Blogpost by Mr Peter Perrin
COUNCILLOR Graham Snell has gone on record to defend the decision of the UKIP Group not to support the Conservative Group candidate for the position of Deputy Mayor, Cllr Tunde Ojetola. Cllr Snell says, “Cllr Ojetola has made it abundantly clear, over the past couple of years, in both the local and national press, that he has a strong dislike of UKIP. We are hardly likely to vote for a person who has made his distaste for our group so public.
I am puzzled as to how Cllr Snell reconciles his decision, together with the other UKIP Councillors, to support both Labour Party candidates for the posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor. I recall that the dislike of UKIP by the Labour Party in Thurrock equalled if not surpassed that of Cllr Ojetola. Comments made by some Thurrock Labour Councillors about UKIP such as fascist, brown shirts and racist spring to mind.
Maybe it would have been wiser if the UKIP Group had followed Cllr Tim Aker, and abstained, leaving the matter to be settled by a contest between the Labour and Conservative Groups, thereby avoiding the perception that UKIP’s decision was racially motivated as has subsequently been suggested. Cllr Snell may well protest at the remarks of MP Jackie Doyle-Price but maybe he should reflect that his handling of the matter left the UKIP Group vulnerable and that many people will agree that Jackie Doyle-Price’s comments are justified.
A long time ago when I was a child the response to name-calling was dismissed with the reply “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names they only hurt you”. A response I consider far more grown-up than that of Thurrock UKIP to Cllr Ojetola’s expressed dislike of them.
Cllr Snell wants us to believe that no deals were made regarding the vote for Deputy Mayor and I can only take his word that was the case. However, from my seat in the public gallery, I got the distinct impression that the Conservative Group, with the exception of their Leader Cllr Rob Gledhill, were somewhat bemused and uncomfortable with the proceedings and believed that Cllr Ojetola would be accepted as Deputy Mayor “uncontested”, a belief that appeared to have some foundation when Cllr Coxall rose to protest on a “point of order”.
Suspicions were further aroused that “done deals” were being reneged when the Labour Group candidate, Cllr Cathy Kent, admitted that such short notice of her nomination had taken her completely by surprise.
If we believe Cllr Snell when he says there were no secret meetings and that the three Group Leaders met with the full knowledge of Group members then the outcome of the meeting, i.e., that UKIP would not support Cllr Ojetola, should have left Cllr Gledhill in no doubt that the Conservative candidate stood no chance. Maybe Cllr Gledhill believed that UKIP members would abstain or if they voted in favour of a Labour candidate it would be seen as further proof of UKIP racism. Whatever his reasons Cllr Gledhill appears to have been ambushed by the Labour Group and as a consequence Cllr Tunde Ojetola was subjected to a humiliating experience for a second time.
P.S. Cllr John Kent’s leadership of the Council marks him as a credible Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidate. Should he decide to go down that road Thurrock Council would be the poorer.