Nigel Farage says UKIP now has ‘all to play for’ in West Norfolk after five councillors join party

Toby Coke (second left) with the five councillors who have joined UKIP - from left, June Leamon, Pau

Toby Coke (second left) with the five councillors who have joined UKIP - from left, June Leamon, Paul Foster, Michael Pitcher, Michael Langwade and Stephanie Smeaton. - Credit: Archant

UKIP hailed a 'huge boost' to its election chances in North West Norfolk, after five borough councillors joined the party.

Its leader, Nigel Farage, said it now had 'all to play for' next May, in what party activists describe as a target seat.

Behind the spin and talk of the rising purple tide, UKIP now has six councillors and is the third largest party on the King's Lynn-based council. It needs seven more to take over from Labour, which has 12 seats, as the main opposition party.

There were hints more might join, as the five new recruits met MEPs and parliamentary candidates. But no names were named.

The five include two former mayors and a former chairman and treasurer of the local conservative association.

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UKIP party leader Nigel Farage said: 'To have so many councillors coming over to us in one go is very exciting for UKIP and for North West Norfolk.

'These individuals have realised that the old parties have forsaken the interests of the British people.

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'I commend them for having the courage to stand up for their beliefs. UKIP now has all to play for in the May elections at both borough and parliamentary level.'

Independent West Winch ward councillor Paul Foster was named as leader of the new UKIP group, which also includes former mayors Michael Pitcher (Ind, Grimston) and Michael Langwade (Ind, Gaywood North Bank).

They are being joined by June Leamon (Ind, West Winch) and Stephanie Smeaton (Ind, Heacham). Before today's announcement, UKIP had just one member on the council - Ashley Collins, who represents the Watlington ward.

Toby Coke, UKIP's parliamentary candidate for North West Norfolk, who is also the UKIP group leader on Norfolk County Council said: 'I am delighted that these five councillors have had the courage to come over to UKIP.

'They are all determined that UKIP becomes the largest party on the borough council next May and I am sure that this will just be a continuation of many more councillors joining us, not just here in West Norfolk, but throughout the whole county.'

Those with longer memories might recall the 1997 General Election, when UKIP's predecessor the Referendum Party claimed a number of scalps, including North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham.

They didn't manage to get elected, but they split the Tory vote and gave Dr George Turner open field to join Tony Blair's New Labour landslide.

UKIP activist Bob Lawton, who campaigned for the Referendum Party in 1997, said he thought a repeat could be on the cards next May.

'I know his majority's a bit more this time but I think we can do extremely well,' he said.

Conservatives argue a UKIP vote could produce a similar result to 1997, giving Ed Miliband the keys to 10 Downing Street.

'I don't underestimate the threat of UKIP, we're going to work hard for every vote and we're not in any way complacent,' said Mr Bellingham.

'We're going to make it crystal clear at the General Election that if people are concerned about Europe, vote Conservative and get a referendum. If not, UKIP will split the Conservative vote and they'll get Labour.'

Council leader Nick Daubney said: 'I don't know why they didn't do it in the first place - it was clearly what they were going to do.

'I've got no time for politicians who follow the popular line at the time.

'Every since they joined the Conservative group, all they ever did was try to promote these UKIP ideas.

'Then they said they were independent when it was obvious they were UKIP. They've just waited to see which way the wind's blowing.'

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