Today, following weeks of rumours about his future, Peninsula Councillor Mick Pendergast formally resigned from the UKIP group on the council, choosing to sit as an independent for now.
Pendergast, who runs the Nags Head pub in Lower Stoke, was elected as part of a small UKIP wave in 2015, when the party managed to win four seats on the council. Since then, three of those councillors have resigned or defected, leaving leader Councillor Roy Freshwater as the only UKIP representation in the chamber.
It’s been a strange period for the Medway UKIP group on the council. Neither member plays much of an active role in council proceedings, and rumours of a split had begun to spread. The problems were highlighted recently when Councillor Freshwater sent out this email begging members and even former members of the party to stand as candidates in May:
— The Political Medway (@MedwayPolitics) October 23, 2018
In the past week, both councillors had been stepping up their rhetoric about the Hoo peninsula, with Councillor Freshwater making a bizarre suggestion of blockading the main road in and out of the area, an unprecedented action from a sitting councillor.
Since his resignation from the group, Councillor Pendergast has put out his own comments calling for action, but remains vague on whether blockades form part of his plan. More curiously, he has he is “not ruling anything in or out”, when it comes to triggering a by-election in the ward. As our friends at Medway Elects rightly pointed out, he’d have to move fast to make this happen.
Cllr Pendergast will have to be quick if he wants a by-election. Per S89 of the Local Government Act 1972, where a councillor resigns "within six months before the day on which the councillor whose office is vacant would regularly have retired, an election shall not be held" https://t.co/9nDfd7ehnV
— Medway Elects (@MedwayElects) October 26, 2018
Where does this leave Medway UKIP? For further reading, local political blogger Alan Collins has done an excellent deep dive into the decline of UKIP in Medway. With local elections pending next year, and the party struggling to find candidates, the prospects do not look good for the party in May.
Do you think Councillor Pendergast should resign and trigger a by-election? Vote in our poll over on Twitter. Have any ridiculous Medway UKIP stories? Peninsula resident worried about a blockade? Let us know in the comments below.