Local Elections: The rise of Ukip - party to contest every ward in Havering
PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 May 2014 | UPDATED: 07:36 06 May 2014
With Ukip firmly in the national media spotlight, the party has revealed it will be contesting seats in every Havering ward in the local elections, and is “fighting to win.”
Three Conservative councillors defected to the right-wing party last month, joining the three that crossed the floor last year - and the party has effectively cost the Tories their majority in the Town Hall.
But do they pose a real threat to the Conservatives and other parties in the May 22 elections, or are they a flash-in-the-pan group, benefiting from the national coverage surrounding the European elections, which will be held on the same day?
“We are fielding 30 candidates out of 54 and we are fighting to win - it will be a tremendous boost having them on the same day,” said Cllr Lawrence Webb, leader of the Havering party and Greater London’s first elected Ukip councillor.
“We have had the same line for 20 years about the EU impacting on our immigration,” he said. “But it is only now the public is starting to realise it.”
He, incorrectly, added: “We don’t have the freedom to protect our borders from criminals gangs, even if they are arrested we can’t deport them.”
Ukip insists it is “even more” relevant in local elections than Europe, claiming the EU impact has increased the cost burden on local authorities.
Cllr Webb, who joined Ukip in 1998, acknowledged the recent negative press, not least the resignation of Enfield candidate William Henwood, who tweeted that Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country” and compared Islam to the Third Reich. But he insisted his party gets “unfair coverage.”
“If you have 2,500 candidates, you are going to get someone saying something stupid on Twitter or Facebook,” he added.
Opposing party leaders have questioned the party’s relevance within local government.
Council leader, Cllr Steven Kelly, referring to the elections, said: “It is the great unknown, will they win anything? Will they split votes? Personally, I don’t think they will have success. They will get seen through - they are a one-trick party, they do nothing other than Europe and immigration. There is a range to what we [Conservatives] can do - not just bang the same drum from both ends.”