Wakefield local elections 2021: UKIP - 'We've left the EU but Brexit is not done yet'

UKIP claims a perception that it no longer serves any purpose after Britain's EU exit is a "false" one.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 9:31 am
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 9:34 am

The party's membership numbers and political influence have been decimated over the last three years.

In Wakefield it is now only fielding two candidates in next month's local elections, down from the seven it put up in 2019.

However, its local party chairman, Keith Wells, said UKIP can bounce back, provided it makes itself "attractive and relevant" to lapsed members again.

UKIP is fielding two local candidates.

Asked why UKIP was still seeking public office given its life's mission appears to have been resolved, Mr Wells responded: "We have left the European Union but Brexit is still not complete.

"There’s still business to be done - in financial services for instance. Our position with the EU27 in relation to these services has not been worked out.

"They’re of great importance to the economy and they bring in many taxes."

Mr Wells also said the government had failed to take advantage of the "liberties" offered by Brexit, citing its reluctance to cut the five per cent VAT rate on domestic energy bills as an example.

UKIP's local chairman, Keith Wells

"People are queuing up in ever greater number at food banks," he added.

"Would they be there in such multitude if they didn’t have to pay tax on a necessity?"

At a national level, it's fair to say UKIP has been in a permanent state of chaos since Nigel Farage stood down as its leader following the 2016 EU referendum.

The party has since had six permanent leaders, plus a further four caretakers who've taken charge on a temporary basis.

Onetime Tory MP Neil Hamilton has been at the reins since last September, albeit he is also classed as an interim leader.

Mr Wells acknowledged that the "churn" at the top of the party was probably a factor in UKIP losing members, adding that another may be that "they also falsely perceive that UKIP no longer has a purpose".

On a local level, Mr Wells repeated calls he made in 2019 for Wakefield Council to name elected members who are subject to complaints and has criticised the Labour-run authority's record on local markets.

He also cited the results of a Freedom of Information request he submitted, which revealed that the council had spent £850,000 on buying the ABC cinema on Kirkgate, which it plans to redevelop.

He explained: "I’m not an expert on the valuation of commercial property but it seems to me this is excessive given the state of the building.

"I agree no private sector solution has been found and the council may have felt there was no alternative.

"But I feel it should have bargained more heavily in order to get a better price."

Mr Wells said he had "nothing adverse" to say about the council's record in responding to the pandemic.

But he put forward his "personal view", which he said was shared by UKIP's current leadership, that "no restrictions should have been imposed" by the government at any point.

He added: "The ill should have been catered for but we’ve been too afraid of risk over the last 13 months.

"We’ve neglected the risks which will flow over the decades form the effect of the restrictions on people."

This article is part of a series of profile pieces about the political parties and independent candidates standing in the local elections in Wakefield. Each profile will be published on our websites in turn in the run-up to polling day.

This article is part of a series of profile pieces about the political parties and independent candidates standing in the local elections in Wakefield. Each profile will be published on our websites in turn in the run-up to polling day.

UKIP candidates standing in Wakefield

Wakefield North - Keith Wells

Wrenthorpe and Outwood West - David Dews

View the names of all candidates standing in your area here.

Local Democracy Reporting Service