Voting day is almost upon us, and the date to remember for the local elections across England is 22nd May. In Southend-on-Sea, there is everything to play for. For the first time in many years, control of the council hangs in the balance. In 2014, your vote counts more than ever to shape the future direction of the town. The main parties pitching their platforms are the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Independents, UKIP, and of course Labour.
So what are UKIP offering the voters of Southend in 2014?
In previous years I might have simply ignored UKIP in a series of posts like this. I’d have lumped them in with the Greens, the English Democrats, and whatever iteration of the extreme right had crawled out that year (this year, it’s a single National Front candidate in Victoria — one too many…).
Sadly, ignoring UKIP isn’t much of an option this year. Part of that is due to the media obsession with them — Nigel Farage has scarcely been off TV screens, and he has been on Question Time so many times he really ought to be paying rent. Part of it is due to the genuine poll ratings they seem to be getting. Whether or not they’ll top the EU Parliament poll is something I couldn’t say, but what about locally?
James Moyies (the only local ‘kipper I can name) certain thinks its his hour. He reckons he’ll be running the council in May. Pretty bold, for a party without a single council seat if you ask me. But then, it’s pretty much the same as Farage on the national stage.
The trouble I have here is as with the Independent Party Group — it’s very difficult to nail down what they actually want . James Moyies’ election literature — which I have already scrutinised on this blog — is very angry, but identifies only one problem (the sea wall) and his solution to it (switching from the cabinet too committee set up) isn’t going to do much but waste time and money. If one looks at Mr Moyies blog (not updated since 2011), then his main idea seems to be the restoration of corporal punishment to schools. Which is…not a great idea.
If I go to UKIP’s national policies, few of them have any bearing on local government (fewer still have anything to do with European governance, but that is a subject for another blog…). If James Moyies wins, will he be withdrawing one third of West Shoebury from the EU? Banning gay marriage on Shoebury Common? Making sure that HS2 doesn’t come through the ward?
So with that out, let’s look at what UKIP have offered locally previously. I recall standing against a UKIP candidate at a by-election in Wargrave a few years back, and he wanted all council decisions to be made by local referenda. That would be expensive and inefficient, so hopefully that won’t be making an appearance.
But a few months back, UKIP had a proper [unsuccessful – Ed.] stab at the West Leigh by-election. Their candidate had a number of policies. He wanted to reduce the town’s out-of-control debt, which is especially interesting as the town’s debt isn’t out of control. He wanted to reintroduce grammar schools, which is odd as Southend…erm…still has grammar schools. He also wanted to cut councillor allowances, so it will be very interesting to see whether any UKIP councillors elected take their allowances. Their counterparts in the EU Parliament aren’t shy about taking taxpayer’s money.
Actually, though, policies and pledges are pretty much irrelevant. This is down to one much-touted fact. UKIP, apparently, don’t have party group whips. This harks to the “independent” myth I expounded on yesterday, that this is in any way a desirable state of affairs. If there is no whip, then there is no assurance that anything promised will be deliverable.
So what will a vote for UKIP get you? A lot of headlines about how UKIP are insurgent in Southend, a protest at the whole system of local government, but ultimately probably not a jot. James Moyies talks a good fight, but it is far from clear that the purple brigade can deliver a single thing that they promise.