THE rise of Ukip in Thurrock has been fascinating to watch. Thurrock voters have always had an interest in far right politics as evidenced by the 25% who voted BNP (local elections) in 2007.
After that, UKIP candidates around the borough came close to winning a seat until Robert Ray actually won in Aveley in 2012. The former National Front organiser is now being seen standing shoulder to shoulder with Conservative candidate Jackie Doyle-Price.
In 2017, Thurrock has 17 UKIP councillors. Many of them work under the radar, getting stuff done for their communities. A classic example is East Tilbury councillor, Sue Sammons. They have a leader in Graham Snell, who is, in the chamber, the epitome of reasonableness.
They have their ‘star” in Tim Aker, who has maintained a high profile as an MEP, as an Aveley councillor and as a prospective parliamentary candidate. Whether it is yellow lines in Aveley or policy in Europe, he has nurtured his profile.
The candidate in South Basildon and East Thurrock is deputy leader of UKIP and London Assembly member, Peter Whittle
A while ago, we wrote an article where we thought that UKIP might well have a future as a force in Thurrock politics. But we, like many others were very surprised at the loss of seats in the county council elections around the country. This has led to the question of whether they will be totally immune to this in Thurrock. There are limits to political micro-climates.
The word on the street is that the UKIP vote in Thurrock is collapsing. However, that word is from the opposition. However, last year, Labour activists were honest enough in private conversation to say that UKIP vote was strong in areas such as Tilbury so we took them at their word then and their word now.
Two years ago, areas such as South Ockendon and Aveley were awash with purple posters.. Now there are a few dotted about (yes we know about the council campaign) but it feels symbolic.
That leads to the question: If true, where is that vote going?
Before that, we have to consider whether UKIP will match or better their 15,718 votes (31.7%) they received in 2015 in Thurrock. We think the answer is no. We think that vote will go down to under 8,000. Of course we could be wrong (and often am) but it looks like a lot of people appear to perceive them of having “done their job” and no matter how hard they argue that there is more to them, voters may not see them that way.
We think the vote in South Basildon and East Thurrock will go from 12,097 in 2015 to 5,000 on June 8th.
Where will that vote go: Don’t know. Trends would point to the Tories but that may not be as straight forward in Thurrock. Statistics show that the biggest Tory majority in Thurrock was Tim Janman in 1987 when he gained Thurrock by 690 votes over the incumbent Oonagh McDonald. A gain after the sitting female MP misjudged the mood over a number of issues….
It may well be that the local elections of 2018, 2019 and 2020 may see UKIP councillors voted out of office. But who knows? Who knows how the Brexit negotiations may go. Paul Nuttall is a disaster as a leader of UKIP but his hopes that “UKIP can stay on the pitch” may, just may, look quite wise in 2019 or 2020.
But in the meantime, no, we don’t think Tim Aker will be next MP for Thurrock and the future of their 17 councillors at best, remains uncertain.