Unseating UKIP's Bill Etheridge is a triumph for Dudley and a triumph for a major HOPE not hate campaign
In a dismal night for UKIP, HOPE won over hate in areas across the UK, including towns like Dudley where our volunteers have long campaigned.
Combined with a large swing against UKIP, the campaign helped contribute to the unseating of the area’s controversial UKIP politician Bill Etheridge, who lost his council seat.
Etheridge went on to complain that UKIP was “obliterated” at the local elections yesterday and promised to quit politics within the year if there wasn’t a change in the UKIP leadership.
HOPE not hate has been working in Dudley since the area first came under threat from the British National Party (BNP) in 2003.
Etheridge had sat on Dudley council since 2014. Last night he came third, with just 15% of the vote in a ward where he once held a huge majority of over 40%.
HOPE not hate fought a hard campaign locally to expose Etheridge and reveal his true colours. He was a candidate who had consistently stirred division, exploiting anxieties in a town vulnerable from deprivation and inequality.
Let’s just give him a brief roll call of infamy.
- He was once forced out of the Conservative Party after posing with a golliwog
- He gave his support to ‘The White Pendragons’, a far-right group headed by a convicted racist
- He supports banning Muslim clothing and halal foods
- He invited a prominent member of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who’s advocated for police being able to shoot ‘illegal immigrants’, to address UKIP members in the West Midlands
- He has warned that multiculturalism would lead to ‘Rivers of Blood’
Unseating Bill Etheridge is a triumph for Dudley. Just like the BNP’s Dudley councillor Simon Derby, Etheridge only held his seat for one term. It is clear that public support is fleeting for those preaching hate here.
Going forwards, Dudley needs representatives who can bring hope to the area, who can offer a better standard of living, economic opportunities, good education, affordable places to live, and an inclusive sense of community.
Deseating Etheridge would not have been possible without the hundreds of volunteers who have worked hard across the country. Today should be a day of celebration and gratitude for the hard work of thousands of anti-racist campaigners up and down the country.
But the fall of the UKIP vote does not mean the fight is over.
Where Bill Etheridge has fallen, others may rise. Between 40-50% of UKIP’s 2015 vote did not vote in 2017, and it is likely that a significant proportion of UKIP’s 2014 vote did not turn out yesterday.
Since 2011 our research has shown a consistent and unchanging hostile section of the population, who feel overwhelmingly pessimistic about an increasingly diverse society.
There is wide disenfranchisement with the political system, and space for populist candidates who can capitalise on broader resentment. Our fight for HOPE continues.