Essex: MP Douglas Carswell blames party for election failures

MP Douglas Carswell

MP Douglas Carswell - Credit: Archant

AN Essex MP has called on his party to “get out of the golf club” and back into the community, following a catastrophic set of county council election results.

Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Clacton, said those who lost seats on county councils to candidates from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) had only themselves to blame.

UKIP last week gained nine seats on Essex County Council, mainly at the expense of the Conservatives.

The anti-Europe party, which had never previously been represented on the council, took seats in Brightlingsea, Bocking, Tendring Rural East, Basildon Laindon Park & Fryerns, Westley Heights, Rayleigh South, South Benfleet, Thundersley and Wickford Crouch - all but one snatched from Tory councillors.

Mr Carswell said: “On the fundamental question of whether Britain remains a member of the EU, UKIP has got it right.

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“It is the Conservative party that has been out of touch on the Europe question for a generation. We have got to fix the problem.

“UKIP has been very much in tune with popular opinion by campaigning constantly for withdrawal from the EU.”

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The make-up of County Hall in Chelmsford is now - Conservatives: 42, Labour: nine, Liberal Democrat: nine, UKIP: nine, Green Party: two, Other: four.

UKIP’s rise to prominence has not been the only reason for the Conservative collapse, according to Mr Carswell.

Overall, the Conservatives retained control of Essex County Council but their majority hacked from 43 to just eight following the loss of 18 councillors. Labour made seven gains, with the Greens grabbing two and a single seat going to an independent and to Tendring First.

There was better news for the Conservatives in Colchester, where candidates held onto four divisions, despite UKIP taking thousands of votes to finish second in six divisions.

Meanwhile, overall turnout was disappointing for all parties, with 27.6% of the electorate voting and some wards returning 15% less votes than in 2009.

Mr Carswell said Europe was not the only issue on which his party needed to change tack. He added: “The Tory party needs not just to shift policy in Europe - for too long it has been the party that belongs in the golf club. It has to much better represent genuine local people.

“The fundamental issue is that don’t trust politicians any more because most public policy is made for us in Europe.

“Some people chose not to vote - not because it was difficult but because politicians have been pathetic in given people a genuine reason to vote for them.

“It is for us as a party to realise we have done something wrong. Let’s not blame the voters, or UKIP.

“I can’t help but notice that we did incredibly well where county council candidates were in touch with their local community.

“We can fix this problem, but it needs a little boldness and not self-pity.”

Also in Essex, Harwich Town Council faced a post-election blow when father and daughter Conservative councillors Ricky and Claire Callender simultaneously quit, both citing personal reasons for their unexpected departure.

Mr Callender was de-seated as county councillor by fellow town councillor and former Labour MP Ivan Henderson in last week’s election.

Town mayor John Thurlow said he had regretfully accepted their resignation, adding: “I’m sorry to see anyone resign - whatever their political persuasion.

“I’m afraid there will have to be a by-election for both positions.”

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