good Fight But Not Right
Editors Note: The author is the leader of the UKIP Group on Peterborough City Council.
We head into the May 3rd elections here with a lot that has gone on. UKIP has not been in the best place over the last year which will undoubtedly have an impact on our results.
The one thing though that stands out is the lack of impetus to campaign in the long term, we seem to wake up as a party in March, rush around to get a list of candidates, panic to campaign and then wonder why we don’t have the results we should!
This past year, of course, has been spectacularly bad, with the issue around the Stoke By-Election, through the lacklustre campaign for the County and General elections, we have as a party continually shot ourselves in the foot, Then we had the debacle of the Christmas period when we sacked the leader and Gerard became interim. Thankfully, Gerard has pulled things together over the last couple of months.
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We have problems, we’ve not been actively campaigning across the year, which we must address going forward, it has to be 12 months a year. Our Party structure doesn’t effectively support local branches and local politics, the bread and butter of any political party, and we also have the splintering of support with the recent launch of new parties from ex UKIP leadership candidates. This will all affect our ability to fight elections in the future and will damage the solidity of the vote for the non-core parties.
Here in Peterborough, prior to Christmas, we took the decision to get off our backsides and start campaigning, both to remind people that Brexit was not a done deal, and also to remind them that UKIP was still here, we hadn’t gone away.
This has continued on a fairly regular basis every 2-3 weeks with a small stall in Peterborough City Centre and this has certainly had a real impact, we’re gaining new members and getting some positive comment from the shoppers. The number of UKIPpers on the stall has surprised people too, often with up to 10 members in attendance, helping to disprove the notion that UKIP has gone away.
And, we have some real advantages!! We are NOT, Conservatives, Labour, the Greens or Lib Dems, we can attract voters who are beginning to see through the slurs that have been hurled at us in the past, and doorstep response has been good.
Labour currently are in disarray over the Anti-semitic problem the national party has had, and with a local candidate being suspended by them for Anti-Semitic tweets. Additionally, their inability to make any form of sensible financial case for their plans, either at a national or local level does not help them. Very few in the local Labour group will accept that the Council is a big ‘business’. They treat it as something that spends money providing services, and not something that needs to balance its books in order to provide those services.
The Conservatives too have their problems, they supported the selection of a previous Mayor of Peterborough (ex-Labour) to stand for them. Conveniently ignoring the fact that he had been found guilty of electoral fraud….. This has not gone down well, in addition, the current financial situation in the city is also being laid that their door. And the Brexit situation is not good for them People realise they have been lied to.
UKIP has a good opportunity here to capitalise on these problems, we have a mix of candidates across the city, from various backgrounds standing for us, and we can position ourselves differently from the main parties. Our no whip policy is useful in that we’re seen almost as independents, working for the local community, not UKIP. We’re pragmatic, we are not blinkered by decades of Party history. We will not vote down something just to score political points, but, will support whatever we see as right for the people of the city and sensible.
Recently, that’s meant us backing the council budget. Not because we liked it because cutting back and increasing the council tax by 6% is not something that anyone wants to do. But, when the Government cuts your annual grant by £35m from 6 years ago (805!!) there is only so much anyone can do, and the alternative was not to set a budget at all and go the route of Northamptonshire and have government commissioners running the council.
As UKIP, we need to get the message out there, we will do what’s best for you, with pragmatic, common sense policies, but that the problems that Local Government are having can be laid firmly at the door of this Government.
We will say this, the others really won’t. The population is growing far too quickly, demand for services is growing to match and the government is doing nothing to control it, but, it’s cutting the money to provide the services. It’s another tax on us, the Income Tax which used to pay for these services at a local level is now being spent elsewhere, but the local tax is going up to make up the difference.
Getting four more councillors this May would give us the ability to hold the balance of power in the council.
How will we do?? Well if I could give an accurate answer to that, I’d be putting money into the lottery for tomorrow! We could do abysmally, or very well, or anywhere in between. But there are key national elements that are in our favour:
The free speech issue
Tory failures over Brexit
They have all shown they can’t be trusted. If we can enter that space, our common sense approaches an willingness to ask awkward questions will get us vote, then, who knows what the result will be on May 3rd.