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Ward by ward: Belhus:Is UKIP a cut above Labour?

IN 2006, this reporter began working in Thurrock. In his first election, he looked at Aveley and asked what happened to the Labour vote. He asked as the seat then had three Conservative councillors.

The explanation was that they had taken a hit in 2004 but were working to take it back.

Almost ten years later and the Labour comeback in Aveley has yet to emerge.

Indeed, as we have seen, the Tories seemed to have been supplanted by UKIP and there is little doubt that by next week, we will have three UKIP councillors in Aveley.

But what about neighbouring ward, Belhus?

Some say there were signs back in 2007, that white right wing voters could be swayed from Labour.

In that year, Labour only won by 37 votes from a keen young Tory called Billy Taylor.

The Labour share of the vote was 35%.

The three councillors were Charlie Curtis, Wendy Curtis and Sue Gray. They were all personable in their own way but there was something a little pedestrian and a slight air of entitlement. Perhaps what we mean and meant is that if someone got their act together, then they could have a right good go at this ward.

Back in 2007, our thoughts were more directed at the Tories or indeed the cuddly BNP, who had just polled over 400 votes.

But the Labour dominance held firm (ish).

In 2008, Sue Gray won by 237 votes (42%). In 2010, Wendy Curtis won by 515 votes (46%). In 2011, it got even better with Charlie Curtis winning by 641 votes (51%).

But for the first time, the name of a UKIP candidate appeared in the name of Chris Baker. He polled 301 votes. But from that point on, he started to burrow away at the local population.

In 2012, Sue Gray was re-elected again. She won by 273 votes (51%) but Chris Baker polled 401 votes.

In 2014, Chris struck gold. He won the seat by 406 votes. A combination of Europe, a lacklustre Conservative campaign and a one paced Labour campaign plus a spirited UKIP campaign combined to produce a victory for UKIP.

In 2015, it was the same again. UKIP’s Graham Hamilton won by 383 votes (44%).

Labour’s policy seems to be retreat. Whilst UKIP have continued to be active in the area, have surgeries at the Ockendon hub, Labour seems to have stagnated.

Sue Gray is standing again but it doesn’t seen to be high profile. She has continued to undertake her mayorial duties but one would worry if she has taken an equal magisterial approach to campaigning.If indeed, she is campaigning at all?

Having said that, if she does lose, Sue has been a gracious, kind and considerate mayor who has been a shining ambassador for the borough.

The UKIP candidate is local hairdresser Angela Sheridan. There isn’t the purple permanent wave of banners and posters that decorated the area in 2015 but maybe they don’t need that.

It looks like the people that voted Billy Taylor (Cons) in 2007 or Lauren Kay (BNP) in 2008 or indeed, Charlie Curtis, Wendy Curtis and Sue Gray have found a natural home.

YH precision: UKIP gain.

Belhus

John Biddall – Conservative

Sue Gray – Labour

Angela Sheridan – UKIP

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