What will UKIP bring to local government

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

UKIP leader Nigel Farage - Credit: PA

THE arrival of UKIP as a significant force on the county council is intriguing – but it’s difficult to see how their nine councillors at Endeavour House will act as a cohesive group.

For the last four years Bill Mountford has been the party’s single representative at the county.

He’s always made the trip down from Lowestoft for full council meetings and while his interventions have not been that regular, when he has spoken he has always been sensible, locally-focused, and frankly his comments could have come from a politician of any party.

I do wonder if the same can be said for his eight new colleagues. What will the UKIP group’s view be on education changes? What will they have to say about boosting tourism? What is their policy on improving public transport?

It’s clear that some new UKIP councillors were shocked to be elected. Are they prepared to put in the hours of work needed from a county councillor every week?

Will they be free to travel from Brandon or Haverhill to regular morning and afternoon meetings in Ipswich?

And what about the UKIP voters?

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The constitution of UKIP makes it clear that it is a non-racist party. But how many of its members and supporters know that?

The controversy surrounding its candidate in Wickham Market and his previous BNP links suggests that the party does not have the resources to check out its candidates, let alone its ordinary members.

And I’ve had reports from supporters of other parties (Labour, Conservative, and Green) who tell me they’ve encountered people on the doorsteps who say they’re voting UKIP and expressing the kind of racist and xenophobic views you expect to hear from the BNP.

The Wickham candidate who was disowned by his party still got 555 votes and came second in the poll in that division – were all of those voters unaware of the controversy?

One senior Ipswich Tory said to me: “It isn’t Europe that gets UKIP supporters going, it’s immigration.”

There are clearly many decent voters who back UKIP because they want to protest or because they don’t want to be part of the EU – but it also does attract voters from a darker place. And that is a concern.