Last night on Twitter, journalists at the Southend Echo were promising the scoop of a former Tory councillor defecting to UKIP. And this morning, they have delivered: Roger Weaver, former mayor, one time councillor for Eastwood Park, and 2011 Tory candidate for Westborough, has joined the Kippers and will stand next May for them in St Luke’s ward.
Now, defectors are good, headline-grabbing news for UKIP (Doubly so if it distracts from the local chaos of the Southend UKIP civil war -Ed). But to draw parallels with the defectors on the national political scene, there are the defectors UKIP bigwigs might have chosen for their party (Carswell), and the defectors that they might well not have (Reckless).
Roger, I would humbly suggest, falls into the latter camp.
Roger Weaver’s tenure in Southend politics predates my own arrival in the town by some years, so I have had to use my research skills to brush up a little, but it seems that he left the Conservatives under a cloud after the local party chose Anna Wake as leader over himself. He then sat as an independent, indeed as part of the nascent incarnation of what we now know
and love as the Independent Party Group.
He then rejoined the Conservatives, and stood for them in 2011 in Westborough where he lost, amusingly, to Independent
Party Group leader Martin Terry.
So hardly a cohesive team player then.
St Luke’s is an interesting choice of ward, too. One might have expected him to go for his old seat in Eastwood Park. Roger, seemingly, now lives in Shoebury, and West Shoebury has to be a target seat for UKIP this year, as they look to put a second councillor in next to James Moyies. But St Luke’s is presently the seat of Independent
Party Group councillor Paul van Looy. (Yet more evidence that the UKIP/Indy pact died with James Moyies’ parliamentary hopes -Ed)
Far be it from me to mischaracterise this, and indeed the Echo article has a quote from Moyies welcoming Roger aboard, but it is notable that it is Floyd Waterworth in the article and the photo, alongside Roger. Is this another salvo in the civil war? Has Waterworth recruited another ally in the bitter fight against Moyies?
Frankly, who knows?
It does turn St Luke’s into a bit of a circus, though. We now have standing in May, one of the chief egos of the Independent
Party Group, a failed Tory councillor from Rochford, and now the man who local Tories thought less able than Anna Waite.
My final thoughts on this are around Roger Weaver’s own statement. Roger told the Echo:
“UKIP are the future and I am very proud to be standing for them.“
Point of order: UKIP are not the future, they are a very deliberate throwback to some of the worst elements of the past who, for example, think that World AIDS Day proves we need to close our borders.
Roger Weaver, to, is a relic of the past; an out-of-date local politician looking for a new pole from which to fly his personal flag. It’s not often I will agree with John Lamb, but this seems to me to be simply about Roger Weaver and whichever party will have him.
One small footnote: we are promised another high-profile defector next week, apparently. They’ll be needing something better than this to prove that they aren’t just a shelter for outcast Tories. Returning to the national analogy, part of me suspects we’ll all be gathered on Floyd Waterworth’s lawn so he can tell us about a £5 donation from a bloke down the pub…