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Former Ukip candidate Janice Atkinson ‘can’t see how they can come back’ if party suffers humiliation in KCC elections

PUBLISHED: 09:15 07 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:57 07 April 2017

Janice Atkinson

Janice Atkinson

Archant

The MEP stood for Ukip in Folkestone and Hythe before being expelled from the party in 2015

Former Ukip candidate Janice Atkinson admits she fears for the future of her old party if it suffers humiliation in next month’s Kent County Council elections.

Her warning follows the defection of former Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless, who quit the party to join the Conservative group in the Welsh Assembly on Thursday.

It led South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay to predict an “absolute wipeout” of the party’s seats on the council when voters take to the polls on May 4.

Independent MEP Ms Atkinson, who stood for Ukip in Folkestone and Hythe, before being expelled from the party in 2015, says a poor display next month really could spell the end for a party which has enjoyed relative success in Kent.

“Whether Ukip has a future will be seen,” she said.

“Paul Nuttall [leader] is a nice guy but I’m not sure he’s got what it takes to lead.

“Nigel [Farage] is one of our greatest politicians and he’s successfully moving onto pastures new, and he deserves it.

“Ukip loses its MEPs in two years time and with that goes an income, at least from some of its MEPs who pay part of their salary into the party.

“We all signed a contract to pay ten per cent of our salary into the party.

“Very few of us honoured that commitment, I was one of the first to do so, in addition to fundraising.

“Without income and if they lose heavily in the local May elections then I can’t see how they can come back.

“Ukip also relies on its membership for financial and campaign resources.

“The bulk of the membership - and the richest - comes from my constituency in the south east, including Kent.

“They were traditional Conservative voters, and now we have achieved Brexit, they may be asking ‘what’s the point of voting Ukip’?”

After Mr Nuttall vowed to take on Labour in the north of England, Ms Atkinson suspects the party may have to “lurch to the left” with the Tories currently occupying the right.

“If they go leftwards then the southern members will resign,” she warned.

“For parliamentary elections, it is particularly difficult to win under the first-past-the-post‎ electoral system.

“Ukip did well because of proportional representation in the devolved assemblies and the Euro elections.

“Kent was strongly Brexit so they did well in KCC and Hampshire County council elections four years ago.

“It’s sad because there are some great people in local government and, sadly, a number of useless Tory types will take their place, particularly in Thanet.

“Former donor, Arron Banks, has set up a direct democracy movement which I fully support.

“Representative democracy may not be an option, but a Swiss style mass movement - an alternative right wing Momentum [a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group] - could.”

Senior Ukip figures are refusing to accept Mr Reckless’ defection will have an impact on voters in the county, however, and remain confident of securing seats at County Hall.

Chris Wells, leader of the only council controlled by the party, who is standing himself in the Cliftonville ward, said: “You would not find candidates who are harder-working or more in-tune to residents’ wishes than those in Thanet.”

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