Almost a week has passed since the latest dramatic stage of the Southend UKIP civil war. I am talking, of course, of the unanimous decision by UKIP’s Southend Councillors to expel their Rochford & Southend East candidate from the council grouping. Time has not, honestly, made this look any less shambolic.
I am not even entirely clear on why Cllr Waterworth has been subjected to this indignity. The Southend Echo report contained a line purporting to explain the whole thing, but in its usual style only confused matters more:
“It is understood Mr Waterworth, who represents Blenheim Park, has1 been kicked out because he allegedly warned a fellow councillor he would interfere with his chances of getting re-elected for Ukip, a charge Mr Waterworth denies.“
So…is that a threat made by Cllr Waterworth? Or is it meant to be that he claimed that another councillor would hinder his own re-election?
I don’t know. But I do know that shambles doesn’t even come close to describing it.
Whatever the reason given, it is difficult to view this as anything other than another clash in the ongoing civil war which has torn UKIP in Southend apart ever since members chose Floyd Waterworth rather than James Moyies to be their parliamentary candidate.
I’m slightly torn on my reaction. On the one hand, I do think that Moyies would have been the better candidate. There was a moment, after the dramatic and unexpected success of UKIP in the local elections last year — where, I would point out, the Conservatives didn’t win a single seat in Rochford & Southend East — where it looked like James Moyies for UKIP and Labour’s Ian Gilbert could between them squeeze James Duddridge from the right and left respectively and for the first time in 100 years return a non-Conservative MP for Southend. With the selection of the fairly useless Waterworth, that hope seems to be being squandered.
On the other hand; there are ways of losing gracefully. James Moyies has not taken them. Not campaigning for and backing his party’s candidate could be seen as principled, if you could not agree with that person. Announcing it to the world, however, is not. Certainly not if you remain under that party’s banner. And a UKIP investigation into the selection, reportedly, cleared Cllr Waterworth of any wrongdoing.
Given that I’m not 100% sure why he has been expelled, I cannot state whether Cllr Waterworth’s expulsion is justified or not. But a casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that Cllr Moyies is indulging in a witch-hunt — one which his council colleagues are going along with.
The way that this is progressing, I can honestly see only two possible conclusions to this whole sorry saga. UKIP high command will be forced to intervene, and either sack Floyd Waterworth as parliamentary candidate, or force the Southend UKIP group to readmit him — which would surely necessitate the threat of expulsion all four other councillors.
A grubby, messy, dishonourable affair from start to finish.
But as things stand, on 7th May UKIP will be asking the voters of Rochford & Southend East to vote for a candidate who isn’t considered good enough to be in their own council group. Hardly the most attractive of offers.