Late last night, some strange rumours found their way to me in the pub. A little unlikely, to my mind, but this morning apparently confirmed by the Echo. UKIP have selected their candidate for Rochford & Southend East in the general election next year.
They have selected one of Southend’s ‘invisible kippers’: Floyd Waterworth, the recently elected councillor for Blenheim Park ward.
If I’m honest, this is pretty surprising. Not just because UKIP have selected an unknown in a seat where they have previously indicated that they fancy their chances. It is more because I, and most of the local political scene, had expected that this particular nomination would go to UKIP’s group leader on Southend Borough Council, James Moyies.
This wasn’t an idle assumption either, at least not on my part. In a chat before the election, James confirmed that he would be going for the nomination. In the same breath he suggested that UKIP would be parachuting someone from outside the local area to stand in Southend West, so that prophecy has at least proved accurate.
There are a number of possibilities regarding what has happened here, but two in particular commend themselves to me.
1. James Moyies lost the selection vote
This would be a bit of a shocker. James is the local party figurehead, one of two UKIP councillors who I could actually pick out of a line-up, and the only one who is halfway competent (You can put that on a leaflet if you like, James – Ed). I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was responsible for their surprise haul of five seats in May just gone, but James’ seat in West Shoebury was the only one which UKIP could feel reasonably confident of winning.
If he has lost the selection battle, it suggests division within the local UKIP branch. Southend Labour were criticised recently by a Lib Dem blogger for fielding our two best performers in Southend West and Rochford & Southend East, but honestly there’s little rationale for not picking your best.
Unless James Moyies has somehow “done a Duddridge”, and alienated his local members on an epic scale.
2. James Moyies has his eye on somewhere else
The other possibility is a little more plausible, but only a little. If UKIP high command has Moyies in mind for another more winnable seat, then he might not have even gone for the Rochford & Southend East nomination. Could Moyies be busy packing his parachute?
Trouble is, what other seat would have piqued his interest? Thurrock (a three way bunfight between Labour, the Tories and UKIP — with Labour’s Polly Billington being the best of the three by a country mile) has already selected. And I’m not sure where else would be ‘more’ winnable.
As I say, there might be other reasons. James may not have put himself forward, out of fear he would have to fight a deportation battle (Careful now, we don’t want to be accused of being ‘racist’ again, do we? – Ed). He might have decided to focus on his aspirations to become Emperor Leader of Southend Borough Council. He might be about to become a Jehovah’s Witness.
Whatever the reason, I can’t see this as anything but bad news for UKIP. Waterworth is a complete unknown, and his copy/past quote to the Echo straight out of the Big Kipper Book of Political Copy is pretty much the first thing I’ve heard from him. Indeed, after the election I was contacted by one of his constituents to ask if I knew what he looked like.
So what do I know about Floyd Waterworth. Well, not much…
- His victory in Blenheim Park (whatever James Moyies may claim) was an accident.
- Early after his election he annoyed a lot of councillors at a Development Control (planning, to you and me) committee meeting, being rude, antagonistic, and bizarrely opposed to businesses being held to planning laws.
- Both his Leigh-on-Sea home and his Blenheim Park council seat are in the neighbouring constituency, Southend West.
- Er, that’s it…
His selection will make the Rochford & Southend East election campaign more interesting, but it’s hard to see this anything but UKIP shooting themselves in the foot.