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Two Bradley Stoke Conservative Councillors defect to UKIP

Posted on Tuesday 29th May 2012 at 9:56 pm by SH (Editor)

Ex-Tories Ben Walker and Ed Rose are welcomed into UKIP.

Two Bradley Stoke Councillors yesterday defected to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in what appears to be a consequence of some nasty in-fighting within the local Conservative Party.

Cllr Ben Walker, a former Bradley Stoke Mayor and District Councillor for the Bradley Stoke North ward, and Cllr Ed Rose, elected to the Town Council in May 2011, were welcomed into UKIP by the party’s national leader Nigel Farage at a public meeting held at the Aztec Hotel.

The defections come less than a week after Cllr Walker was snubbed by his party colleagues when they failed to nominate him for the position of Chair of South Gloucestershire Council, a largely ceremonial position that he was expected to “automatically” inherit, having served as Vice-Chair for the past year.

That episode had been preceded by a smear campaign, first aired in The Bristol Post on 12th May, which exposed embarrassing information about Cllr Walker’s business dealings and his personal tax position.

Those revelations were circulated to the local press by someone claiming to be a supporter of the Conservative party, who advised Cllr Walker’s colleagues to “identify another suitable candidate for the Chairmanship of South Gloucestershire Council”.

Yesterday’s developments began with an interview on BBC Radio Bristol’s Breakfast Show in which Cllr Walker announced his resignation from the Conservative Party. News that he and another local Councillor were to defect to UKIP came a few hours later, conveniently leaving the way open for the pair to be welcomed by their new leader at the long-planned public meeting later in the day.

UKIP defections: How the day unfolded

Cllr Walker’s letter of resignation is understood to have gone out to local Councillors, the local Party and Conservative Central Office early on Monday morning. In the letter, he gave three reasons for his resignation: the Conservative Party’s stance on membership of the EU and other “core Conservative values”; the Government’s programme of austerity, with particular reference to cuts in the NHS; and the smear campaign conducted against him “at a branch, MP and a central office level”.

Shortly after 7:30am, Cllr Walker was interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol, where, when asked “what’s prompted this then?”, he admitted it was “something I’ve been wrestling with for some time”, adding:

“The dangerous thing about the Conservatives is that they understand power, so they know how to manipulate it and use it.”

Asked whether he would now continue as an independent, Cllr Walker replied:

“Well, at the moment, I’m at a crossroads. I don’t know what I’m going to do for sure. All I do know is that I will carry on representing the residents that were kind enough to elect me in 2010.”

He added that he wished to apologise to those who voted for him as a Conservative, adding that he would be “sending out information to my residents explaining why I have done what I have done”.

Shortly after the radio interview had ended, Cllr Walker tweeted:

“I have resigned from the Conservative Party. I can no longer support an elitist, self-serving gravy train, riddled with bully boy tactics.”

Condemnation of Cllr Walker’s move came later in the morning from the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Conservatives, whose spokesperson said:

“Councillor Walker has let down the hundreds of Bradley Stoke residents who voted to elect a Conservative Councillor only last year.”

“The Conservative Party locally will continue to champion the needs and aspirations of the people of Bradley Stoke as it always has.”

Rumours that Cllr Walker was about to join UKIP were fanned when party leader Nigel Farage tweeted at 11:21am, in connection with the upcoming meeting at Aztec West:

“And I’m delighted to announce that we have a Conservative district councillor defecting to us tonight too.”

The news was finally confirmed by the BBC’s Robin Markwell in a tweet at 3:53pm, which also revealed that Town Councillor Ed Rose would be joining Cllr Walker:

“Double defection from Tories to UKIP in South Gloucestershire. @Ben_Walker_SG & Bradley Stoke Town Cllr Edward Rose both make the switch”

“Ben and Ed” duly appeared at the evening’s well-attended (200+) UKIP meeting in the Aztec West Hotel, both wearing smart suits and with Rose even going to the trouble of wearing a UKIP-style purple and yellow tie.

Seated on reserved chairs at the side of the hall, looking like schoolboys waiting to receive a certificate from the headmaster, they patiently waited to be called onto the platform in order to be welcomed into their new party but first had to sit through a speech from the warm-up act, Neil Hamilton (of “cash-for-questions” fame).

