Nigel Farage says UKIP has 'all to play for' after five West Norfolk councillors join
PUBLISHED: 12:58 12 December 2014 | UPDATED: 15:38 12 December 2014
They were billing it as "a major boost" for the UK Independence Party's chances in May's election. But it doesn't threaten the Conservatives' grip on the King's Court council chamber.
The way the wind blows
Today’s news does not threaten the Conservatives’ majority on the council.
They still hold 39 of its 62 seats, while Labour remain the second-largest grouping, with 12 seats.
But UKIP has now become the third-largest party in West Norfolk, with six seats.
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.”
With five new members, UKIP now has six councillors and is the third largest party on the King’s Lynn-based authority.
In a statement embargoed until this lunchtime, it said: “This is a huge boost to UKIP’s presence in the Eastern Region.”
“North West Norfolk is already a target seat for UKIP in next year’s general election and this development adds to the aim of UKIP to make them the largest party on the Borough Council after next May’s elections.”
The five councillors include two former mayors and a former chairman and treasurer of the local Conservative Association.
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.
“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 today 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.
Mr Foster said: “In 1967 King’s Lynn’s town expansion officer said there was no point in building 3,500 houses if there is no work for the inhabitants.
“Yet 47 years later the Conservative administration under Nick Daubney is proposing 16,500 new houses and only 5,000 new jobs. We believe that this is an unsustainable position to put the borough in. This works out that only 30pc of the houses could be in employment. So who are these houses for?
“UKIP agreed with us that development of this scale needs massive infrastructure support. The government’s Autumn Statement made it quite clear that West Norfolk is not going to receive the required support.”
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.”