Sometimes it feels like local politics goes in circles. Case in point: I am sure I’ve written this blog before. I have, in fact, back in December last year: A Coalition of Fools.
Back then, I said:
“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.“
I hesitate to blow my own trumpet, but I did call it right. I underestimated the number of UKIP wins, but no one party had a majority, and a UKIP-Independent alliance was a mathematical flop. That doesn’t seem to have disuaded them though; in the pages of the Echo they’re at it again: Ukip eye up coalition with Independents.
A pedantic point first: I don’t know how the style guides of others approach, and little do I care. Here, on this blog, it will always be UKIP rather than Ukip. It is an acronym, made up of the initial letters of the title United King Independence Party.
That out of the way, let’s turn once again to electoral mathematics. The current make-up of the council is 19 Conservative councillors, 13 Independent
Party Group, 9 Labour, 5 Lib Dem, 5 UKIP. 26 councillors are required for a majority, so it is immediately clear that no one party commands it. Neither, interestingly, does the combination of UKIP and Independent.
According to the Echo:
“[Cllr Moyies] hopes his party could raise their standing to around eight or nine seats in next year’s election, and then be in a position to do business with the Independents.”
I was wrong in my prediction of UKIP gains this year, but I still think it unwise to make such predictions some nine months away. For one thing, there won’t be the European elections to boost UKIP’s topical relevance. For another, with the general election on the same day as the local elections, I expect turnout to be much higher, more than double in such areas. And that will hurt UKIP’s chances, where low turnout helped them.
Aside from this, Cllr Moyies’ grasp of maths hasn’t improved since December. Say UKIP do gain another four seats, and stand at nine. From 13 at present, the Indies would have to gain four in order for a coalition to be workable. I’m not sure where they will be coming from. They could win another seat in Southchurch, though the general election would work against them there.
Cllr Moyies also claims that there were “early discussions” of a rainbow administration. He is surely mistaken, else they were very brief indeed, for both Labour and the Lib Dems made it clear from the start that they would not enter coalition with UKIP. And therein lies the problem; nobody but the Independents will work with the ‘kippers. They might dream of teaming up, but it is still very much a pipe dream.
The other thing which caught my eye was this line:
“Mr Moyies, who was elected in West Shoebury, said: ‘I think it would be feasible for us, if we make enough gains, to go into a joint power with the Independents, because it will mean an administration that isn’t held back by party considerations.“
This is plainly nonsense. Firstly, the Independents are in fact a party, even if they don’t choose to admit it. They have a leader, share common literature, and are in the administration. This pretence that they are anything other than a collection of people who wanted to be councillors at any cost to principle, is absurd.
But UKIP don’t even pretend not to be a party. What they claim is that they have no party whip — meaning only that they are unable to guarantee delivery of anything they promise.
A UKIP/Independent council administration is a pipe dream, and not something I can see happening anytime soon in the electoral cycle. Which is a good thing, because such an administration would be a ungovernable mess.