When their moment came, the defectors were warmly greeted by South West MEP William Dartmouth and UKIP Party Chairman Steve Crowther, after which Cllr Walker was invited to make a short speech.

The event’s star attraction, Nigel Farage MEP, then strode into the hall, taking time to shake the hands of his party’s latest recruits before mounting the platform to give one of his trademark speeches in which EU President Herman Van Rompuy was the butt of many jokes.

Neil Hamilton addresses a UKIP meeting at the Aztec Hotel in Bristol. Nigel Farage MEP addresses a UKIP meeting at the Aztec Hotel in Bristol.

Photos (L-R): Neil Hamilton and Nigel Farage MEP

The Editor Comments: A difficult future for Bradley Stoke Town Council?

Cllr Walker’s defection is likely to lead to him being frozen out of the pre-meeting decision shaping process that he is so used to being a part of  in Bradley Stoke – unless he can convince more of his former Tory colleagues to jump ship.

Two Bradley Stoke Conservative Councillors, John Ashe (SGC and BSTC) and Roger Avenin (BSTC) were in the audience at last night’s UKIP meeting, which is unlikely to have gone down well with the local Party, so there may be scope for movement on that front.

The fly in the ointment is Cllr Walker’s younger sister, Charlotte, who was installed as (Conservative) Mayor of Bradley Stoke only last week – in a publicity stunt that now looks to have embarrassingly back-fired. The “Britain’s youngest female Mayor takes office” story failed to generate any headlines beyond Bristol, despite being peddled to the regional and national press, and the presence of a Walker family member at the helm must surely be of concern to the other twelve Tory Councillors.

Will the young Ms Walker now honourably see out her reign as Mayor whilst remaining a Conservative; follow Big Brother Ben to UKIP; be ousted in a vote of no confidence; or simply throw in the towel and resign from the Council? Only time will tell.

As for Cllr Rose, famous for his claim that the overnight switching-off of Bradley Stoke’s street lights violates residents’ human rights, I wonder if he has noticed that UKIP’s ‘Statement of Principles’ calls for the Human Rights Act to be repealed, as a “safeguard against crime”?

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Tags: Ben Walker, Bradley Stoke Town Council, Ed Rose, South Gloucestershire Council, UKIP

33 Responses to “Two Bradley Stoke Conservative Councillors defect to UKIP”

  1. Dave Tiley Says:

    Hmmm dare I comment?? Why not – it is a free country isn’t it?

    Despite some views…

    I wish Ben and Ed no ill-will, but this looks like a circus, and they aren’t the ringmasters.

    I know Ed is highly-intelligent and qualified, Ben too, but it’s incredible to see town and district councillors sucked into this.

    However, I have been saying for a long time UKIP are going to spring a few shocks and win quite a few votes at the next election, they are pressing a lot of mass buttons, it would be wise for the ‘mainstream’ parties to wake up and smell that coffee now, as for Ben and Ed, who knows, in the short term the gamble they have taken with what they view as their political careers may pay off for them in 2015…

    Those involved in local politics know it’s not a joyride, but you must maintain the courage of your convictions in the face of adversity, and be true to the ticket you were voted in on, no one is bigger than the party people actually vote for, but it does raise serious questions regards what on earth is going on in the local conservative set -up.

    No gloating, what goes around comes around, it’s well to remember that, and all political careers end in failure, it’s just that some fail sooner than others.

  2. HH Says:

    In his resignation letter, Walker writes:

    “It is also important to note that under no circumstances would I of betrayed my group and resigned from the party if elected as chair.”

    So, what he’s saying is that he would have been happy to remain as a Conservative and take the personal glory and media exposure that comes with being chair of South Glos, despite having long-term fundamental disagreements with core party policies.

    Sounds like a principled guy!

  3. Bert Says:

    Another case of “toe the party line or else we’ll smear you until you do”. This is why political parties MUST be BANNED from local government – until they do, local MPs and local party chairs will bully and dictate decision-making. They add nothing but barriers to democratic and progressive governance. We see it time and time again when SGC decisions are voted almost exclusively along party lines. I refuse to believe that this is just coincidence.
    I hope that, come the next local elections, there will be a true “independents” franchise where free-thinking individuals can pool campaign resources to oust party stooges.

