Ex-UKIP Sandwell councillor to quit politics

A Sandwell councillor who says he quit UKIP because the party is a mess on a national level has revealed that he plans to stand down prior next May's local authority elections.

Sandwell councillor Philip Garrett
Sandwell councillor Philip Garrett

Philip Garrett, who represents Princes End, was the sole UKIP voice on the Labour dominated council before he decided to resign the party whip last month.

He will continue to serve as an independent for the remainder of his term, but told the Express & Star that he plans to step down as a councillor next year due to his 'increasing disillusionment' with front line politics.

"My term runs out in May 2018 and the way I feel at the moment I think that will be the end," said Mr Garrett, who was first elected in 2014.

"This was by no means an easy decision, but as there is absolutely no chance of me joining another party, I will serve out my final eight months on the council and walk away."

Mr Garrett ploughed a lone furrow as the only UKIP councillor in Sandwell, but said his decision to quit the party was not directly linked to his 'solitary role' on the council.

He said his decision was heavily influenced by the party's collapse on a national level following the Brexit vote, and said the party had lacked direction since the EU referendum.

In this year's snap General Election the UKIP vote dropped from nearly four million to under 600,000.

The party also lost all 145 of the seats it was defending in the 2017 local elections.

Asked if he thought there was credence to the view that UKIP was no longer relevant to many British voters, he said: "It certainly seems to be going that way.

"Within the party there was always a lot of talk about the EU and immigration, leaving local politics a distant third on the list of priorities.

"For me local government is vital for a party. It is where you start to build support, but UKIP completely missed that.

"I feel that because of the upheaval and the whole mess that was going on nationally, local politicians never really got a fair crack of the whip.

"You would think that so many of our local councillors getting wiped out in May would have given them a kick up the backside but it wasn't to be.

"Nationally we keep having this leadership merry-go-round, with all the associated bickering and nastiness.

"You see it on social media constantly, with people who are members of the same party supposedly fighting for the same cause, tearing strips off each other.

"It doesn't look right and it is not very professional."

He added: "To me political affiliation has always been secondary. It should be about working towards to common good, no matter what party you represent.

"My faith in party politics has definitely taken a knock as these days it seems that everyone is trying to knobble someone."

Labour is now the only political party represented on Sandwell Council, although two of its councillors recently quit the party amid claims of 'destructive infighting'.

Bristnall councillor Steven Frear and former mayor Barbara Price, who represents Rowley, now serve as independents. Blackheath councillor Robert Price has also resigned the Labour whip.

The changes mean that Labour now holds 67 of the 72 seats on the authority.

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