Regular readers of this blog and our sister publication, the South Essex Stirrer, will be in little doubt as to our feelings about the current condition of the anarchist movement. A movement that in our opinion, as too many parts of it slide into the vortex of identity politics is becoming less relevant to the working class by the day. A movement that in all honesty, we don’t really feel that we can be an integral part of as things currently stand. Which is why were taking a bit of a step back from it while we reassess which elements of it we can have a constructive working relationship with and those that sadly, we have to move well away from.

We’re more than happy to continue working with those parts of the movement that see class struggle as a central part of their strategy and tactics. That also applies to those who understand the importance of working from the grassroots upwards on the estates. Which is why we’re working with Rebel City offering our support to them in producing the next edition of the paper. The same also applies to the newly formed Anarchist Communist Group – whose analysis on the centrality of class struggle is one we strongly agree with.

As we’re taking a bit of a step back from the movement while we reassess our relationship to it, one of the changes we’re making on this blog is binning the bookfair diary. It would be a bit disingenuous of us to put up listings for events and then start criticising the organisers because we disagree with their politics! Also, there wasn’t much point in our having a bookfair diary that duplicates what Freedom are doing: Anarchist Bookfairs in 2018 – linked to in the sidebar on this blog.

One project we’re going to be carrying on with is our page linking to a range of readings on identity politics. Obviously, given our views, that list will feature some critiques of identity politics! It’s a work in progress and suggestions for additions are always welcome. The aim is to range from readings about issues surrounding cultural identity all the way over to the contentious issue of gender identity. We aim to put up readings on the issue of gender identity politics from both sides of what has become a toxic debate with the aim of trying to encourage a more reasoned, nuanced discussion. We realise that this will get people’s backs up and we may lose friends over this but we’ve got to the point where we’re no longer willing to self censor ourselves.

Getting back to the centrality of class struggle politics and grassroots activism to our project, we’re going to produce a two sides of A4 mini-newsletter / statement to hand out at bookfairs, meetings etc. over the coming year. It will also be available as a downloadable PDF. All things being equal, we aim to have this ready in time for the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th. Whether that will be inside the bookfair or outside in the street depends on how well (or not) we’re received! We hope that it will be seen as a constructive contribution to the discussion about the future direction of the movement.


A few words on how we work

Recently on our sister blog, The South Essex Stirrer, we posted up this piece: A few thoughts on neighbourhood community halls It’s about concerns expressed by a number of residents on the ¾ estate in Vange over safety issues relating to parking and traffic on Fridays when the neighbourhood community centre is used as a mosque. It’s one of those issues that if we don’t get involved with our analysis of it, there are those on the right and possibly, the far right who will be only too happy to take ownership of it. That would make it very difficult for us and our partners to continue to operate on the ¾ estate.

We’ve been working for a while with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and more recently, the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) on ways to encourage residents on the ¾ estate to get involved in making their neighbourhood a better place to live. This has involved practical actions such as community clean ups as well as using what resources we can muster to put pressure on Basildon Council to get their act together and do the job residents pay them their council tax for. VHCG was set up last year, partly as a result of a meet up and estate walkabout involving local residents, BASHA and a rare appearance from the two ward councillors. VHCG have quite a lively Facebook group –

The VHCG Facebook group can best be described as a broad church that reflects the range of opinions that will be found on any estate. Which means that sometimes opinions will be aired that we will not agree with. Opinions that some people in some of the activist circles we know will deem to be beyond the pale. Opinions that may well prompt some activists to ask what on earth are we doing working with VHCG in the first place. A caveat – it has to be noted that the few people who do express opinions that some will regard as dodgy have never, ever been seen on any of our community clean ups. The people from VHCG whose work we do facilitate such as the clean ups and lobbying are pretty sound as far as we’re concerned.