  4. Tory BS Says:

    @Bert:

    All party has its disciplines. It is no good, blaiming the party chairs or MPs for it. Ben benefitted a lot from the party. What all he gained now is acquired through Tories. If Ben was a sincere man, he would have been remained committed. He let down hundreds of BS residents who voted him to elect a Conservative Councillor.

    “The Party will continue to champion the needs and aspirations of the people of Bradley Stoke as it always has.

    Yes, those involved in local politics know it’s not a joyride. The courage of own’s convictions comes out in the face of adversity. Standing true to the ticket you were voted in reveals the integrity.

  5. SH (Editor) Says:

    A comment from ‘Rich’ has been rejected as being potentially libellous.

    It came from the same IP address as the one above from ‘Tory BS’.

    P.S. When making multiple comments on a story, we expect authors to use a consistent name, to avoid falsely giving the impression that the same opinion is held by more than one person.

  6. Emmett Jenner Says:

    Well done UKIP. Keep up the good work.

  7. Cynical sid Says:

    Bert
    Well said get rid of party politics out of local government-they hinder its process. Party politics have long ruled the way local government is run tending to toe the line on national policy rather than do what is best locally.

    SH
    So IP address is same for Rich and Tory BS-might contributors being using a library?

  8. SH (Editor) Says:

    Cynical sid wrote: “So IP address is same for Rich and Tory BS-might contributors being using a library?”

    That’s true, but seems unlikely at 6:45am!

  9. Cllr.Ed Rose Says:

    My view is that the duty of being a councillor is to the well being of this community, placing such above and beyond the Party politics where that core principle is failing. In every attempt to do the right thing i.e. attending the Filton Airfield March, speaking out at the South Glos Core Strategy meeting, the party told me to tow the line. Jack Lopresti tried to tell me off for that march in the rain – all that from the mouth of welcoming apprentice and new job growth ? What is going on! So, in the tough reflection of what I stand for and will represent, made the move to a party that doesn’t yell down a phone, that doesn’t operate smear campaigns and back-door stabbings. I am here for this community and still chair the SSCG to do what is required and expected. On the human rights aspect – it is the part of the Act that permits ‘terrorists’ and criminals to remain and operate in the U.K. still being a high rated threat and committing acts or war, or if a citizen then it’s treason.
    The right of citizens to fair trial and due process is directly linked to the Crown, and not to legal table motions of a foreign desk. We must be clear on what is British and has stood the last 800 years of being a nation. Thank you.
    Should anyone wish to speak with me further on any matters of BSTC or SSCG, please find contacts posted to BSTC web site.

  10. Bert Says:

    @Tory BS:

    “If Ben was a sincere man, he would have been remained committed.”

    What, despite having his business problems dragged through the local press by his own party? I should think Ben has every right to feel let down by the party – I didn’t see them standing behind him after the recent smear campaign. Is that what you mean by him having “benefitted a lot from the party” ?

    People vote for candidates based on their abilities. I don’t get this argument that all of a sudden Ben and Ed will suddenly change their minds on local issues and are therefore no longer representing the voters. Frankly, I don’t think they should have joined UKIP – after all, it’s just another self-serving party, and I’m sure they could have done the job just as well independently.

  11. Toxteth O’Grady Says:

    @Tory BS

    Be careful. Your own party member, Roger Avenin, says people who use pseudonyms are moral cowards. Just wanted to warn you just in case it causes another argument.

  12. Cllr Roger Avenin Says:

    I just knew it would’nt be too long before Toxteth just had to contribute. He can’t help himself. If Tory BS and Rich are one and the same person I find this amazing as they seem to hold diametrically opposite views ( but not to worry ).

    In Stephen’s initial report there is a reference to a Cllr Ed Ward. I have not met this guy yet – is he on BS Town Council ?

