Published: 13:00, 21 July 2014
| Updated: 13:14, 21 July 2014
It’s two months since UKIP gained its first seats ever on Maidstone Borough Council.
On Saturday around 35 people turned out to a pubic meeting to hear Cllr Eddie Powell, the party’s group leader, report back on their first eight weeks in office.
The meeting, in Staplehurst Village Centre, was also an opportunity for voters to meet Jamie Kalmar, the party’s candidate in this Thursday’s by-election in the village.
Sharing the platform was Janice Atkinson, one of the newly elected UKIP MEP’s for the South East, who regaled the audience with the tales of waste and “junkets” she had already witnessed during her short time in Brussels.
She warned that the EU was pushing hard to gain its own standing army so that it could be more “interventionist.”
Most of the questions from the audience were on more domestic matters, chiefly on the council’s plans to build an extra 900 homes in Staplehurst, with concerns expressed over school places, public transport, GP surgeries and flooding.
Cllr Powell received his biggest round of applause for his declaration: “We’re 100% against any building on any greenfield sites.”
Challenged why the new UKIP councillors abstained in the vote to elect a new council leader shorty after the May election, rather than voting for the Lib Dem candidate who was at least campaigning for a smaller housing target than the Tories, Cllr Powell said the Lib Dems were being “hypocritical”.
He said: “They say one thing locally but it is their national policies that have got us into this mess.”
He said a large part of the new homes target was a direct consequence of the Lib Dem’s support for the EU and open-door immigration.
To illustrate that his party was anti-immigration, rather than anti-immigrant, Mr Kalmar, a recruitment consultant, gave himself as an example. He is the grandson of a Hungarian refugee who fled to England after the Second World War, and he is himself married to a Polish woman.
He said: “I joined UKIP because it is the only party that stands up for the freedoms that my grandfather came to this country for.”
This Thursday’s by-election was called after the resignation of one of the village’s two sitting Conservative councillors, Richard Lusty.
At the last election in May, where there was a contest for the village’s other seat, Mr Kalmar came third behind the Lib Dem candidate and the successful Tory candidate John Perry.
Mr Kalmar said: “As we are only fighting one seat this time around, I have had a lot more support from other party members campaigning with me. We are hopeful.”
There is no independent candidate this time.
Should Mr Kalmar be successful, it will be another blow to the Conservatives, who went from an overall majority to a minority administration in May.
The candidates in the Staplehurst by-election are:
Louise Brice (Con)
David George (Green)
Jamie Kalmar (UKIP)
John Randall (Lab)
Paulina Watson (Lib Dem)
*Polling is between 7am and 10pm.
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