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Great Yarmouth UKIP defections - defectors rarely do the ‘honourable’ thing

PUBLISHED: 16:37 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:06 03 November 2017

Conservatives became the majority party on Great Yarmouth council after welcoming seven UKIP councillors.
Kay Gray and Graham Plant leader of the Conservative group and council.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Conservatives became the majority party on Great Yarmouth council after welcoming seven UKIP councillors. Kay Gray and Graham Plant leader of the Conservative group and council. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

I wonder what North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick would have thought of the pictures of his Great Yarmouth Borough Council counterpart grinning at the defection to his group of seven UKIP councillors?

Mr Plant was beaming from ear to ear at what he clearly sees as a considerable coup, strengthening Conservative control of Yarmouth and making them the majority party.

In contrast, Mr FitzPatrick has watched his own Conservative group dwindle over the past few months, with eight Tories quitting his party to become independents.

That’s not all Mr FitzPatrick has lost. He endured a defection of a non-political kind last year, when three of his top officers left - to join Mr Plant in Yarmouth.

An experimental tie-up saw them working for both authorities, as a business case for the two councils sharing services was explored.

But less than a year into the interim arrangements and the trio resigned from North Norfolk to take up roles in Yarmouth.

On those who have quit his party, Mr FitzPatrick says they should stand down and seek re-election, something which UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew has also called for with the UKIP defectors in Yarmouth.

Of course they won’t. Defectors rarely do. I can’t think of a single example in Norfolk where a defector has instantly stood down to trigger a by-election, but feel free to let me know if you know otherwise.

I won’t be hearing from the people of Thorpe Hamlet in Norwich, who have twice seen Green county councillors switch to the Conservatives and remain in place.

And here’s an interesting aside. Sue Hacon is one of the former UKIP seven who have just joined the Conservatives in Yarmouth. It’s not the first time she has crossed the floor, having left the Tories for UKIP back in 2014.

At that time, someone said she should do the “honourable” thing and stand down in Bradwell South and Hopton to trigger a by-election.

“The people who voted Sue in voted her in as a Conservative”, they said.

Who said that? None other than her former leader at the time and her leader again now - Mr Plant.

Something makes me doubt that, this time around, he’ll be asking her to do the “honourable” thing for those who voted her in as a UKIP councillor.

• Dan Grimmer is the public affairs correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press.

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