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.
If Douglas Caswell’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” routine in Clacton doesn’t give twitchy Tory MPs the nudge they need to jump ship, then Rochester & Strood might. In Clacton, Carswell’s personal appeal undoubtedly won out. Mark Reckless, however, has all the charisma of a two week old helium balloon. If he wins his by-election, then UKIP can actually claim to offer right-wingers a decent chance of re-election.
In such an event — which at this stage is far from a certainty — the fear that Grant Shapps can put into his ranks (Who on earth is afraid of Grant Shapps?!! -Ed) will dissipate, and Tories will start to examine their majorities and ideological leanings, and weigh up where they would be happier.
So what of Southend’s two MPs? Are they likely to abandon the yacht Cameron for the SS Farage?