IN MAY, at a full meeting of Thurrock Council, the UKIP councillor for Aveley, cllr Robert Ray rose to his feet to speak. As he rose, the Conservative councillor for Stanford West, cllr Shane Hebb shouted: “Just a pressure group.”
A few weeks after that, the “pressure group” won nine seats on Essex County Council.
There were no elections in Thurrock in 2013 as it is a “fallow” year. But in 2014, there will be local elections as well as european elections. It could be an interesting election.
Thurrock has been one of the seed-beds for UKIP.
In the early days, it seemed to be Clive Broad and his brother Alan, walking the streets of Stifford Clays. In the background was Kerry Smith, (now Essex County Councillor Kerry Smith,) sitting in the back of Daybreak Windows, printing leaflets.
There were a lot of hard yards walked by UKIP in Thurrock. YT interviewed candidates in Aveley, West Thurrock, Stanford etc. They were greatly boosted by very able candidates such as Tim Aker.
Now Tim Aker is head of policy for UKIP. He is also a candidate for the european elections and his appearances on national television from the Daily Politics to Daybreak show that Tim is a major player in the political mosaic in Britain.
But what about Thurrock?
In 2012, UKIP made the breakthrough in the hotbed of local politics that is Aveley and Uplands when Robert Ray took Aveley by a majority of 47 votes.
Since then, Robert has worked tirelessly for his residents and to raise the profile of UKIP in the borough.
Robert has indicated that his wife may stand as a candidate in 2014.
In the meantime, Thurrock UKIP have been out and about most weekends on the doorstep in Thurrock.
UKIP were “nearly men” in a number of wards. 567 votes in The Homesteads; 515 votes in Stanford East to name just a few. If the momentum continues, then who knows what they may gain in 2014?
They could be even more “nearly men” or they could spring some real surprises. Just look at a seat such as West Thurrock and South Stifford. On the night of the paper candidates in 2004, all three seats were up and they all went to the Conservatives. Now, Labour were hated that year (nationally). The ire of voters anger may be the Coalition in 2014 but that may not be compensation to Labour in Thurrock when it may occur that voters still turn to UKIP.
It is certainly food for thought for Thurrocks Conservative leader, Phil Anderson who is up for re-election next year in Stanford East. Cllr Anderson only won by 28 votes in 2010. Labour won the seat by 243 in 2012.
Look at a ward such as Belhus. In 2007, Labour only won it by 27 votes.
UKIP believe that areas such as Chadwell St Mary, Tilbury and West Thurrock and South Stifford may be up for 2014.
A spokesperson said: “One of the main issues on the doorstep was the economy. Whether it is housewives struggling or teenagers with no prospects. People are hurting.”
Labour sources quoted immigration was top of the agenda time and time again across Essex.
With european elections on the same day, it could be a perfect storm. This reporter makes no predictions just yet (Just as well, Carl Morris by 1100 ha!-Ed) but it will make for a fascinating 2014.