BREAKING NEWS: Curtis springs expected bid for county council leadership but with unexpected overtures to UKIP councillors
- Credit: Archant
EXPECTED Cambs Tory leadership contender Martin Curtis was among the first to offer congratulations to winning UKIP county councillors “because they are people I am going to be working with.”
His comments- on his Whittlesey blog- reveal for the first time a prime candidate for replacing defeated county councillor Nick Clarke as leader holding out an olive branch to UKIP.
“Towards the end of the count for Fenland’s part of the county council elections, I watched a group of UKIP candidates and supporters celebrating in the corner,” said Cllr Curtis.
“This was on a day when I had seen good colleagues who have been outstanding Conservative councillors losing their seats. I have to say it hurt. But I chose to go across, shake their hands, and offer my congratulations.
“I did that for a number of reasons, but firstly because success needs to be congratulated, but also because they are people I am going to be working with.
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“The truth is that the broad thrusts of UKIP’s mainstream policies are Conservative policies. We are a party that is largely Euro-sceptic and want to sort the immigration situation out - so there can be no doubt that however the future of the county council pans out, that close political thinking is sometimes going to be a factor.”
Cllr Curtis, a runner up to Cllr Clarke as Tory leader two years ago, will find himself having to secure a pact with one of the other groups if Conservatives hope to form a county council administration.
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“The success of UKIP has surprised everyone,” said Cllr Curtis. “I was expecting a UKIP swing, but I was not expecting anything close to what happened, in fact neither were UKIP - which is why a few of what they themselves admitted were just paper candidates were not at the count and were surprised to win.
“It is quite clear that UKIP are the only party who have reason to celebrate last week’s vote. The rest of us have to lick our wounds and listen and learn.
“Many are painting this as a protest vote about immigration; We need to think deeper than that, it is not just about immigration (although that is the particular issue at this time) The level of the protest vote and the swing away from mainstream politics was at an unprecedented level - and I believe this is because of factors that go beyond the particular issues that UKIP stand for.”
Cllr Curtis added: “Politics is about people, not politicians. Too many senior politicians surround themselves with people that are inexperienced about life, don’t understand the world many people live in and are choosing to put the voice of an inexperienced professional political elite over the wisdom of others who have a better understanding about the way the world works, including ignoring a real voice of wisdom from some very experienced Members of Parliament.
“It is that which needs to change. if it doesn’t once the immigration and Europe issues are sorted, another major issue will arise where politicians will prove themselves distant from reality, will ignore the voice of the public and the voice of wisdom surrounding them and yet another pressure group will rise.
“The reason I come to this conclusion is partly a reflection of my own result, where I achieved a higher turnout than the rest of Fenland and where my own personal vote pretty much held up.
“There can be little doubt that a major factor in that was the supermarkets issue locally, where I have visibly stood up for the interests of Whittlesey and the voters have recognised that I have listened and learned.”
UKIP won 12 of the 69 seats on Cambridgeshire and a deal with them would enable the Conservatives to govern with a fresh mandate.
Two days prior to the election Cllr Curtis was partly dismissive of UKIP candidates in the local elections.
“I’m going to say something tough here that many UKIPpers won’t like, but given the history of the National Front and the BNP in Britain, it is obvious that a party that sells itself almost entirely on those policies is going to attract more than its fair share of extremists,” he wrote,
“Does that mean that every UKIP candidate or member is a racist? No, of course it doesn’t. But given the poor job that UKIP have done in vetting their candidates (surely knowing they would attract these people?) how confident can anyone be about the credentials of the candidate you have drawn in the UKIP electoral raffle?”