An article appeared in the Southend Echo recently, mooting an alliance between the Independent Group on Southend Borough Council, and UKIP, following the elections in May next year.
It’s an interesting idea. They both contain references to independence in their names. They both claim to operate without a party whip. They are both dangerously unpredictable, with principles malleable in the extreme.
The idea of Martin Terry’s band of self-aggrandising publicity machines teaming up with UKIP — somewhere to the right of Margaret Thatcher — to run Southend should terrify all rational thinking residents of the town.
It’s a good job that it stands very little chance of happening.
At present, the Independent Group hold 9 seats. There are two other broadly “independent” councillors; one of which is Rick Morgan of the Liberal Party — who we’d hope would be unlikely to join a far-right alliance — and the other is Dr Vel, who will almost certainly support the Tories come what may. So nine Independent Group councillors.
UKIP, of course, have none.
So at the moment the mooted “alliance” controls nothing close to the 26 seats required for a majority. But what about the May 2014 elections?
The trend of diminishing Conservative vote is likely to continue, with the tenuous control they cling onto of the council likely to slip even further. The last local elections in Southend were held in 2012, so I’ve analysed and extrapolated from that data. But this is, of course, speculative.
There are seventeen seats up for election. Of these (last elected in 2010) ten are held by the Conservatives, five by the Liberal Democrats, and one apiece by Labour and the Independents. So if the Independents were to win all of the seats, it would bring their total number of seats to twenty five, one short of a majority.
Except, a clean sweep by the independents is not going to happen. For one thing they have a reputed pact already in existence with UKIP not to compete for the same seats. For another, Labour are hopeful of gaining a few target seats.
UKIP’s local leader James Moyies has already declared that he is targeting six seats (only six, and not a full slate). Curiously, the Independents only stood candidates in two of the six at the last election. Curiously, in January’s by-election in West Leigh (one of the two) the Independents aren’t standing a candidate, whereas UKIP are.
In 2012, UKIP came second in only one of the seven wards they contested. This was West Shoebury (sounds familiar), where Mr Moyies himself was less than one hundred votes short of victory. This year, however, Mr Moyies will face Tony Cox, one of the highest profile Conservative councillors. A win is far from assured.
The Independents fared a little better. They won four seats in 2012, and took second place in two.
So, on a charitable reading, the Independents may emerge from the May elections with six wins, constituting five gains and an overall tally of fourteen seats. If UKIP are lucky, they may come away with one. This means that the grand alliance of Independents and UKIP would have…erm…fifteen seats.
I’ve no idea what the May elections will bring. More than likely there will be no party in overall control, and extensive negotiations will be necessary to provide Southend with local government. But regardless, any concept of a stable Independent-UKIP coalition taking control is limited to the fanciful imaginings of Messers Moyies and Terry.