The VHCG Facebook group gives us an insight into what people’s concerns (and occasionally, prejudices) are. Which means we can intervene by whatever means necessary to offer our viewpoint on a contentious issue and work to change people’s opinions. It’s a continuous process that won’t get instant results but if we stick at it for long enough, we gain people’s respect and that’s when we can start to change minds and win people over. It’s pretty much what we did way back in the 2000’s when we were involved with the Independent Working Class Association – direct engagement with working class people. As we have stated many times before, anyone who wants to see fundamental change is going to have to have the working class with them because without us, you will not achieve your goal!

Working in the way we do with BASHA and VHCG means there are inevitably a few grey areas. We know what we want to get out of this process so keeping that in mind, we can deal with the grey areas. Working at the coalface on isolated, deprived and forgotten estates on the fringes of a failing new town means finding an ideologically pure community group to work with is an impossibility. We have to work with what we find which means things can be a bit messy and complicated sometimes. We accept that and just get on with the process of engagement as best we can.

We could get huffy, throw the toys out of our pram and refuse to work with community groups that may include people whose views we don’t agree with. We could retreat to a hermetically sealed activist bubble where everything we hear confirms our world view and refuse to engage with those whose views we find disagreeable. We could but – it would be a massive abrogation of duty. Retreat raises the question ‘if not us, then who?’ Well, there’s a motley cast of UKIPers, ex UKIP ‘independents’, and lurking in the shadows, a few people off to the far right who would be only too happy to step in and fill the vacuum. So, this is why we work in the way we do with BASHA to make sure that there are at least a few estates in Basildon where these elements won’t be able to make an appearance without reckoning with our input.

This is the gritty, messy and complicated reality of what we deal with out here along the Essex shore of the Thames estuary. It’s not easy and there are times when we’re tearing our hair out in frustration – however, it has to be done. We’re not asking for plaudits or kudos for the way we work. All we’re asking for is an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve in terms of engaging with and winning over working class estates to a broader vision of change. As ever, constructive criticism and informed debate on the issues raised in this piece are always welcome.

A few thoughts on neighbourhood community halls

This piece was originally posted on our sister blog, the South Essex Stirrer We’re posting it up here because we think it illustrates the issues we face working with community groups on estates facing problems arising from neglect and deprivation. Problems that if ignored and dismissed, will eventually be picked up and acted on by elements from the far right. Suffice to say that engagement with estate based, mainly apolitical community groups can be a messy and complex business but is necessary if we’re going to defeat the forces of reaction…

We’ve been made aware of parking issues occurring on the ¾ estate in Vange on Fridays around the community hall on Vange Hill Drive – this is a day the building is used for a religious gathering. This isn’t the only example of a community hall being used for a religious gathering with attendant parking and traffic problems. This is an issue with a number of religious denominations across the region we cover…

Community halls on estates were planned and built with the intention that they were for neighbourhood use. Use for anyone in the neighbourhood regardless of who they are, where they originated from and what deity they may or may not choose to worship. Catering for a neighbourhood, the assumption was that a fair proportion of the people attending events at their community hall would walk to and from events and only those living a bit of a distance away or with mobility problems would drive or be driven to them. Car parking for the community halls was generally provided based on these assumptions.

For a variety of reasons, a number of community halls are being used for events, some of them religious gatherings, that will attract people from across the borough and not just the neighbourhood. If such a community hall is on an isolated estate with poor public transport, then people travelling there from a distance will be coming by car because there is no other option. Even if there are reasonable public transport links, it may well be the case that sadly, in the increasingly divided and polarised society we live in, worshippers of some denominations might not feel safe travelling in by bus or train and choose to drive simply because it’s the safest option. This is where a car park in a community hall designed for neighbourhood use is overwhelmed and vehicles are parked in neighbouring streets that more often than not, were not designed to accommodate them. Understandably with parking in less than ideal conditions plus attendant traffic issues before and after large scale events, residents do have legitimate concerns about safety that need to be addressed.

What we are talking about should in an ideal world be seen as a planning problem that with goodwill on all sides, can be resolved by constructive negotiation and rational decision making by council planners and the relevant councillors. The problem is that with some of the religious gatherings we’re talking about, prejudice from those opposed to them can get in the way of any rational planning solution. A solution that would allow the worshippers concerned to identify a suitable site that can provide sufficient parking, would ideally would be reasonably well served by public transport and lastly, doesn’t cause any disturbance to neighbouring residents.

