As gleeful UKIP celebrate ‘Peasants Revolt’, Tories still hold the reins and meet this week to elect new Cambs leader
- Credit: Archant
TORIES on Cambridgeshire County Council meet on Friday to consider options following their loss of overall control to what UKIP county councillor Peter Reeve described as “The Peasants’ Revolt”.
Two of the last three Tory leaders have been women but that’s unlikely to happen this time as both Jill Tuck and Shona Johnstone have stood down and Shire Hall returned only four Conservative women.
With current leader Nick Clarke confined to the record books – his Fulbourn seat falling to the Lib Dems- Tories are still the main party but without an overall majority.
Two prime candidates for leadership stand out – Councillor Martin Curtis of Whittlesey and deputy leader Mac McGuire, both of whom stood against Nick Clarke in 2011.
Both have been prominent in front line politics but a former Cabinet member John Reynolds might also, as he did last time, throw his hat in the ring.
Cllr McGuire, who held his Conservative seat in Norman Cross while UKIP took the other seat in the ward from the Tories, is interim leader pending Friday’s vote.
He said that UKIP’s success was due to voters expressing anger at national politics.
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“I don’t think there is any argument that its national issues not local issues,” he said. “UKIP has been riding a wave and we’re paying the price for national politics.”
Technically the Conservatives could form a minority administration and govern Cambridgeshire on an ad hoc basis or seek an alliance with one of the other groups.
Most likely is to seek some accommodation with the four Independents, who could be headed by John Hipkin, a former Cambridge mayor and leading of the Independent group on Cambridge City Council. Ironically two other Independent successes are former Lib Dem councillors.
Whether a coalition with UKIP is possible remains to be seen but
clearly Cllr Reeve’s views will be sought by all potential Tory leaders.
Cllr Reeve was, until a few days ago, part of a minority group of two on the county council but now heads a contingent of 12 UKIP councillors.
“UKIP is the new Peasants’ Revolt,” he told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. “It’s ordinary working people who are going out there to get a political elite that don’t understand the country any more.
“At the end of the day with UKIP, your auntie, or the man from the corner shop, or the local landlord could end up as your MP, and we’re very proud to hold those grass roots principles.”
Cllr Curtis, should he be drawn into coalition talks with UKIP, may want questions answered about the intake of 2013 before progressing too far.
On his blog he wrote of the “poor job that UKIP has done in vetting their candidates “and questioned what confidence the electorate might have about “the credentials of the candidate you have drawn in the UKIP electoral raffle?”
He said his own UKIP opponent in Whittlesey was a “decent bloke” and a former Labour activist but of others he was not so sure.
“It bothers me that elsewhere some closet racists might stop perfectly good candidates of any political colour being elected and, indeed, may actually get elected themselves,” he said.
However Cllr Reeve may land a few surprises with his own agenda for change at Shire Hall.
On a recent breakfast programme on BBC Cambridgeshire and on the subject of councillor allowances he was forthright.
“UKIP are simply saying, yes, give councillors whatever their out of pocket expenses are, but it should be a privilege to be a county councillor in Cambridgeshire, not something that’s some lucrative scheme,” he said.
“It should not be people filling their pockets whilst the people of Cambridgeshire suffer. That’s what UKIP are saying.”
FACT FILE: Cambridgeshire’s final tally was Conservatives 32, Lib Dems 14, UKIP 12, Labour seven and independents four.