All seventeen of Thurrock's UKIP councillors have allegedly resigned en-mass to form new party called the Thurrock Independent Party. (Tip)
The 'former' group Leader of Ukip on Thurrock council Cllr Graham Snell issued the following statement about the Tip:
“Thurrock Independents have the only councillors in Thurrock whose prime concern will be Thurrock residents. They are not compromised by a slavish attachment to a national party. The party will only be standing in local elections. Our entire group joined Thurrock Independents as we have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics. Our councillors have won widespread admiration for their hard work even from residents across the political spectrum. We hope that these admirers will now be able to support Thurrock Independents. Our logo represents the ethos of our party; hard graft, working together towards common goals, sacrifice and the importance of the protection of our environment."People before politics part of the new party's timeline is a catchy phrase but what does it mean? If asked almost all politicians would claim to put people before politics, the problem is few of them actually do, and the history of the 17 former Ukip councillors in Thurrock makes me feel the Tip will not be an exception..
One former Ukip councillor posted this on Facebook after the new party was launched:
"We will respect our opponents and never engage in negative campaigning. Instead we will concentrate solely on policy and ideas. A new kinder politics if you like."Oh really some might ask, then how come one of the seventeen is councillor Kevin Wheeler, who a few months ago subjected a Tilbury resident to a torrent of verbal abuse after they disagreed in the council chamber. After she lodged a complaint, a four month investigation was carried out, and a meeting between both parties recently took place at Thurrock Council's offices in the hope of drawing a line under the incident. Instead of showing respect for their opponents and a new kinder politics the meeting turned into yet another slagging match with Graham Snell, the new group leader of Tip claiming the whole furore was politically motivated.
It seems for the leader of the Tip a newer, kinder politics is still a work in progress.
The Tip looks more like an act of desperation than a real attempt to search out some bright sunny political uplands. Most of the seventeen have been around for years as long standing members of Ukip. Yet not once in his statement does Graham Snell mention why the 17 councillors decided to resign from the party. Nor as as far as I can see have any of the other councillors, whether it was crass opportunism, a major political difference, or a ruse, we the electorate have a right to know.
Interestingly not one senior member of Ukip's national EC have criticised them for deserting what many regard as a sinking ship. The national spokesperson said he hoped the group would "continue to serve their constituents as well as they have."
Given internal debate within Ukip's upper echelons is known to be very robust to say the least, in which smears, personal attacks and mud slinging are often the meat and drink, makes the establishment of the Tip look more like a tactical move, more a decree nisi rather than a decree absolute.
Indeed a senior Ukip member within Thurrock Tim Aker MEP said as much when he told Westmonster, a new pro-Brexit right-wing website, "he would continue to sit as a Ukip MEP in the European parliament while being a member of the Tip locally."
Dual membership raises questions about whether this is a new organisation or a party within a party.
With local elections in Thurrock due in May and a revitalised Labour Party campaigning on the doorstep most weekends, could it be the Ukip councillors were running scared of defeat. With their party having gone through six leader's since September 2016 and currently in the midst of yet another omnishambles had they concluded standing under the Ukip banner was a kiss of death?
Thus this sorry charade has been stitched together in the hope they will deceive the electorate and retain council seats in May?
What is clear this group of councillors appear to have the same aims as Ukip, and a mish mash of similar policies to those which were firmly rejected in the 2017 general election.
While there are undoubtedly a few decent councillors amongst the seventeen, the overwhelming majority will be no great loss to Thurrock residents.
An independent councillor is just that, he/she acts as a non party individual in the interest of their constituents, to form a party is a negation of the meaning of that term, a sham, a deceit.