‘Bereft’ MEP reveals reason UK Independence Party Norfolk leader Toby Coke resigned
- Credit: Matthew Usher
One of the region's UK Independence Party MEPs has said he feels 'very bereft' by the resignation of the party's group leader on Norfolk County Council.
Stuart Agnew said he had tried to persuade the Toby Coke to stay, but he had been determined to go after losing a vote over who would stand in North-West Norfolk as candidates in the upcoming county council elections on May 4.
'He had his own ideas on how that would be. He wanted a certain combination and he wasn't able to get the agreement. He felt that was critical. It included a defection. It was quite complicated. It didn't work. He gave an ultimatum and his bluff was called,' said Mr Agnew.
The vote was held with the North West Norfolk branch on the UK Independence Party on Monday, but Mr Coke, who has led the 12-strong group at County Hall since his election in May 2013, informed his party colleagues of his decision by email on Thursday.It is understood that Mr Coke will sit on the council as an unaligned independent until the elections in May and does not intend to stand again.
He is believed to have resigned from the party, and the party's ruling National Executive Committee.
Mr Angew, who persuaded Mr Coke to join the UK Independence Party, said he had been a 'tremendous force' in Norfolk.
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'He was an utterly genuine man. He got all the councillors elected four years ago. He immediately took the lead and became the leader and did an unusual thing - rather than simply cosying up with the Tories to get a couple of cabinet posts, he wrong-footed them. He was highly effective.'
But Mr Agnew said that Mr Coke had had to follow the rules of the political party and if the vote went against he would have had to bite his lip and live to fight another day. 'If you are on the NEC you have to be seen to play by the rules. That is the difficulty.'
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'We have lost a very good man and I am upset about,' he said.
Mr Agnew said that the high-profile local resignation would not help the party in the upcoming elections. He has spoken to the party chairman Paul Oakden and will be providing a report to the NEC on Monday.
'He is no longer a UKIP member. I didn't want it to happen, but I sensed there was something inevitable about it.'
Mr Agnew said that he and leader Paul Nuttall were convinced that Brexit negotiations were going to run into trouble and Britain was going to get sucked into a 'semi-Brexit'.