We’re in a bit of a bind here… Firstly, residents are afraid to raise legitimate concerns about safety regarding parking and traffic issues for fear of being branded racist. Secondly, because some councillors do, through the use of winks and nods, court an element of the electorate who could be regarded as racist, they will block solutions involving the siting of places of worship in appropriate locations in a bid to hang onto that support. With residents feeling they can’t voice their concerns for fear of being branded racist and some councillors doing their level best to block the construction of places of worship in a bid to pander to the prejudices of some of their supporters, solutions to the problems are not forthcoming. As a result, tensions and resentment can start to grow, particularly if the knuckle-draggers from the far right sense an opportunity to stick their oar in and twist the legitimate concerns of residents to suit their own nefarious, divisive and hateful ends.

Let’s get a bit specific and discuss the issue of the community hall on Vange Hill Drive, it’s use by the Muslim community and a solution that was proposed but for various reasons, was not allowed to come to fruition. Back in 2014, the Islamic group using the community hall on Vange Hill Drive wanted to set up a new centre on the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate: Faith leader defends Islamic centre plan They favoured this site because it wasn’t near any residential areas and wouldn’t cause any disturbance. The move never came to fruition. One of the objections was raised by Cllr. Kerry Smith who back in 2014 was still a member of UKIP. Smith is now an independent and is currently the ward councillor for Nethermayne on Basildon Council and the Basildon Westley Heights division on Essex County Council. Smith’s objections were based on traffic issues. Issues that with some goodwill on all sides and some rational decision making could have been resolved. Industrial estates by their very nature are designed to cope with high levels of traffic and have a pretty good level of parking as most people working on them drive to and from them. On that basis alone, in our opinion, we have to conclude that Smith’s objections were spurious to say the least…

Having worked alongside our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action and Vange Hill Community Group on clean ups and community gardening on the ¾ estate, we can see how a large influx of vehicles parking up in the Vange Hill Drive area, for whatever reason, will lead to safety issues. We understand the concerns of the residents and want to see a solution that will suit them and the worshippers that come in on Friday (and any other worshippers from other denominations on other days). What has to be done is to challenge those councillors who put a block on any reasonable solution because of where they draw their support from. We would like to suggest to residents in the Vange Hill Drive area that they ask Cllr. Kerry Smith why, back in 2014, he was one of those who stood in the way of a solution that would have been of mutual benefit to them and the worshippers using the community hall. Until councillors like this are challenged as to what their agenda really is, there never will be a solution to the issue and unwanted and divisive tensions will rise…tensions which will hurt all of us who want to build cohesive, friendly neighbourhoods where everyone looks out for and cares for each other…

Some more readings on identity politics

One day, life will permit me the time to sit down, marshal my thoughts and write down what I think I understand about identity politics in a form that will a) be publishable and b) tries to move the debate on. However, the more I think about what identity politics really is, the more uncertain I am about whether it’s a useful term to cover what is a broad range of issues stretching all the way from cultural through to gender identities. With my political and lived experience, I’m on firmer ground talking and writing about some of the issues surrounding cultural identity. When it comes to gender identity, I have to admit that a) I’m still trying to understand the various positions and b) I’m struggling! Which means that when I do eventually get round to writing anything, it will be on the issue of cultural identity.

