Now, never minding the horse trading still going on behind closed doors–including the sheer number of Conservative councillors suddenly realising that they have their leader Cllr John Lamb (CON – West Leigh) over a barrel and can demand plum jobs for themselves–there seems to be a groundswell of scepticism as to whether Cllr Waterworth is up to what is — in effect — the most senior non-cabinet role on the council.
This morning, BBC Essex are reporting what my little birds have been telling me for the last few days: that Cllr John Lamb (CON – West Leigh), leader of the Conservative Group on Southend Borough Council, has struck a deal with Cllr Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park), leader of the UKIP group, to take control of the council.
To say that I’m disappointed at the news is an understatement, but after the elections the Joint Administration was on a knife edge, and Cllr Lamb clearly saw this as his last opportunity to achieve his long-held dream of becoming council leader — and was willing to do almost anything to make it happen.
The magic number on the council is 26. 26 councillors is a majority. The Tories have 24 councillors after the elections. The Joint Administration had 25 councillors (10 Labour, 9 Independent Party Group, 3 Southend Independence Group, 2 Liberal Democrat, 1 non-aligned -Ed). Thus the two UKIP councillors held the balance of power.
At one point in last night’s epically disappointing council debate on the breach of purdah, one half of Southend UKIP’s answer to Ant and Dec, Cllr Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park), tried to make a point which was shot down by the Mayor as not being relevant to the subject at hand.
The story Cllr Waterworth was trying to tell was one regarding an Independent candidate who was part of the mass exodus from Southend UKIP during the civil war, and one which my little birds have been feeding me bits and pieces of over the last couple of weeks.
Cllr Waterworth was right that it’s an important public interest story. So too was the Mayor right that this was not the proper forum for it. Better, perhaps, would be a blog. Such as this one, perhaps. Not so awful now, eh Floyd?
Word reaches me from my little birds of an interesting funding arrangement apparently going on in the lead up to the local elections in May. If rumour is to be believed (And the source seems sound -Ed), then Dr Vel (IND – Westborough), the deputy mayor, has been funding a good chunk of UKIP’s leaflet costs in the borough.
Now, when Dr Vel quit the Independents to sit independently as an independent councillor (Again -Ed), I voiced the rumour of his potential defection to UKIP–a rumour he didn’t exactly squash. Whilst I still expect the ultimate decision on that front to rest on which banner he believes is more likely to deliver him re-election. But this development indicates that he’s certainly keeping his options open.
Many thanks are due to Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP for Clacton, for giving we political anoraks our Christmas present early in the form of his (Eminently sensible -Ed) statement that UKIP could do with a change of leader from Mr Farage if it is ever to, well, achieve anything of note.
The Faragists are, naturally, a little hysterical over this statement of heretical treason/base fact (Delete as appropriate -Ed). But where do Southend UKIP stand on the matter?
Well, as they have recently split into Southend West UKIP and Rochford & Southend East UKIP, to follow the constituency boundaries, I can only really speculate on the views of the western faction, who have retweeted the above tweet in an apparent endorsement of Mr Carswell. Now, it’s possible to retweet something accidentally, and as many a Twitter bio (But not @ukipsouthend -Ed) says, retweets are not endorsements. Nonetheless, it does seem to suggest that the local purple brigade are less than onside with the dear leader.
In the election campaign, I speculated rather freely on whether James Moyies and the other outcasts from Southend UKIP would go over to the Independent Party Group. After all, Moyies was expelled and the others roundly condemned by the Dear Leader Farage.
But despite members of Clan Moyies being amongst the Independent Party Group’s candidates at the local elections just gone, that isn’t how things have panned out. No, flush with UKIP-proper’s abject failure in Southend (Third in both constituencies, and no gains on the council -Ed) Moyies et al have decided to start their own party grouping in the council chamber.
When I spoke privately with James Moyies a month or so back, he hinted that there might be some Independent UKIP candidates on the ballot paper this year.
James, in my experience, is a man of his word, and I wouldn’t say that I doubted that he meant it. But I was, I confess, surprised to see on the list of nominated candidates yesterday a number of Independent candidates I could clearly identify as being Kippers.
This, to me, marks the final disintegration of Southend UKIP. Up until now it’s been in the background, a war fought online and in the papers, and in the backrooms of the local party. Now it’s very real.
There are eight candidates in the Southend local elections this who are standing under the description “UK Independence Party (UKIP)”. There are also at least three who I can identify as being UKIP supporters, who are standing as Independents.
I was interested to read that UKIP Cllr Floyd Waterworth only occasionally met his departing UKIP colleague Cllr Burling at council meetings. These would, presumably, be the few council meetings which Cllr Waterworth has actually bothered to show up to?
There comes a point where even I get a little sick of the back and forth of Southend UKIP’s absurd civil war.
A friend of mine described it as the political wonk’s equivalent of Neighbours, being entertaining to those of us with a political fascination, but not signifying a great deal beyond that.
The latest episode in the saga includes a broadside from Moyies, and a rather weak riposte from Waterworth. It seems undeniable, though, that despite apparently few redeeming features, Waterworth seems to be winning this war.