Local elections – Ukip becomes official opposition in Rotherham
Anti-EU party celebrates after gaining nine seats on South Yorkshire council in addition to the one it won in a byelection.
Ukip has won 10 seats in Rotherham, in the process ousting several prominent Labour councillors, including the deputy leader of the council. The assertive victory was seized on by the anti-EU party as proof that it appeals to working-class Labour voters as well as disaffected Tories. The results far exceeded Ukip hopes and Labour’s worst fears.
The anti-EU party won seven seats from Labour and two from the Conservatives and held the one seat it won in a byelection last year. It also scooped up votes from the disintegrating British National Party, which had two councillors in its 2008 peak. Labour will keep control of the council it has run for 80 years, but Ukip is now the official opposition.
Deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, first elected in 2000, lost his seat after being embroiled in Rotherham’s child sex grooming scandal. He was accused of covering up abuse by his cousin – a charge he has always denied. He stepped down for several months while police investigated and was reinstated late year when detectives decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
He will lose his £21,443 salary after being ousted in his Rotherham West ward by Maureen Vines, whose husband, Caven Vines, held his seat in Rawmarsh. Last year’s byelection saw Vines become Ukip’s first directly elected councillor in Rotherham.
Another high-profile victim was Richard Russell, the Labour member for Rother Vale and cabinet member for waste. Responding to the defeat, John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “It’s a message for all the political parties: wake up. People are angry. They are saying they aren’t hearing enough of what they feel in what we are politicians are saying.”
He added: “For me today was compounded when I was out knocking on doors and one man, a lifelong Labour voter, said to me: ‘John, I’m voting for Ukip today. You all need a kicking’.”