For a party new on the scene — they had no presence at all in the chamber until May — UKIP in Southend have certainly taken to factionalism quickly. Since James Moyies announced that he wouldn’t vote for UKIP parliamentary candidate Floyd Waterworth at the general election, the whole local party seems to have come crashing down on itself.
Regardless of his reasons, a senior party figure announcing they won’t vote for their party’s candidate is tantamount to a knife in the back.
When the revelations broke on Sunday (with thanks to Cllr James Courtenay), it was staggering enough. But since then James Moyes has been sacked (or resigned) as chair of the local branch, and the whole thing featured in a whole-page spread in the local paper.
I have been saying for months that UKIP are a disorganised rabble, without the nous to organise a drinking party in a brewing establishment, let alone provide responsible, effective representation in the council chamber. I submit this spectacular and public display of the wheels falling off the UKIP bus as exhibit 1.
This has gone way past a disagreement between colleagues or rivals. This is well and truly a kipper civil war. The battle lines are pretty clear. On the one side, James Moyies and on the other Floyd Waterworth.
What is the more interesting, is that the rest of the group seem to have divided too. From what I hear, St Laurence councillor Lee Burling (the quietest member of the Famous Five — who has yet to pop up on my radar at all) is reportedly backing his group leader.
Tino Callaghan, the member for Prittlewell, seems to be more towards Waterworth’s side of the argument. I understand there is no love lost between Callaghan and Moyies, but I suspect that his support for Waterworth is an alliance of convenience, given that he has been distancing himself from Waterworth’s poor attendance in the chamber. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees himself as Moyies’ replacement as UKIP group leader.
The unknown factor here, then, is Lawrence Davies. The Kursaal councillor was apparently clueless about the whole mess, which continues his run of being the least politically aware actor in Southend politics. Just about anyone involved in local politics knew of the bad blood between Moyies and Waterworth.
According to the Echo, Moyies resigned his chairmanship of South Essex UKIP (Though I had definitely heard he was sacked) and has been replaced by Waterworth. The Echo also reported that Moyies had appealed against his selection defeat, on the basis that Waterworth used a confidential membership list to canvas members. Waterworth denies it, and claims that the appeal was rejected.
It’s all very anorak-y, but the fact that UKIP’s two most senior local figures are at each others throats will cut through to the public. It looks, to be blunt, absolutely awful.
According to Waterworth,
“I have asked him to confirm or deny the weasel words attributed to him… It’s up to James Moyies to back me or step down.“
Well I can save him the trouble of asking: James Moyies had said the self-same thing to me. I have absolutely zero doubt that he meant it. And as for ultimatums, James Moyies is the only real campaigner that UKIP have, and their best chance of being more than a flash in the pan. Cllr Waterworth’s ultimatum smacks of cutting his nose off to spite his face.
So UKIP is in civil war. The competing ambitions of Moyies and Waterworth have grown too big, and it has come to political blows. Waterworth is a lame duck, whilst Moyies must surely be weighing the pros and cons of staying within the local party he founded six years ago.
But six months on from their arrival on the scene, UKIP’s biggest contribution to Southend politics looks likely to be their own self-immolation.