A page from Kent Online reporting the departure of UKIP councillor Vincent Munday

Vincent Munday steps down in Newington

It’s no great surprise that Councillor Vince Munday has resigned. Personally I wish him and his wife well, death of loved ones often has a galvanising effect. His move abroad should be seen as a brave step by him and an opportunity for us to grasp.

I think we can now take sometime to think through the reasons UKIP took Newington from Labour and what we can and must do to win it back. Having been one of the unsuccessful candidates there, along with the redoubtable Dave Green, I think I’m well placed to comment.

Firstly, Nigel Farage had an opportunity to fight for the Newark-on-Trent seat in a by election up in the East Midlands, but he declined, clearly setting his sights on South Thanet. Both Newark and South Thanet have many things in common. I have lived a while in both places. However, the edge for Farage in South Thanet was Manston, and the opportunity to align himself cynically with pipe dreams of a thriving airport and attendant financial and social benefits. It didn’t matter to Farage and his campaign gurus if this was possible or not. By using Manston he created a sense of ‘us’ between UKIP and the electorate. Of course their intrinsic rhetoric on race created exactly the same sentiment. The shallowolest and shoddiest political device.

The fact that UKIP have had to revisit exactly the same issues on Manston and the CPO is no surprise. That it has now crumbled to dust was always a forgone conclusion. In the last days of the general election and district council campaign, slogging around Newington, I felt a sense of change, people there had seen us around and had certainly had interface with Labour before. The more time I spent on the doorstep, the more I felt I won people over to Labour. One by one – very slowly. Could I have done more? Yes. Do I wish I had done more? Of course. I think about 120 votes separated me from a seat on the council. It only reinforces to me that such campaigns are almost always based on shoe leather!! The day Jeremy Corbyn and I undertook door knocking was great. It’s fair to say most people wanted to have a political conversation.

What’s next? We need to be out on those streets, using our knowledge and building our presence. I don’t think we should take any satisfaction that people’s wishes for ‘easy’ progress has unravelled. Rather I want to stand side by side and say “life here can be better, opportunities can be improved, the Tories don’t have your interests at heart. Labour does. I do. Vote Labour, we are the party of the people.”

We need action now! Fightback!