Earlier this month, the elections took place to decide who should represent us on East Sussex County Council. Here in Seaford, as in many other places, UKIP were successful, winning two of the three seats in the town, the other being won by my Lib Dem colleague Carolyn Lambert.
There has, of course, been much analysis since about why so many people in these shire elections across England voted UKIP, what the electorate was saying, and what it might mean for the General Election in 2015.
In respect of the first, it seems to me that what was being expressed was a general disenchantment with all three parties – though not necessarily with individual representatives of those parties. Where candidates from the major parties were well-known and respected – like former mayor Carolyn Lambert – then people still voted for them, but for them as individuals, I suspect, rather than for the party.
In respect of the second, the general opinion amongst those who study these things is that it makes another hung parliament more likely, that the Tories will be most damaged by a strong UKIP vote, and that, notwithstanding such a vote in 2015 if that happens, UKIP are unlikely to win any parliamentary seats at the General Election because of our first-past-the-post system.
What doesn’t seem to have been a factor in the UKIP votes in the county elections has been very much to do with what the county council actually does. There may well have been some disenchantment with the record of the county council locally, and who could blame people if there had been? An incinerator dumped on us, roads falling apart, our council tax diverted to pay for grandiose schemes in the east of the county.
But forgive me if I missed it, I am not aware of UKIP campaigning on any local issue or the party frankly being to any degree interested in the county council itself. In Seaford Blatchington, the UKIP candidate (who came close to winning) was an 81-year-old man who lives in Ditchling. With due respect to him, what would he have done to tackle the day to day issues on the streets of Seaford Blatchington?
Meanwhile, good local campaigners with a local record, whether it’s Steve Saunders or Eleas Hussein for the Lib Dems, or indeed Sam Adeniji or Paul Franklin for the Tories, lost out.
But the electorate has decided that two out of three county councillors in Seaford should be UKIP and of course we must all respect that. But in return, I hope the successful UKIP councillors will accept that the county council does not decide on matters to do with the EU or immigration, and that their bread and butter job is to work for the people of Seaford on the matters for which the county council is responsible.