    He also intimated that my attendance at the UKIP meeting would not go down well with the local party. Well I think the ‘ local party’ is a bit more sophisticated than this. It is common practice to attend meetings of other parties just to see what they offer and is not particularly indicative of any movement.
    In any event most of the people attending were not UKIP members.
    While I do admit an attraction to many of UKIP’s policies the huge danger here is that a split in the Tory vote will let in Labour through the back door. This would be a catastrophy for this country.

    Finally to Toxteth and all my detractors I will be appearing in person at the Willow Brook this Saturday ( 10.00am to 12.00)as part of the Councils routine monthly surgeries. Do please come and ask me any questions. I would be delighted to meet you as it can get a bit boring otherwise.Apparently I will be accompanied by UKIP’s new rising star Cllr Ed Ward !!

  13. SH (Editor) Says:

    Roger, Thanks for pointing out the typo: ‘Ed Ward’ in the first para should have been ‘Ed(ward) Rose’, as in the remainder of the article. Now corrected.

  14. Silverfox Says:

    I always like seeing Neil Hamilton on the political scene, it just gives it the right sort of gravitas. But I think the Tories have rather brought the house down on themselves with the turn of events.

  15. Dave Tiley Says:

    Having read what’s gone down would just like to thank Ed Rose for his support for Filton Airfield and marching in the rain with us.

    Shocking to hear how Jack Lopresti viewed this, all the more credit to Ed for having the guts to stand up in the face of this.

    We knew we had Tory support off the record, but that’s meaningless. We had the bizarre situation of tory town and district councillors supporting us at our town and parish meetings then voting en masse at SGC to close the airfield, all bar Ben Walker.

    Now we know why.

    It’s this kind of appalling treatment of our history and heritage that is driving people to UKIP. Those lying buried on the airfield due to Hitlers bombs must be spinning in their graves to know that British aircraft manufacturing is being run and dictated to by a French/German axis due to all recent UK Govt’s allowing it all to be sold off and given away to those in Europe who want to support manufacturing for the long term unlike our short term thinkers here who always sell out for a short term quick buck for their shareholders.

    It’s not jingoistic to wonder what it is all about and what it was all for when those who wave the flag are the same people selling us out and down the river, and we have now learnt that it starts with our very own local representatives who clearly don’t support the views of their people unless it suits whatever agenda the money men want. Democracy my arse.

  16. Bert Says:

    It’s very sad indeed, Dave. Sadly, I guess we live in an age where only lobbyists matter and the public are merely an inconvenience to their plans. And God forbid should a politician speak out against the status quo, they’ll be shot down so fast they won’t know what hit them.

  17. HH Says:

    So what does Ben Walker really think about the Filton Airfield issue? Seems he would have been happy to keep quiet on the matter provided the Tories made him chair of SGC. Nurturing “The Cult of Ben” is clearly more important to him.

  18. Bert Says:

    @HH: Actually, Ben Walker (along with Cllr Rose) was one of the few Conservative councillors to openly support the retention of the airfield. In fact, many Conservative councillors did express private support for the airfield campaign but couldn’t convert that into votes at SGC. I really don’t know why, but it was clearly a verboten topic.

  19. Simon Says:

    As someone who has nothing to do with politics other then voting every now and again I can assure you I will not be voting conservative any time soon after all this. I suspect I am not alone.

  20. HH Says:

    @Bert wrote: “Ben Walker was one of the few Conservative councillors to openly support the retention of the airfield”

    Really? Can you give examples?

    Before you do, take a look at the signatories of this letter to the Evening Post:

    http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Filton-airfield-Labour-s-playing-cynical-politics/story-13131221-detail/story.html

  21. Bert Says:

    @HH:

    Yes of course:
    http://www.bradleystokejournal.co.uk/2011/09/18/public-meeting-discuss-future-filton-airfield/

    Cllr Walker was originally supportive of the airfield campaign, as were all of the BSTC councillors. The letter you cite was after a phone call from a certain Conservative party member to ensure that councillors were corrected so that they were “on message”. It’s a shame he (and others) caved to that pressure, really. Cllr Rose didn’t.

    Ben Walker had always had his reservations though. It’s why he abstained on the airfield vote at the full SGC meeting in December, despite the rest of the Conservative SGC councillors voting exactly down party lines. I don’t think that did him any favours in the party.

