A THURROCK Council election candidate has conceded he has been left embarrassed by his own party’s election material – which hailed him as ‘a Covid hero’.
Luke Spillman, who was a high profile UKIP member and founder member and eventual leader of the Thurrock Independents Group on the council, is standing in the elections on Thursday, 6 May in Ockendon.
He is currently a councillor in Aveley & Uplands ward, which he won with a 562 majority in May 2016 when he was a UKIP candidate. Following the referendum vote and subsequent collapse of the UKIP party, in January 2018 Cllr Spillman and a number of his UKIP colleagues formed the Independent group. In May 2018 Cllr Spillman became the Independent Group leader and he was a staunch critic during that leadership of many of the ruling Conservative group policies.
In September 2019, he damned them with the following statement: “This Conservative administration have squeezed any democratic accountability and scrutiny out of the system. Competence has dropped to unprecedented lows.”
Cllr Spillman announced he would be quitting local politics in the run up to the scheduled 2020 local elections last year but his tenure on the Aveley & Uplands seat was extended by a year because of Covid-19.
And in a move that shocked many followers of local politics in May last year, Cllr Spillman announced he would be joining the Conservative group he had been so critical of.
It was still expected he would stand down after his extended spell as he had openly spoken of his disillusionment with politics but in another twist – and in further shock to local observers – in January this year he announced he was rejuvenated and would be standing for the Conservatives in the Ockendon ward election next month.
Cllr Spillman laid out the reasons for his change of heart and spoke of his determination to help Thurrock bounce back after the problems associated with Covid-19. And he was specific about how Covid should not be seen as a tool for political gain – telling Thurrock Nub News: “One thing I have found distasteful, both nationally and locally, are the attempts by some to cash in politically out of the pandemic.
“Call me old fashioned, but I think climbing over people’s graves to get votes is something to be frowned upon.”
However, that has appeared to rebound on him when his Ockendon election material hit the streets – acclaiming him as a ‘Covid hero.’
Left red-faced, Cllr Spillman has been quick to explain that he was unaware of the wording on his election leaflet and says it had not been down to him.
He said:: “I don’t chose the wording for all my leaflets. Personally I found it a little embarrassing. I understand that this is reference to the work I’ve been doing with the rough sleepers initiative.
Ruth Clapham, Labour candidate for Ockendon said “I was disgusted and angry to see this!”
“To claim you’re a covid hero when our real heroes – our nurses, our binmen and our carers – our key workers – are fighting to stop pay cuts after they’ve work tirelessly for us during the pandemic is beyond belief”
“The very least he can do is to apologise for the disgust and deep offence he has caused”.