Cllr Steve Turner represents Longbeck on Redcar and Cleveland Council, and is the former UKIP North East regional chairman.
We all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if I’m honest with myself I should have left UKIP and joined the Tories on June 24th last year.
I’d just spent most of the last seven months as a regional director for Vote Leave, working with some fantastic people, and it was obvious that the structure, organisation and professionalism I saw from the Tories I met far outweighed the passion and enthusiasm that’s a given amongst your average hardcore UKIP supporters. Once we had won therefore I should have given my support to those best placed and best qualified to deliver what the country had asked for.
I didn’t though. I was the UKIP North East regional chairman, a key media spokesman for the local press and the only North East UKIP councillor outside of Hartlepool. I felt an obligation to stick around and try to help the party restructure and evolve into a viable post Brexit option for voters who felt they weren’t being represented elsewhere.
In the North East, that was what we were trying to work towards, but UKIP nationally seemed to have other ideas. Day after day, they shot themselves in the foot with infighting and poor organisation. Voters and members were looking for an articulate vision of the future and all we got was resignations and accusations. In by-elections I was knocking doors trying to convince people UKIP had a purpose and a future when I struggled to believe it myself. Locally I went about my council role just as I’d always done, putting my residents first and foremost. But it was getting harder and harder to honestly answer the question: “So why are you still a UKIP councillor then?”
All that time I was still in contact with the friends I’d met through Vote Leave and I watched with admiration as the Conservatives dusted themselves down, united behind a new leader and started to deliver a Brexit offer that I’d campaigned so passionately for. Not only that, but as the tides of politics shifted I sensed that here in the North East the real opportunity to break Labour’s historic death grip on the area was through a rejuvenated, Brexit-focused Tory party that could offer the type of support we needed in the region, rather than through campaigning to get a couple of MPs across the whole country, which was the best UKIP would be able to offer.
My decision was finally made when Mrs May called her snap election. I couldn’t run the risk of seeing Corbyn, Sturgeon and Farron grinning side by side whilst trying to scupper the clean Brexit that over 67 per cent of my home town voted for so I had to add my support to the only party capable of delivering it. Not only that, but in a post-Brexit United Kingdom we must have the best possible team at the helm and right now that means there is only one possible option.
On June the 9th, almost a year after I made the wrong decision, I know I’ll have made the right one.