  22. HH Says:

    @Bert,

    So raising his hand at a Mickey Mouse town council meeting in Bradley Stoke and then remaining silent during a debate at South Gloucestershire Council five months later is the sum total of Cllr Walker’s OPEN support?

    If he’s so supportive, how come he didn’t mention Filton Airfield in his resignation letter?

    Right now he’s probably waiting for a phone call from a certain UKIP party member to inform him of the “correct” things to say.

  23. Phil Says:

    It now appears clear that Jack Lopresti has been putting pressure on Conservative Councillors not to oppose the closure of Filton Airfield.

    In my opinion this is shameful, because it appears to ignore the will of constituents.

    One big question is why is Mr. Lopresti doing this?

    Why is it so important to Mr. Lopresti that Filton Airfield closes – to the extent that he is apparently telling off Councillors for taking part in protest marches?

    Why are Councillors coming under pressure to ignore the will of their constituents and tow the party line?

    How many other Councillors have “towed the line”, bowing to party pressure? All of them?

    Has the Conservative Party line on Filton Airfield dictated that it gets put down for 8000 houses in the South Gloucestershire Core Strategy, against the will of the constituents?

    What exactly is the Conservastive Party line on Filton, and what is the justification for it?

    Who is the driving force on Jack Lopresti’s view on Filton Airfield? Jack Lopresti? Or somebody higher up in the party?

    Has this got anything to do with housing developers funding the Conservative party?

    It sounds like Councillors Rose and Walker couldn’t take any more, and they have turned their backs on the party.

    I would wish them good luck, since they seem to have more backbone than most.

    Shameful, absolutely shameful. No wonder people are turned off by politics.

  24. Bert Says:

    @HH: I agree with you, in that I’d much rather Ben had spoken out and voted to save Filton Airfield rather than abstain.

    And I also agree with your sentiment about councillor taking orders from parties about what to think and say – it is, indeed, pretty anti-democratic.
    Which is why I feel so strongly about banning parties from local government. Maybe you (and others) would be willing to join me in a campaign to ensure that only independents are returned to SGC come the next local elections?

    I don’t mind if that means current councillors having to forfeit their party membership, as long as policy cannot be dictated by party hierarchy. Maybe SGC can replicate the success of Frome Town Council, where independents have the majority on the council, and by all accounts it runs much more positively, with less party dogma and real concencus?

    http://iffrome.org.uk/

  25. Cllr Ben Walker Says:

    I’m normally not one to comment online but with the importance of the issues being raised this time around, I felt important that I did so. Firstly, thank you to all of you who have posted supportive comments, it’s sincerely appreciated. I decided to leave the Conservative’s for the reasons as stated in the press. In short, I fell foul of an internal smear campaign, found it impossible to support the ill targeted cuts and could no longer stand by and watch this government systematically throw away British trade opportunities to European neighbours and continue to underwrite a failed European, super state dream to the tune of £50 Million a day, not to mention this governments unwavering support of the IMF. After serving as a Cadet Instructor, I served in the Royal Navy for seven years and was involved in the Afghanistan war making me extremely proud of this areas military heritage. I have watched this government and previous governments sail this country down the river when it comes to defence and procurement yet the need for our Armed Services seems to continually increase and the internal pressures on them grow. Unfortunately, the stiff British upper lip can only achieve so much. Let me make something very clear to the readers of this online paper. I am here to serve the community; I have a track record of doing so too. I will continue to support the plight of the airfield supporters and will stand up as a mouth piece for any member of our communities whenever I can assist. Internal party politics has evolved into a process of clambering over each other’s heads, stamping along the way or you are simply used and abused to support the people at the top so they get what they want. I love serving the community as a councillor, but if I’m not elected again in 2015, then so be it. I can walk away from all of this knowing that I did what I could for the area and I have my dignity intact along with my morals. Regardless of politics, I care deeply for this part of the country and will continue to represent people. After all, that’s what this is all about. I very much welcome any individual/group coming forward to me if I can add any value to their cause. I’m British and I’m proud and will no longer watch everything that we fought for as a country given away for a brown envelope or shaky promise.