Observers of the anarchist and radical movement will be only too aware of the vexed nature of the arguments around gender identity issues. Arguments that seemed to come to a head with events at the London Anarchist Bookfair in October last year and since then have caused damaging splits in the movement. Arguments that have created a climate where I’m checking whether I should be linking to certain writers on this blog in case it causes ructions with people I work with on issues totally unrelated to gender identity! Linking to a writer or group on this blog isn’t a one hundred percent endorsement of their position – it’s because I find what they have to say is interesting and useful. It’s in that spirit that I present the following two writings that touch on issues relating to identity politics. Constructive criticism and comment are always welcome…abuse isn’t…

UPDATE – 4.3.18: To make life easier, I’ve created an Identity politics readings page – – where all of the readings can be linked to in one place. Bear in mind this is a work in progress to be added to and refined as we go along so on that basis, suggestions for readings will be welcome…

Dave (the editor)

Class Struggle Anarchist Statement on Bookfair Events and AftermathAnarchist Communist Group


The Estuary Alternative manifesto

We’ve just sent the artwork for The Estuary Alternative paper off to the printer. It reads more like a manifesto than anything else so, in the interests of explaining what The Estuary Alternative project is all about, we’ve reproduced (with a few minor amends) the text of the paper below. We hope it conveys the centrality of grassroots community activism to our overall strategy. As ever, constructive criticism and informed debate are always welcome…

Building a new world in the shell of the old

Our sister project, the South Essex Stirrer, highlights what’s wrong with the increasingly dysfunctional political, economic and social system we have to endure. People have a pretty clear idea of what the Stirrer doesn’t like but wonder what alternative can be offered instead. This is why we set up The Estuary Alternative in a bid to start looking at different ways of organising our lives.

Radical change isn’t going to come about without an upheaval that will sweep away the existing order and replace it with a society that’s more just, equitable, sane and sustainable. What can be done in the meantime is trying out different ways of organising our lives. It’s a process of starting to build a new world in the decaying shell of the dystopian one we’re in at the moment. That process necessarily involves a fair bit of experimentation to see what does and doesn’t work.

The emphasis is on bringing decision making about how we organise our communities and lives down to the grassroots. Obviously there are power structures in the way that put obstacles in the way we’d like to deal with issues such as housing. However, when you start to look, there are plenty of opportunities for projects that can start to make a difference in the here and now.

Here are just a couple of ideas as to what can be done…

Neighbourhood community gardens that give people more control over how their food is sourced. As well as empowerment from having more control, there are other benefits such as collectively working with your neighbours, access to fresh fruit and vegetables plus the exercise put in to cultivate them and a reduction in energy inputs involved in transporting food. Given the disruption to the food supply chain that’s likely to happen with a chaotic Brexit, this will boost neighbourhood resilience and cohesion in what could well be difficult times ahead.

Repair cafes where anything from tools to broken radios can be fixed and have their lifetimes extended. One benefit are the skills learned in repairing items as opposed to simply dumping them – skills that increase self reliance and boost confidence and self esteem. There are also the environmental benefits that come from reduced consumption of raw materials and a reduction in waste. On a more subversive note, doing this slowly undermines the unsustainable, consumer driven, production for profit rather than need model we currently have to live with.

There’s a lot more that can and should be done. The important thing is being prepared to have a go at launching a grassroots initiative that can play a part in building a new world in the shell of the old – this is what we’re looking at in this edition of our paper. Feel free to let us know what you think and send in your ideas for bringing about change at the grassroots.

Building neighbourhood solidarity and resilience

With all of the grassroots community projects we promote and do our level best to support, there’s one key fundamental and that’s generating a sense of neighbourhood solidarity. We’re not talking about an exclusive sense of solidarity centred on one particular group – we’re talking about the kind of solidarity that respects the variety of people that go to make up a neighbourhood.

The kind of solidarity which recognises that while people can be very different from each other, they can all play a role in making a neighbourhood a better place to live once they recognise that’s what they want to achieve. The kind of solidarity that our rulers and their mates in the right wing media hate because it means people have seen beyond their games of divide and rule and encouraging us all to be nothing more than selfish, atomised, uncaring producers and consumers. It’s the kind of solidarity we’ll need in an increasingly uncertain future as we face a Brexit where no one in power in either the UK or the rest of the EU can explain to us mere plebs what its consequences are. In addition to this, there are also the ever growing risks posed by climate change to consider…

