THE UK Independence Party (UKIP) is hoping to create a shake-up in South Tyneside at this year’s local elections.
The party claims it now has more than 100 members in the borough and tomorrow it will be staging a gathering aimed at recruiting even more.
That figure has been bolstered by the success of the party at last May’s South Shields parliamentary by-election. Its candidate, Richard Elvin, of Hetton-le-Hole, polled 5,988 votes – almost a quarter of the total cast – and finished second to Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.
Steve Harrison, a UKIP representative for Fellgate and Hedworth on South Tyneside Council, is hopeful that more success could be on the cards to help dismantle Labour’s current stranglehold on political power at South Shields Town Hall.
Heading into this year’s elections, the aim is to put up a candidate in all 18 wards up for grabs.
It was in June last year that Coun Harrison, himself up for re-election, and his fellow ward councillor Linda Hemmer – along with Coun George Elsom, who represents Cleadon Park in South Shields – defected to UKIP, although Coun Elsom subsequently became an independent again. Coun Harrison said: “We already have 13 candidates in place for May and we aim to contest every seat up for grabs.
“We now have more than 100 members in the borough and we’re hoping for a good turnout tomorrow. Everyone, of any age, is welcome to come along and find out more about us.
“We’re picking up a lot of support at the stall we have in the Market Place, particularly from the elderly, who are concerned at the impact open-border immigration is going to have.
“We will still work with George in the council chamber as we don’t have a party whip.
“In many ways, we are still independent at heart.”
May’s elections will be held on the same day – Thursday, May 22 – as the next Euro elections, at which UKIP is predicted to make major inroads.
Members of the party will be meeting at the Red Hackle pub, on Jarrow’s Scotch Estate, from 6.45pm tomorrow.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the party, or who may be considering standing at the May elections, is invited to attend.