Eastleigh’s Ukip branch has welcomed another high profile defector from a rival party.
John Edwards – the Chairman of Hampshire English Democrats – has resigned his position and signed up to the Euro-sceptics. Waiting to greet him at Ukip’s Market Street HQ were two of Eastleigh’s former Lib Dem councillors, Glynn Davies-Dear and Andy Moore both of whom joined last month as part of a wave of new members the party picked up during the by-election campaign.
Edwards, who runs a landscaping gardening business in Chandler’s Ford and is a keen local blogger, has had previous experience as a Labour councillor at Rushmore Borough Council.
He was also the agent for English Democrat candidate Michael Walters who polled just 70 votes to finish 12th out of 14 candidates in the recent Eastleigh by-election.
Edwards said the failure of the English Democrats to improve on their 2010 vote had been instrumental in his decision to leave:
“The 80% drop in the vote was a surprise but you could see it coming. The membership in Hampshire has been shrinking – the campaign was difficult. When you get beaten by the ‘Elvis Loves Pets’ candidate who had distributed only 30 leaflets you know something is wrong”.
On the night Michael Walters said he believed the English Democrats had been unfairly branded as racist and Edwards told Eastleigh News that misplaced negative public perception had also played a part in his resignation.
“The induction of former BNP members has tarnished the image of the party plus there has been some poor decisions made which led to an email being sent to Sinn Fein just over a year ago, which upset a lot of members here in Hampshire. Some resigned. People ask me ‘are you an extremist or a racist ?’ and family and friends have been forced to defend me. I didn’t get into politics for that. I’m not like that”.
During the 2012 Borough elections Edwards had been forced to deny he was a fascist after leaflets alleging links between the English Democrats and the BNP were distributed in Chandler’s Ford in an incident which was investigated by the police. Read more.
Regarding his move to Ukip Edwards told Eastleigh News that he believes EU membership is the biggest issue facing the country and appealed to his former English Democrat colleagues to come and join him:
“You only need to see what is happening at the moment – robbery and theft of savers accounts in Cyprus. People who think it can’t happen here are living in cloud-cuckoo land”
“Other nationalists need to get their priorities right and come and join Ukip in the fight against the EU”.
Eastleigh Ukip already have two Parish Councillors – Hugh McGuiness (Fair Oak) and Martin Lyon (Bishopstoke) and with the addition of Edwards, Moore and Davies-Dear (who has also served as a Parish and County councillor as well as Mayor) Ukip are saying they can now offer voters credible, experienced candidates rather than just paper ones.
Chairman Hugh McGuiness told Eastleigh News that he believed Ukip would be able to build on the momentum of the by- election in the forthcoming local campaigns and the general election in 2015.
First there are the County Council elections to in May where all Eastleigh’s division are currently held by the Lib Dems bar one Conservative seat.
A Ukip activist told me:
“It’s likely to be a low turnout but our new supporters are enthusiastic so it will suit us
“ The Lib Dems think it’s going to be a re-run of 1994 when they narrowly won the by-election but then went on to win the locals by a landslide. They have a got a shock coming”
Both the by-election Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings and Eastleigh’s Lib Dem leader Keith House have told Eastleigh News that they believe Ukip were the beneficiaries of by-election protest voters and Ukip will slump to its normal level of support in subsequent elections. Cllr House said he considered it was still a ‘two horse race’ in Eastleigh between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.
Strangely enough, while Eastleigh News was at the Ukip office neither the Conservatives nor Labour were mentioned at all. It’s clear that Ukip now view Eastleigh as a two horse race between themselves and the Lib Dems and have dismissed other opponent’s chances.
Although the local Ukip branch have gained a high profile member they have also lost one in veteran local campaigner Sam Snook who has announced he has resigned from the party.
Snook had campaigned hard for Ukip during the by-election but was disappointed to learn he was unlikely to be selected to run for Ukip in the county elections. He believes he was stood down to make way for one of the newer more experienced recruits.
The irony is that it would seem Mr Snook was instrumental in enticing them to join the party.
The retired council worker has previously stood for Labour and the Lib Dems as well as an Independent so it seems unlikely that he will give up his interest in local politics and will continue to campaign on local issues.
While welcoming John Edwards, Ukip branch Chairman Cllr Hugh McGuinness commented “Obviously this is good news for us” and urged other English Democrats to follow suit, pointing out that Ukip have a proposal to create an English Assembly out of existing English MPs.