Portsmouth left in limbo after elections

Julie Swan took Fratton for  UKIP
Julie Swan took Fratton for UKIP

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DECISIONS need to be made about the future leadership of Portsmouth City Council after Ukip’s surge at the polls stripped the ruling Lib Dems of its majority.

The local elections saw upsets as all three main parties yielded seats to Ukip, which now boasts six councillors across the city’s 14 wards after starting polling day with none.

The biggest shock came as veteran politician Mike Hancock lost his seat as independent councillor for Fratton, bringing to an end his 43-year reign in the post.

He was defeated by Ukip’s Julie Swan, who got 903 votes compared to Mr Hancock’s 628. Mr Hancock, who is still the MP for Portsmouth South, was also beaten by Labour’s Tom Coles, who was backed by 754 constituents.

And Mr Hancock’s wife Jacqui was also dethroned in Charles Dickens ward by Ukip candidate Paul Godier.

Mrs Swan, a founder member of Pompey Supporters’ Trust, said upon her victory that it’s time for a ‘strong woman’ to lead residents.

‘The people need someone who can turn around and fight for them and I am not afraid of that,’ she said.

‘It’s about time people were represented by someone who knows what it’s like to a normal human being.’

The Lib Dems now have 19 seats instead of 23, which means they no longer have a majority because the other parties’ seats put together a total 23.

The Conservatives hold on to 12, Labour drop down to four and a separate seat is occupied by Cllr Eleanor Scott, who is registered to the national Lib Dems but not the local group since she resigned earlier this year. Since there is no party with a majority that can lead the council, there has been talk of coalitions being formed, though nothing has been confirmed.

If things stay as they are, then the Lib Dems could rule as a minority administration, but any proposal they make could be overruled by the rest of the parties since there’s more of them.

Cllr Donna Jones, Conservative group leader, would like the Tories to align with Ukip in order to run the council, but Ukip has dismissed the idea, saying it would be ‘selling out.

Labour insists it won’t consider a coalition with Ukip because it stands for everything it dislikes, but will keep open-minded about a deal with either the Lib Dems or Tories. Plans will be finalised at the next meeting of the full council on June 3.

Cllr Jones said: ‘I will sit down and talk to the parties that have councillors elected, particularly Ukip, to see if we can form some sort of coalition.’

Stuart Potter, chairman of Ukip in Portsmouth, said: ‘There is absolutely no chance of a coalition happening, we would be selling ourselves out for our beliefs.

‘The rest of the parties are power obsessed. We are not about getting hold of power or control, we are about working for the people.’

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is leader of the council for now, said: ‘All 42 of the councillors have to decide which way to run the city.

‘We have to come to a conclusion, and I don’t know what that will be. I didn’t expect Ukip to do this well.

‘It was partly a protest vote, and partly because people are unhappy about many things, with the way the country is being run, and how Portsmouth is being run.’

David Williams, the council’s chief executive and elections returning officer, envisaged there being a mixed cabinet. Other upsets included Ukip snatching a Lib Dem seat in Baffins, believed to be a safe Lib Dem ward, and Colin Galloway of Ukip overcoming Jason Fazackarley’s seat in Nelson ward by 44 votes.