The Weekend Michael Gray Download 'The Weekend' on iTunes
3 May 2013, 06:37
It seems the Tories are being sent a warning from Essex, their traditional heartland, after UKIP made significant gains in the County Council elections at their expense overnight (May 3).
However, the Conservatives maintained overall control with 42 seats. The Tories gained one seat but lost 19.
Labour and the Lib Dems also finished the night with nine seats each and the Green Party picked up two.
New UKIP councillors said they hoped their success would send a message to Downing Street from the home of Basildon Man - long held as symbol of unwavering Tory support.
Along with their county council gains, the party won a long-held Tory seat in a Basildon Council by-election.
Kerry Smith took first blood, winning Basildon Westley Heights.
Mr Smith hopes to put himself forward as a UKIP parliamentary candidate in two years time.
'People are angry at mainstream politicians because the three parties offer no choice,'' he said.
'Every seat UKIP wins is a chance to show we are true to our word and can evolve to be taken seriously as a party.'
Nigel Le Gresley, who won Wickford Castledon in the Basildon Council by-election and Wickford Crouch in the county election, said he had swung from Liberal to Thatcherite before voting Labour in 1997.
But he said he had turned to Ukip after losing faith in 'professional politicians'.
'I hesitate to call them professional because that would credit them with a degree of competence they don't possess,' he said.
'This is the quiet revolution of a striving class.
'I believe it is more than just a protest vote. But if it is a protest vote, what's the harm in that? Politics is about protest.'
Basildon Council's Conservative leader Tony Ball said the party had to learn lessons from Ukip's surge, both at local and national level.
'Locally we have to reconnect with the electorate but we can't be naive about the fact these results are heavily influenced by people's feelings about the Government,'' he said.
'On the doorstep the message I'm getting is people want to give us a kick.
'I get the sense they are only lending their vote to Ukip but we can't take it for granted that we'll get it back.
'Nationally we need to offer a referendum on the EU, not only because it's the right thing to do but because it would also be politically very astute.'