VIDEO: Conservatives had ‘better quality of people standing than us’ says Peterborough UKIP group leader

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The group leader for UKIP on Peterborough City Council believes his party struggled in the local elections because the Conservatives had “more people of better quality standing.”

Councillor John Okonkowski, who was one of just two UKIP councillors to win a seat, said UKIP had a few people stand at the last minute and that the Conservatives had a more organised team.

John Okonkowski (right of picture) after winning his seat at the 2016 local elections

John Okonkowski (right of picture) after winning his seat at the 2016 local elections

He was speaking after his party saw their number of councillors halved, despite the number of seats available rising from 57 to 60.

With his colleagues Roger Herdman and Frances Fox not standing for re-election, Cllr Okonkowski and Cllr John Whitby were both re-elected but saw Andy Monk miss out by four votes in Fletton & Stanground.

The results left Cllr Okonkowski, who came third in Orton Longueville, to bemoan UKIP’s luck and highlight the number of its ‘paper’ candidates. He said: “It’s very disappointing. Too many new people were standing and I did not think that worked out.

“The Tories have more people that are better quality of people standing. We did not have leaflets out in every ward but we still got plenty of votes and a lot of the new ones got decent scores.”

Asked what he meant by better quality of people standing, Cllr Okonkowski replied: “We had a few people in the last minute to stand and they have not done this sort of thing before.

“But people just did not vote for us when we thought they would. This is the sort of thing that happens to UKIP all the time.

“At the end of the day people voted for the Tories. They had a good team and were well organised. We probably did not campaign very well.

“We were confident of doing better. I said if we had six in we were doing well. Two retired and there’s two of us left. We will see where we go from here.”

Cllr Okonkowski, who said UKIP might form a council group alongside the three Liberal Party councillors, is now focusing on June’s European Union.

He added: “We will be out in force. We started this off and we have to finish it as well. But after that who knows.”

Meanwhile, the group leader of Peterborough’s Labour Party has backed Jeremy Corbyn as “the best man for the job” to take the party forward nationally.

Asked whether Mr Corbyn’s popularity had influenced the results locally, Cllr Mohammed Jamil, who saw his party increase their number of councillors from 12 to 14, said: “I do feel it’s had a slight effect, but I don’t think it’s had that big an effect on Peterborough.

“Jeremy Corbyn was elected with the largest mandate of any leader ever. I don’t see what he’s done wrong or what he needs to do more.

“He’s reaching out to people. It may take a bit of time to get his message there, but he is still the best man for the job.”

Cllr Jamil also felt Labour had struggled due to boundary changes, an opinion emphasised by Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford whose party saw its number of councillors rise from four to seven.

He said: “The reason we are really thrilled is the boundary changes were heavily against us and we still managed to substantially increase our seats.

“The boundary changes worked in favour of the Conservatives and I think we were expecting them to have a fairly good result.

“They’ve just scraped overall control so it should mean interesting council meetings going forward.”

Liberal Party councillor Chris Ash was pleased to see a clean sweep for his party in Dogsthorpe, saying: “It shows a good show of confidence from the people of Dogsthorpe in us.”

But he sounded sceptical about the three Liberal councillors forming a group on the council alongside UKIP, adding: “I do not think we are natural partners, but that’s a political thing not a personal thing.”