‘If we can drive Ukip back in Harlow, it can be done anywhere.’ So says David Forman, secretary of Harlow Trades Council, whose members helped defeat the Ukip candidate in a council by-election in early February. (12 February polling)
Ukip caused a shock last May when it won five council seats, so the need to campaign was high on the agenda.
‘The first thing we did was write to the Harlow Star exposing Ukip’s parliamentary candidate, Sam Stopplecamp, who had claimed “he was not working class anymore but I used to be”. I made the point that Ukip is a party of the bosses that is using immigration to divide the working class.
‘Then, on national voter registration day, 7 February, we handed out leaflets in the town centre exposing Nigel Farage as a former stockbroker and public school boy, and Ukip’s policies on slashing maternity leave, destruction of the NHS and so on.
‘We followed that up with door-to-door leafleting in the Mark Hall ward, where the by-election was taking place. We distributed around 3,000 Stand Up to Ukip leaflets in the three days before the election.
David says that during the count it became clear that Labour was going to win, at which point the Tory party agent came over and said ‘Your leaflets worked’.
‘Since then, the Ukip candidate, Mark Gough, has verbally attacked Waida Forman, the chair of the trades council, for calling him a racist. But we didn’t say Gough was a racist. It’s Ukip that’s racist, says David.
Labour’s candidate, Danny Purton, won the by-election with 586 votes, beating Gough by 233 votes – a clear turnaround from the last May’s election, when the Ukip candidate won the seat by 60 votes.
‘What’s interesting is the lack of Ukip window posters this time around,’ says David. ‘Last year their posters were all over the place, whereas I didn’t see a single one this time. There were loads of Labour ones.’
David reckons one of the key reasons behind Ukip’s defeat wasn’t only the strength of the anti-Ukip campaign, but dissatisfaction with the current Ukip councillors. ‘It’s clear that they only want to bash migrants, divide the working class and drag us out of the EU. When it comes to bread and butter issues they’re not interested.
‘But the trouble is that the Labour councillors, and their parliamentary candidate, Suzy Stride, seem shit-scared of calling Ukip racist.’David’s key message is to make it clear that you’re not interested in who people vote for as long as it’s not Ukip. ‘It requires that slog around the doors, but Ukip can be driven back.’
Visit the Harlow Star website for more information on the election results