Last Tuesday I had the privilege to chair a meeting of the UKIP County Councillors in Lincolnshire. Some of the new councillors had worked hard over months or even years to get elected; others were elected because of the national swing to UKIP and hadn’t really considered the possibility that they might actually find themselves being elected.
I wonder, out of the 153 (unlike the national newspapers, I’m not forgetting the 6 by-election wins) councillors elected for UKIP on May 2nd, how many of them actually believed that they were going to be elected? Or did it come as a complete shock to them?
When we say that UKIP members are ‘real people not career politicians’, this is what we mean! But what really encouraged me about the Lincolnshire group was seeing the enthusiasm amongst those names that I hadn’t heard before. These are the people who found themselves elected without really expecting it, and rather than be daunted by the challenge they want to use their position to make a difference to their County and for their Party. It will take time for new UKIP councillors across the country to get used to the rather arcane rules and procedures of County Councils, and therefore it could be a few months before the full UKIP impact on those councils is seen.
But that doesn’t mean UKIP councillors aren’t already making a difference. In Cambridgeshire, our councillors have already managed to ensure that the Cabinet system of local government will be abolished. In Norfolk, they’ve not only repeated that feat but gone one better by managing to get the Conservative administration voted out. The leadership of both Groups has done a fantastic job in negotiating the right deals to bring power back to the people and away from the hands of a small, virtually unaccountable Cabinet.