  26. JonBoy Says:

    Ben and Others
    It’s interesting to hear peoples points of view about local politics and how party politics is the scurge of local councils. I can honesty say that when I served the town on the town council I was never told what to support and what not to support. As a Lib Dem I was not pressured into any point of view and if anyone knows anything about the Lib Dems they know that the phrase “like trying to herd cats” is a well known one because we all have our own point of view. My service was to my electorate not my party of choice.

    It is regretable that Ben has decided to defect to another party as people who voted for him voted for a Conservative, not a UKIP member. Whether he does the noble thing and stand down so that voters can again decide who represents them will be up to him.

    I remember Christopher Lees who was voted onto SGC as a Lib Dem and he also defected to UKIP siting a pro europe stance as the reason for his change of heart. I encouraged him to go back to the electorate for endorsement, but probably like Ben, the salary you get from SGC was very welcome.

  27. Bert Says:

    You say that, Jonboy, but on the Airfield debate, we had the same problems with LibDems – saying one thing in private but then voting the other way at SGC – again straight down party lines. Even Lib Dems on BCC started off wanting to kick up a fuss (including Barbara Janke) but then went ominously quiet when it came to the crunch. So what gives?

    I don’t know how these things work behind the scenes, but it’s clear to me that there’s group influence amongst all the parties, otherwise people would stay consistent in their views.

  28. HH Says:

    A few observation’s about Cllr Walker’s account …

    If he’s so at odds with the Conservative’s direction since they came to power in May 2010, why has it taken him so long to leave? As several have already pointed out, he could represent his local electorate just as easily as an independent councillor. But no, the prospect of holding the position of Chair of Council was just too enticing for him, so much so that he was prepared to surrender all his principles to achieve it. And when he wasn’t nominated … (apparently they’re still picking up his toys from the floor of the council chamber).

    Take at a look at the date on his resignation letter (24th May) – one day AFTER the election of the council’s new Chair. That is no coincidence.

    And what a load of arrogant claptrap about him having “deferred his chairmanship”, as though it is some God-given right that can’t be taken away from him once he has served a year as Vice-Chair.

    Interesting too that Cllr Walker doesn’t attempt to deny anything that was said in the ‘smear campaign’ about the state of the companies of which he is a director, including the one he is trying to wind up and wipe out its debts.

    Finally, if he’s so concerned about things being given away in exchange for “a brown envelope or shaky promise”, how could he possibly have contemplated joining a party that has Neil Hamilton on its National Executive Committee?

  29. Anne Says:

    Interesting to read that Jon wonders if Cllr Walker will stand down as he was elected as a conservative not a UKIP member. I seem to remember that some years ago at least one councillor who was elected as an independent joined the Lib Dems during his tenure. Don’t remember Jon suggesting he stood down….

    Having a town council dominated totally by one party was never going to be a good thing so perhaps its good that a couple of councillors have jumped ship.

    I’m not a supporter of the the Tories or UKIP but at least Ben Walker always turns up for the council meeting he’s expected at which some of them don’t.

    More independent concillors would be great but I can’t see it happening. You’d have to have a thick skin to stand and be able to deal with all the critisism and abuse you get!

  30. JonBoy Says:

    Anne

    The independant Cllr you refer to wasn’t elected, but co-opted onto the council after a series of interviews with interested residents, by cllrs, as a result of elected cllr standing down quickly after an election. Ed may be able to dig out the names, but my memory isn’t that good.

  31. Robert Feal-Martinez Says:

    Nice to see no political bias shown by the editor.

  32. Cynical sid Says:

    JonBoy
    So can you tell us all what the “salary” you get from SGC for being a councillor?
    I and many other voters would like to know? Would being Chair carry more remuneration? Always wondered what the attraction is?
    As you say being paid is pretty good reason not to stand down, if as Cllr Walker has quoted, you are on the “gravy train”.
    Wonder how much a meeting it works out at?

  33. SH (Editor) Says:

    SGC Councillors get a basic allowance of £10,835. The Chair of Council gets an additional £5,417.

    Source: http://council.southglos.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=27635

    BSTC Councillors do not receive allowances.

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