Dr Velmurugan, one of the councillors for Westborough ward on Southend Borough Council, has announced that he has quit the Independent
Party Group led by council leader Cllr Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe).
I have, as yet, no details as to why Dr Vel has quit the Indies, though a number of possibilities put themselves forward. This, of course, is not an entirely new prospect. In the last few years of the Tory administration, Dr Vel refused to sit with the other Independents, instead branding himself a “conservative-minded Independent” and voting with the Tories on pretty much everything. He rejoined the fold when the Independent
Party Group went into the joint administration. The question of whether he will still honour the joint administration agreement that he signed up to personally also hangs over events.
But Dr Vel quitting again will not cause a great deal of surprise to anyone who follows Southend local politics.
As to why, it is entirely possible that, like when Cllr Aylen (IND – Belfairs) quit the Independent
Party Group, Dr Vel has simply grown tired of Cllr Woodley’s poor people management skills. It does leave his rag-tag band flagging a little in the chamber, as the second of their number that they have lost in this municipal year.
There is, though, another possibility. My little birds have, in the last few months, brought me rumours of Dr Vel having met with senior UKIP figures, possibly including the dear leader himself, Nigel Farage. I have no real confirmation of this, and Dr Vel quitting the Independent
Party Group does not necessarily mean that he is joining UKIP, but it adds an interesting dimension to events. It would be quite a political journey, though, that has taken Dr Vel from being a one-time Labour member, to a “conservative-minded” independent, to a kipper.
There is also the fact that Dr Vel is up for re-election next year, in a ward that Labour have comfortably won at the last two elections. A cynic might wonder if his not-very-secret negotiations with Cllr Woodley to replace Cllr Mike Stafford (IND – Thorpe) in Thorpe ward have failed, and he sees a UKIP-backed re-election bid in Westborough as his only hope.
Time will tell.