Cllr Patrick Harley is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Dudley Council
The impact of UKIP Cllrs in Dudley has seen both Labour and Conservative Groups having to re-think their style in debates and on the campaign trail.
Undoubtedly UKIP had a healthy bounce in publicity from the European elections and without the local elections being held on the same day they would not have gained seven seats. The Police Commissionaire Election held across the West Midlands in August returned them to a distant third in most wards across Dudley.
As the third party in Dudley UKIP are having to make much more noise than the other two main parties to be heard. Even more so now that the European elections are a distant memory and with the General Election looming they know they will lose out publicity wise due to the fact that the next Prime Minister will be Milliband or Cameron.
Part of their strategy to gain attention is to bring forward a Notice of Motion at two out of the last three Full Council meetings. Their problem is that most of the issues raised were in the Conservative Groups manifesto at the last local elections. Our aim is to support what is in effect our policy, but highlight their inexperience and limitations in the debate that follow.
I predict UKIPs lack of ability to enter into a full blown debate in either full council or indeed at scrutiny committee level will be their undoing. Without the ability to debate or scrutinise they are limited to low level politics such as headline grabbing press releases that offer no real substance.
The short term impact has seen the Labour Group panic as they see UKIP as a real threat in their safer seats and their fire power in debate has been aimed at the fledgling group rather than the official opposition. This has aided the Conservative opposition who have continued to offer real alternatives to Labour within Dudley.
Long term, UKIP have a problem the other parties don’t have. They are here for the foreseeable future. Even if only to the end of their four year term of office in 2018. At that point they have to decide what happens to them as a group as by then the EU debate will have hopefully been settled for a generation.
Their problems are already mounting as former Conservative members start to reflect on whether joining them was a good idea and the former Labour Party members whose politics (Europe & immigration aside) are as far apart as the two main parties. They are in Dudley at least two groups who eventually will have to decide which stance they take – centre right or to the left?
Currently they can like the Liberal Democrats did a few years ago be all things to all men. But eventually the two halves of their group will try to be more dominant than the other and coupled with the fact that between now and the 2018 local elections the European issue may have been settled for good then UKIP in Dudley will not be masters of their own destiny and in 2018 unless there are defections to left and right parties they could be consigned to the political dustbin.