This is my third “Kipperwatch” posting, building on my first two (click here and here for the story so far), reflecting particularly on developments in the world of UKIP in my own area of Southend, specifically in the (my own) parliamentary constituency of Rochford and Southend East. In the past few days, one of the councillors and up to quite recently leader of the UKIP group on Southend Borough Council, James Moyies, who had been temporary suspended from UKIP following his dispute with their parliamentary candidate, Floyd Waterworth, for this constituency, coupled with his unwillingness to toe the party line, has now been permanently expelled. Given the rift that three other Southend UKIP councillors have with Mr. Waterworth still remains, one expects it may be just a matter of time when they too will be expelled from the party, unless pressure is brought to bear or a last ditch solution can be found.
For those with high hopes for UKIP, as did I following their astonishing gains in last May’s local elections, all these happenings have come as a disappointment, as I reflected in my two earlier Kipperwatch posts. I have rather stuck my neck out by saying I seriously toyed with the idea of voting UKIP in May’s General Election but I am unapologetic. On matters such as reversing the onslaught of political correctness and the curtailment of religious freedom as well as matters like the untoward consequences of being part of the European Union, UKIP maybe have more to offer than the other parties, although of course there are many other issues to consider. If Mr. Moyies had been selected as the UKIP candidate as opposed to Mr. Waterworth, he may well have got my vote, as I discussed in my earlier Political Ramblings post, but it wasn’t to be.
I have never met Mr. Waterworth and sincerely wished him well in his political career, along with his four UKIP colleagues, when they were elected onto the Council last May. However, the negative impression I had of him at the time the storm broke, has since then been reinforced by various events, whereas Mr. Moyies’, what I thought was a good, speech regarding the austerity budget, voted on in the recent main Council meeting, has if anything raised him in my estimation as a serious player with something worth contributing. I suspect though both men have character flaws (as do we all). Mr Waterworth has alienated some close to him over derogatory remarks directed toward the public and threats to colleagues, as well as what some felt was his unmerited rise to power and, most importantly, a feeling among some, based on evidence albeit still anecdotal, that he is not entirely honest. Despite trying to be charitable, when I have read him pronounce on some issue or other there has been little he has said that I felt to be original, insightful or needful (although that is something true of many politicians), and for that reason alone I would be reluctant to vote for him in the forthcoming election despite my having UKIP sympathies.
I suspect Mr Moyies is no angel either and him washing his dirty linen in public while remaining a UKIP member (after all party loyalty is still regarded by many as something important) and so bolster up his own support, along with the sour grapes impression he has given in the wake of him being passed over when UKIP selected their parliamentary candidate, along with his personal ambition, has been noted in certain quarters. However, if the allegations against Mr. Waterworth’s regarding “dodgy dealings” and the party’s cover up and unwillingness to deal rightly with the issues are true, it could be said Mr. Moyles was placed in an intolerable position and I can think of many whose reaction might have been even stronger. My instinct is Mr. Moyies may be seen as being too much his own man and has accordingly upset some of the UKIP hierarchy, whose priorities do not include getting to the bottom of what happened and who may be more inclined to support a political lightweight that they can manipulate despite the potential repercussions this is having and will have on UKIP support.
As I considered in my earlier posts, it is difficult to come to a view on the rights and wrongs to do with the sorry recent happenings in Southend UKIP land without being fully conversant with all the facts. While there is much I don’t know, I do know a lot more now than when I last reflected on these matters. For example, one of the big issues that led to four local UKIP councillors being suspended from the party wasn’t merely the well publicized fact that they had decided to disassociate from the fifth, but the reasons for doing so. There was concern that the leading figures in the influential local UKIP branch, which among other things selects UKIP local councilors and determines what happens locally, were not democratically elected but rather appointed by one person, Mr. Waterworth, and his allies, a man they did not trust or have confidence in, and the issue of possible shenanigans over his appointment as parliamentary candidate has not yet been resolved.
As far as the gang of four and their supporters are concerned these need to be addressed if the impasse is to be broken. These points are important but don’t seem to have been given sufficient weight in the blogs of my two Kipperwatch friends, Julian and Matthew, intent as they are to undermine UKIP, or in my local (Southend Echo) newspaper in its reporting, which once again fails the integrity test. It seems to me to be a sad reflection that UKIP at national leadership level did not see things in this way when deciding to stand by their man come what may, and rather suggests their claim to be a democratic party to be a hollow one. They may well take the view they have bigger fish to fry but do little to shed the image of that of the “nasty” party. I suspect similar criticisms can be made against all the parties and where the overriding consideration is the gaining of power rather than that of ethics, none of which makes it right of course and does nothing to help the UKIP cause given the perception it already attracts too many sleazy characters who have thrown in the lot with UKIP for political advancement or other wrong reasons rather than simply serve people out of conviction.
How this will pan out among local UKIP supporters remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see their candidature list for the May local elections for example. I am given to understand that the four councillors who have decided to form their own group in the Council are not alone when it comes to being dissatisfied with what is happening, for this also applies to a number of other local UKIP supporters. As I said before, this is a pity for several reasons, not least that a strong local UKIP presence may have been the best chance of removing our local Tory MP. Whether UKIP manages to gloss over these concerns (I hope not) remains to be seen. While I remain committed to finding out what the candidates and their parties may offer if elected, I will NOT be voting UKIP in the forthcoming local and general elections, at least until these matters are satisfactorily resolved. Given the short time left and, I fear, a lack of character in its leadership, given that it has placed expediency ahead of principle, this is unlikely to happen.
What we are witnessing is regrettable of course. I say this having just taken one of those online quizzes that seem to abound these days, that try to suss out the type of person you are. This one was to do with my political leanings. The results showed that many of my hopes for this country align more with UKIP thinking than that of any other party. While this is as much about vanity and lighthearted fun as anything else, it does illustrate my own consternation that things are the way they are and my quest for a credible alternative to the traditional main parties looks set to continue. At least I can say without smugness that I will continue to engage politically but that my hope is in something / someone a lot higher.