Sunday, August 12, 2007

North Norfolk Councillor defects to UKIP

One of the more significant stories buried in the news was that Cllr Mike Baker has quit the Conservative & Indepenent Group on North Norfolk District Council and has joined UKIP instead. Cllr Baker, who owns the local shop in his Holt Ward (!), is always elected as an Independent despite having well known Conservative views. His defection, such as it is, is a blow to local Conservatives but serves as a warning to Conservative associations up and down the county and the country.

For years Conservatives have given Tory-minded Independents a free run in elections, as Cllr Baker was, because they thought it was better to have an elected right-of-centre Independent than to split the vote and elect, say, a LibDem. All probably very true but the fact of the matter is that the majority of these Independent seats are in very strong Conservative areas rather than crucial marginals. If genuine Conservative candidates stood they'd probably win. Sometime a few years back the party made a political decision to give Independents who sat with Conservative groups a choice - join the party and stand as an official Conservative candidate or face an electoral challenge. One of the reason for the decline in the number of Independent Councillors over the past 6 years is the number that have joined the Tories or been beaten by them.

In the case of the member for Holt, the Conservatives didn't challenge him. Why not, as he wasn't and clearly isn't a Conservative?

If we had put up a Conservative and lost, and then he defected we could at least say that his crackpot decision to join UKIP was nothing to do with us. To not challenge him meant Conservatives using their votes to put this man in office. Are we, therefore, somehow responsible for delivering UKIPs newest recruit?

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