Already it’s not shaping up to be a good year for UKIP.
In yet another blow to the beleaguered party, all 17 of the UKIP councillors in Thurrock, Essex, have now resigned from their membership.
Saying they have “had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics”, the fleeing UKIP councillors have formed their own group, the Thurrock Independents, which will contest every ward seat in the upcoming local elections in May 2018.
The mass defection, which includes MEP Tim Aker, means the Thurrock Independents have become the official opposition party to the Conservative administration in the Borough and are free of UKIP’s central governance.
It’s a shrewd move for the Thurrock councillors who are reported to have impressed locals with their hard work but are unlikely to be voted in under the increasingly toxic UKIP banner.
Thurrock has been one of the few UKIP outposts to consistently perform well over the years, with the party launching its manifesto there in 2015 and receiving a 20% share of the vote for Tim Aker in the 2017 elections.
The loss will come as a huge blow to the UKIP faithful as party leader Henry Bolton continues to cling on despite receiving a vote of no confidence, on top of public embarrassment over his relationship with a young woman who has been branded a racist.
A number of senior UKIP figures have now quit their roles, including Mr Bolton’s deputy and assistant deputy, and it looks like there will be more losses to follow.
Tim Aker MEP, who intends to stay on as UKIP, said: “UKIP has a job to do in the European Parliament in seeing we get the Brexit we voted for. I will stay as a UKIP MEP. But to better represent my constituents in Aveley, I had no choice but to follow my colleagues and represent the Thurrock Independents. We are one seat away from taking control of the council and bringing real change to our borough.”
Somewhat bizarrely, the new Thurrock Independents group has adopted a worker bee as its new logo, with group leader Cllr Graham Snell saying it represents “hard graft, working together towards common goals, sacrifice and the importance of the protection of our environment.”
He went on to say: “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.
“Our entire group joined Thurrock Independents as we have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics.”
With just over 14 weeks until the local elections, the loss of one of the most influential local government UKIP groups is a substantial blow to the ailing party. Given the party’s extensive problems, there are likely to be further casualties.
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