Cllr Mark Jenkinson represents Seaton on Allerdale Borough Council, as well as both Seaton and Camerton on their respective Parish Councils.
Last May, I stood as the UKIP General Election candidate in Workington – a seat that has only been anything other than Labour, for just 3 years in its entire existence. I garnered a fairly respectable 7,538 votes, a 19.6 per cent vote share – the largest vote share the constituency had ever seen, that wasn’t Labour or Conservative. The same day I was elected to both Allerdale Borough and Seaton Parish Councils.
Three years previously I had left the Conservatives to form a UKIP branch in my constituency and the neighbouring one, feeling like I’d been sold a dud in Cameron’s Euroscepticism. There was a genuine hunger here in the North for what we now know as Brexit.
The atmosphere in the run-up to that election was euphoric, we felt like we’d made a real difference – did we take our votes from Labour, or did we help them steal the seat from the Conservatives? We’ll never know.
That should have been a stepping stone, a base on which to build – but then it happened. Farage’s ‘un-resignation’ was the start of what we’ve now come to know, thanks to Steven Woolfe MEP, as the ‘death spiral’. I still maintain that without Nigel Farage there would have been no referendum, and for that I will be eternally grateful. But after it Farage was wounded. He became, as Patrick O’Flynn put it “thin-skinned, snarling and aggressive”.
I watched elected UKIP MEPs and MPs openly briefing against each other; people employed, and promoted, based on friendships and allegiances rather than ability; and I saw a party in turmoil in what should have been its finest hour.
I finally left in April, politically homeless again, with huge concerns regarding the direction and emphasis of UKIP’s EU referendum campaign, and being generally uncomfortable campaigning publicly for democracy, while seeing a complete lack of it internally.
In June, the country decided to leave the European Union. I had been part of possibly the biggest political change of my generation, a cause I had dedicated a large portion of my adult life to. We really had done it.
I watched national politics closely, but must admit to feeling less than excited about Theresa May’s leadership bid – as reluctant a Remainer as she might have been, I still felt that she had been on the wrong side. But then came conference season.
I listened to our new Prime Minister set out a roadmap for Brexit, I heard her passion for ensuring a clean break – and one that we WOULD make a success of. I heard her talk about the reintroduction of grammar schools, and I heard a Prime Minister that would finally protect our Armed Forces – I was enthused, alongside a majority of the country, and I was enthusiastic about our future outside of the European Union.
Here was a Prime Minister implementing policies that I had campaigned on, that people had voted for me based on, and that would directly enhance the lives of those people that put their trust in me. Policies that UKIP have no hope of implementing – but the Conservatives do.
I have many friends in the Conservative Party, and respect the work of my Conservative colleagues on the council. Many have been trying to bring me ‘home’ since my election, but now it’s time.