UKIP fast disappearing, while populist independent wins by-election

A populist independent – boxing coach Ken Dobson – won a Manchester City Council by-election this week in Clayton & Openshaw, just west of the city centre. Mr Dobson becomes one of only four non-Labour members among 96 city councillors.

Independent Dobson won a majority of 108 over Labour’s African candidate. The Lib Dems also put up an African, and the Tory was Asian – so Mr Dobson and the Green were the only White candidates.

This Manchester upset contrasted with miserable results for two other ‘protest vote’ candidates yesterday.

UKIP’s Geoff Courtenay (above right) welcomes then party leader Richard Braine to a Hillingdon branch meeting

UKIP’s Geoff Courtenay polled only 16 (sixteen) votes (0.8%) in Hillingdon East ward, Hillingdon. He is an experienced UKIP candidate, and in fact stood here at the General Election against Prime Minister Boris Johnson last December. And this is a ward where UKIP polled 19.3% in 2014.

One really must wonder how long UKIP will carry on. Perhaps it will linger in the manner of the Social Democratic Party that was dissolved in 1988, but which kept going under the same name but a different structure under former Foreign Secretary Dr David Owen. Even this SDP was closed down in 1990, but a tiny band of supporters keep up the name to this day. Similarly, occasional eccentrics might still stand as UKIP candidates in future, though even that will require someone to keep filling in the forms and sending in accounts to the Electoral Commission, so total extinction within the next year or two might be more likely.

Former councillor Brian Silvester

Meanwhile an ex-UKIP councillor and frequent purveyor of social media outrage, Brian Silvester, was bottom of the poll with 34 votes (2.2%) as an independent candidate for Crewe South ward, Cheshire East. UKIP polled 14.8% in this ward in 2015. Since leaving UKIP, ex-Cllr Silvester spent a couple of years as a prominent ally of Anne Marie Waters in her For Britain Movement, then left to support the Brexit Party last summer.

Taken together, this week’s local government by-elections demonstrate both the continuing demand for a radical populist alternative to the established parties, and the continuing absence of a mass party answering that demand.

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