When UKIP shocked everyone at the Southend election count last month, by going at one stroke from no representation to five seats on the council, there was a lot of whispering about the newest political grouping. The simple fact is that we (as in, Southend) know very little about the new purple councillors.
James Moyies is well known, of course, and has worked hard over a number of years to win West Shoebury. And from what I heard, Tino Callaghan worked hard in Prittlewell, even if his earlier campaign in the West Leigh by-election did little to inspire.
But the remaining three are pretty much unknowns, and there was of course a lot of wondering as to how long they might last. UKIP has a fairly high casualty rate (in the last EU Parliament, of 13 MEPs 5 were either sacked, had the whip suspended or resigned), and I doubt they have much imagined the responsibilities and work-load required of a local councillor.
Cllr Moyies has kept a grip on his group so far (his tweet celebrating his election as group leader felt a bit absurd, but imagine had they chosen someone other than him). With the only meeting of the new council having lasted less than half an hour, there hasn’t been much chance for anyone to go off the reservation.
But witness this from Kursaal’s surprise ‘Kipper Lawrence Davies:
Now, caveats apply: this was posted a month before an election in which he was a paper candidate, and has since been deleted. I am not friends with Cllr Davies, and this particular status was set to public visibility. It does, nonetheless, raise certain questions about the new councillor’s intentions and dedication, and I note the decisive tone in which he declares that he will be moving back to Cambridge this August.
Perhaps Cllr Davies has changed his mind. Perhaps he will stay, and represent those who elected him to the best of his ability. Or perhaps he will go back to Cambridge, and trigger a by-election costing the local taxpayer some £14,000.
Time will tell, but I will be watching closely the actions of the UKIP contingent in Southend.