It has been, all in all, nearly three years since UKIP burst onto the Southend politics scene, winning five seats on the local council from nowhere. The fact that, as of last week, Southend UKIP no longer exists in any meaningful form is a testament to quite what a dramatic ride it has been.
On Friday, The Southend Echo reported that Cllrs Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park) and David McGlone (UKIP – St Laurence) had both defected to join the Conservative group. The previous day, the Echo had broken the news that Cllr James Moyies (SIG – West Shoebury), the former leader of the UKIP group until he was kicked out of the party, had made the same move to the Conservatives, from the band of expelled UKIP councillors calling themselves the Southend Independence Group.
In the last three years, six UKIP councillors have been elected to Southend Borough Council. One stepped down and three were expelled. Three of those six now sit as Conservatives, and two as independents. There is no longer a UKIP group on the council, nor indeed any prospect of one reappearing any time soon.
So what happened, exactly? How did the newest political faction on the scene implode quite so dramatically?
In this blogger’s opinion, UKIP in Southend have been a victim both of their own success and their own ineptitude.
Whilst I disagree with him on a whole range of political subjects, I actually have a lot of time and respect for Cllr Moyies. He was someone who had worked hard to get elected, and had done so out of a genuine desire to make life better for residents. The same, sadly, could not be said of some of the other UKIP councillors, in particular Cllr Waterworth.
The trouble really started when Cllr Moyies lost the selection to be the 2015 UKIP candidate to Cllr Waterworth, in what was a massive upset. As easily UKIP’s most impressive figure locally, it had been taken as a foregone conclusion that Cllr Moyies would fight the local election. Accusations were tossed back and forth about unfair practices in the selection, but the end result was Cllr Moyies refused to support Cllr Waterworth, and was expelled from the party, taking the other three 2014 intake councillors with him.
One of these four exiles, Lee Burling, decided that all of this was much more trouble than it was worth, and stepped down at the 2015 local elections (Probably a wise choice, in retrospect -Ed), triggering a by-election that was won by UKIP’s now-Cllr McGlone. In the 2015 general election, of course, UKIP badly underperformed in Southend, and the St Laurence by-election aside they didn’t do well in the local elections.
Following May 2015, Cllr Moyies and his supporters formed the Southend Independence Group, which entered the joint administration, with Moyies himself serving in the cabinet. Cllrs Waterworth and McGlone, comprising a UKIP group of two, didn’t do a great deal until it came to 2016, and they almost accidentally held the balance of power on the council. They threw their lot in with the Tories, of course, in exchange for a pair of council committee chairs (And the lucrative allowances that come with them -Ed).
The fact that they’ve officially gone over to the Conservatives should be no great surprise to anyone. The Brexit vote, followed by Theresa May’s assent to 10 Downing Street, has repositioned the Tories onto UKIP’s ground, and Nigel Farage’s personality cult is flailing about looking for a purpose. With Waterworth and McGlone both up for re-election next year — and Waterworth in particular knowing that I outpolled UKIP as the Labour candidate in his seat last year — they will be looking around for a strategy to hang onto their seats. And becoming born-again Tories is probably the best one open to them.
The same, realistically, is true of James Moyies in West Shoebury, though I’d argue that he’s actually attempted to do the job of representing residents. Politically, I’ve had him pegged as a eurosceptic Thatcherite, so he doesn’t fit May’s brand quite as well as the other two, who are more in the eurosceptic authoritarian mould.
Honestly, I think UKIP’s hour in Southend is done. Their USP is gone, and the Tories in this part of the world were always on the same page as UKIP. In a way, it’s actually quite impressive to see that its councillors have realised this. But the upshot of this is quite straightforward: a vote for UKIP is more than ever a vote for the Tories.
“God damn it, just get the fuck off me,” Jane said, her voice deeper, more growly than normal.
She pushed with both hands and a chill of panic raced through her when Bret didn’t move. But then he relaxed and rolled off her, off the cot and onto the floor.
“Okay?” Jane, at a loss for words, said.
Bret made a show of shrugging and replied, “Whatever. Fine.”
He pulled his legs in under him, sitting cross-legged on the stained concrete floor. He started straightening his socks.
