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UKIP resignation confusion sparks a war of words
A WAR of words has erupted between prominent local members of UKIP amid confusion over whether its only Basingstoke councillor had quit the party.
UKIP councillor Stephen West, who represents Tadley Central on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, allegedly resigned from the party earlier this month – one year after he defected from the Conservatives.
His decision, which was apparently outlined in an email to party bosses, was confirmed on Monday by Alan Stone, Basingstoke UKIP chairman, and John Bentham, chairman of the North West Hampshire branch, of which Cllr West is a member.
However, hours later, Cllr West “categorically denied” leaving UKIP – a statement that surprised Mr Bentham.
“There was no doubt in my mind (that he quit) and I stand by what I said,” he told The Gazette.
To add to the confusion, Mr Stone said Cllr West had changed his mind about his decision to resign, hours after the news was made public by The Gazette on basingstokegazette.co.uk.
Mr Stone added that Cllr West was reinstated after they “had a long chat” on Monday evening.
Speaking to The Gazette on Tuesday, Mr Stone said: “He’s back in the fold. He’s promised to attend his council meetings regularly, represent his electorate and not poke other people who don’t need poking. He’s just got to do his job properly now.”
Cllr West sent an emailed statement to The Gazette to say the allegation that he quit was a “smear campaign” instigated by another former Tory and current UKIP campaign director, Phil Heath.
Cllr West said: “Philip Heath is a failed borough and county councillor and was thrown out of the Conservative Party.
“This month, he is attempting to secure UKIP’s nomination to be the parliamentary candidate in Basingstoke at the next General Election.
“If he believes that instigating a public smear campaign will boost his popularity with local UKIP members ahead of the election and win him votes, he really is nuts.”
He later emailed to add he had “not been reinstated to the party as I never left”.
However, when asked to explain why both his branch chairman and the Basingstoke UKIP chairman confirmed his resignation, Cllr West failed to comment.
Responding to Cllr West’s comments, Mr Heath said: “Steve’s obviously embarrassed and he’s trying to pin the blame on somebody else.
“I didn’t instigate anything – I’ve got nothing against Steve. It’s a pity he’s said that sort of thing. I don’t think he’s doing himself any favours throwing that stuff around. I will leave it up the party to decide what to do next.”
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