POLITICS

UKIP Overtaken By Green Party In Number Of Council Seats Contested, New Figures Show

Further evidence of the party's slow demise?

06/04/2017 19:53 | Updated 06 April 2017
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images

UKIP will contest fewer council seats than the Green Party in the coming May elections in England, new figures have revealed.

In what critics will see as fresh evidence of the ‘post-Brexit vote blues’ for Paul Nuttall’s party, it will stand candidates in just 48% of wards, a dramatic slump from the 73% it fought just four years ago.

The Greens, in contrast, will put up candidates in 53.9% of wards, up significantly on their 37% showing in 2013.

Across all seats up for grabs in the County Councils, unitary authorities and Doncaster, the Tories and Labour are roughly at the same level of candidates this time around, final nomination papers have revealed.

The Conservatives will contest 96% of all seats, and Labour will contest 91%.

The Lib Dems – who last fought the elections while in coalition with the Tories at Westminster - have edged up from 74% to 80% in candidate selection.

Four years ago, Nigel Farage led UKIP to its best ever results in English council elections, winning 150 seats and a quarter of the votes in England and Wales.

But it is forecast to lose up to 90 seats in the new round of elections next month.

In just one snapshot of UKIP’s retreat, they have decided not to contest any of the four seats in Harlow in Essex, where they won at least 25% of the vote in each area in 2013.

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Paul Nuttall and Nigel Farage

In the New Forest they won two seats and are not defending either. In Cambridgeshire the party is fighting in only 21 out of 63 wards, in Warwickshire 17 of 57 and Oxfordshire 11 out of 63.

The figures, compiled by all the parties after nominations closed but released to HuffPost UK by Tory sources, follow a series of blows to UKIP’s national standing in recent months.

The party has been embroiled in several chaotic leadership contests since Nigel Farage decided to step down last summer.

They lost their only MP Douglas Carswell after he became an independent in the past week, and on Thursday another former Tory MP Mark Reckless announced he was switching his support to the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly.

Party leader Nuttall came a poor second in the Stoke-on-Trent by-election, following a series of controversies over misleading claims on his website.

PA Wire/PA Images
Green Party co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas

The party also dipped below double figures in national opinion polls and its big donor Arron Banks has announced he is funding a new campaign group, Patriotic Alliance.

After Brexit in 2019, the party will lose all its MEPs, like the other parties, and critics claim it will effectively have little reason to exist at all.

The Green Party, in contrast, has an MP in Caroline Lucas and has seen a surge in membership to 46,000 since 2015. It is due to launch its own council election campaign on Friday.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, told HuffPost UK: “This is a pivotal moment and it’s time to pick a side.

“The Green Party is proud to be standing a record number of candidates in the local elections. From standing up for social care to standing against the Government’s extreme Brexit, Greens make a real difference when they are elected.

“It is no wonder we are already taking seats of UKIP. Vote Green to wipe the smile off UKIP’s face and send the message that Britain is bigger and better than the narrow country envisioned by Nuttall and his withering gang.”

It has 3 MEPs, one peer, six MSPs in Scotland, two London Assembly Members, two Assembly Members in Northern Ireland and 165 councillors.

They are also involved in balance of power governance arrangements on Stroud and Worcester councils.

The Greens came third twice in London elections in 2016 and 2012, as well as being the most popular party on second preferences in the London Mayoral elections last year.

The Greens have complained consistently that Farage and UKIP are given too much airtime on TV shows such as Question Time, given their relative lack of representation.

UKIP has been contacted for comment.

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