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Switch-off fiasco likely to cast a long shadow

Off the Record
Behind the scenes at County Hall with political editor Paul Francis, Regional Press Awards UK’s weekly newspaper journalist of the year

• So, why did the politician who was in charge of the streetlight switch-off quit his job? Speculation is rife at County Hall, with some mischievously suggesting that Cllr David Brazier decided it was probably better to jump rather than be pushed. Either way, it does seem that behind the scenes there is considerable disquiet over how badly the policy has unravelled in such a short space of time. The focus of the recriminations is the question of whether KCC went through the necessary hoops before it pressed ahead. In particular, did it comply with the law on carrying out the necessary equalities impact assessment? The answers may come in an inquiry under way triggered by the opposition parties, notably the Liberal Democrats. This should have been a policy that was implemented without so much hassle. KCC was certainly not the first council to go down this route, and others managed to do it with very little controversy. Will Mr Brazier be the only casualty?

• After the embarrassment of the fly-on-the-wall BBC2 show Meet the Ukippers, Ukip party chiefs are desperate to limit gaffes by candidates and ensure they stay on message. At its conference in Margate at the weekend, MEP Patrick O’Flynn warned members not to say anything they might regret when they woke up on May 8 and had to ask themselves whether something they said in the campaign had cost them victory. By and large the conference was pretty gaffe-free, so maybe it is working.

• Janice Atkinson, who is fighting the Folkestone and Hythe seat for the party, is nothing if not confident. “I am going to win this seat, my own private polling shows that,” she said in a speech. Not sure how wise it is to second-guess voters’ intentions ahead of polling day.

• Party leader Nigel Farage is bracing himself for a hectic few weeks, having survived a “dry” January. So, did he make up for his self-enforced abstinence in February? “Let’s just say we are back to normal,” he told Off The Record.

• Meanwhile, former Ashford Labour councillor Harriet Yeo was so impressed by the Ukip party conference, she has now resigned from Labour. She might have been expelled anyway, but Ukip can now boast its first councillor In the town – even before May 7.

• It doesn’t take much to please some people in Ukip. In a speech during a local government session, Cllr David Prason began: “Good morning Margate… I have always wanted to say that.”

• Still, at least he didn’t get the name of the town wrong as did Ukip education spokesperson Patricia Culligan, who referred to the “bracing air of Brighton”.

• Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulOnPolitics

Herne Bay Gazette, March 5th 2015


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