Jane sat up, sliding a little away from him—not too far or too fast. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.
“I mean . . .” she said, also making a show of shrugging, letting her right hand fall to her knee with a slap.
“I get it,” Bret said, not looking at her.
“Look,” she said, “I’m not trying to be a bitch or anything. I mean, I like you, okay?” She put a hand on his shoulder and instantly regretted it. It felt stiff. She put her hand back on her own knee. Bret didn’t seem to notice. “Just . . . I mean . . .” she added.
“Whatever,” he said, as if talking to his own feet. “I should just go, I guess.”
Relief flooded Jane’s chest so she sighed but said, “I don’t know. I mean, we can still hang out.”
When Bret turned his head—not enough to actually look at her—and said, “But . . . ?” Jane’s jaw went tight, forcing her lower jaw out.
“But,” she said, mocking him and letting her jaw relax when his shoulders sagged. “I guess so, yeah. You should just go.”
“Okay,” he said to his socks. “Whatever. Later, I guess.”
He disappeared without giving Jane a chance to say goodbye, which she wasn’t going to do anyway. She puffed out a breath and threw herself back down on the cot, staring up at the flat grey concrete ceiling.
“You didn’t like him?” the voice Jane had come to think of as Bob the Therapist asked. His voice came from the air around her. She’d never been able to find anything like a speaker.
“No,” she said, “he was, like, super cute and amazing. Real movie star type.”
“You’re being sarcastic,” Bob the Therapist replied.
“Oh,” Jane said sarcastically, “was I?”
“Would you prefer we stopped?”
Jane held her breath for a moment. Her jaw tightened again and her hands formed fists all on their own.
“What do you mean, stopped?” she asked. She was having trouble breathing all of a sudden.
“Would you prefer we stopped providing you with boyfriends?”
Jane closed her eyes and felt something—she wasn’t sure what—drain out of her.
“Be honest,” Bob the Therapist said for what Jane was sure was the millionth time.
“I don’t think you really want me to be honest with you,” she said, eyes still closed, her voice smaller.
She clenched her jaw again, waiting for the response: “Of course I do.”
Jane sighed, looked up at the ceiling, and said, “I honestly want you to let me go.”
There was a moment of silence.
This was when Bob the Therapist usually just stopped talking, at least for a while.
“Where do you want me to let you go?” he asked.
Jane pulled herself up, set both feet on the concrete floor. The word was in her head, repeating itself over and over. She swallowed.
She rubbed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Home.”
“You want me to let you go home?”
Jane’s fist pounded her own knee—it hurt a little, both her knee and her fist.
“Use your words, Jane,” Bob the Therapist said.
A tear rolled down Jane’s cheek. She wanted to wipe it away but couldn’t unclench her fists. She glared up at the ceiling and nodded.
“And where is that, exactly?” Bob the Therapist asked.
A sob burst out of Jane because it sounded to her like Bob the Therapist was really asking. He really didn’t know.
Jane shook her head.
“Would you like to try a different boyfriend?” Bob the Therapist asked.
Jane shook her head again. She was crying.
“Are you hungry?” Bob the Therapist asked.
Jane sniffed, wiped her eyes with her fists, then shook her head.
“Do you want me to leave you alone while you cry?” Bob the Therapist asked.
Jane nodded then, voice broken by sobs, said, “No. Don’t go. Don’t leave me here.”
Reluctantly, Jane laughed.
Her hand relaxed a little and she flexed her fingers and wiped her eyes again.
“Can we talk about . . . ?” Jane started. She shook her head.
Bob the Therapist waited.
Jane took a deep breath, a hand on her chest as though she could somehow push on her heart to make it stop beating so fast.
Bob the Therapist said, “I’d be happy to—”
“Just let me go,” Jane said to the ceiling. Then she had to clench her teeth again. She wanted to scream, but didn’t. She used to scream, but it echoed in the little concrete cell and hurt her ears. She hadn’t screamed in a long time.
“Were do you want me to let you go?” Bob the Therapist asked again. His voice sounded exactly the same.
Shaking her head, Jane replied, “Anywhere. Just let me out of here. Let me find someplace . . . Figure out where I am.”
There was a moment of silence.