These will impact on food security – the first manifestations of which will be steep price rises. Extreme manifestations could well be shortages of certain foods… This is the kind of scenario where life in an atomised neighbourhood where no one knows or trusts their neighbours could start to get uncomfortable to say the least. The kind of scenario where neighbourhood resilience cannot happen because everyone is fearful of everyone else. The kind of scenario where the authorities can control us because we fear and can’t trust each other. Basically, a nightmare scenario that no caring human wants…

Which is why we support any community project that brings people together, regardless of their backgrounds. At the end of the day, whoever we are and wherever we’re from, everyone wants to live in a neighbourhood where people look out for and care for each other. A neighbourhood that in an age of failing public services can provide networks of support for its more vulnerable members. A neighbourhood that’s taking steps to take control of its food supply with community gardens/allotments, food buying groups and the like. A neighbourhood that once it gains a degree of self confidence about looking after itself, will start to ask some searching questions about power, who exercises it and how it has to be brought right down to the grassroots.

So, while The Estuary Alternative may on the surface seem to be a ‘fluffy’ project, what we’re about is building the new world in the shell of the crumbling one we have to endure at the moment. The key to success in that project is building neighbourhood solidarity and resilience so we can not only survive the challenges of the dysfunctional world we currently live in but we can also start to build the saner, juster and more sustainable one we desire.

Guerilla gardening – just do it!

guerrilla gardening
the activity of growing plants without permission on land that belongs to someone else or on public land, with the aim of improving the environment or producing vegetables or flowers for people to use or enjoy

Starting a project to make a change in your neighbourhood can seem to be a daunting prospect. Yes, there are grassroots community projects that are complex and there are probably good reasons for that – changing the world is not an easy business and a degree of organisation is required. However, there are things you can do which don’t require a lot of organisation or hours writing funding applications. Guerilla gardening is one of those things you can do…

If there’s an awkward shaped smallish plot of land in your neighbourhood that’s been neglected and no one’s sure who owns or has responsibility for it, why not do a bit of guerilla gardening? Canvas opinion in the immediate neighbourhood to see how much support there is for the idea of transforming the plot from an eyesore into a community asset. Find out who’s willing to help you work on it and then work out a plan for what you want to do.

You could ask for permission if you want but if the land has been neglected for years, then whoever is responsible for it obviously doesn’t care about the impact of their neglect on your neighbourhood so…just get on with it! There’s a welcome, non-violent anti-authoritarian aspect to guerilla gardening that should be embraced. While at one level, it’s about making your neighbourhood a better place to live, at a more fundamental level, it’s asking questions about land ownership and control.

The other benefits are building a feeling of solidarity and cohesion in your neighbourhood as people get together to work on a common project. A project that as it matures will give people a sense of pride in and responsibility towards their neighbourhood and boost community morale. A confidence booster that can inspire people to take on bigger and more complex projects that will start to lead to real, meaningful change.

Start small, gain confidence, start to think bigger but above all…just do it!

Getting started

There’s no one way of building and running a grassroots community project.

Because of factors such as demographics and location, the issues projects have been set up to address will differ from each other so they have to be structured accordingly. What also influences the development and structure of a project is who steps up to the plate to start it off and keep it running.

What’s important with any grassroots project is making sure it genuinely involves as many people in the neighbourhood as possible. This will give it the legitimacy it needs to grow and will also ensure a steady number of committed volunteers as everyone feels they have an equal stake in it.

Before anything happens with getting a project off the ground, it’s vital you talk to people in the neighbourhood. Listen to them, find out what they want and how they think it could come about. Try to get as many people as possible involved. Not everyone is going to be able to commit a massive amount of time to a project but even if they can only offer an hour or so a week, value that contribution. Life is complicated and there are valid reasons why a lot of people can only manage to offer an hour or so a week.

Even though someone can only offer a limited amount of time, if the project is operating in their neighbourhood, they have to be seen as having a stake equal to someone who can contribute more hours. Creating a hierarchy of who can have more say in how a project develops based on the number of hours they can commit to it will alienate people and eventually start to deny it the legitimacy it needs to function. Inclusiveness, collective decision making and accountability are key factors in the success or failure of a successful grassroots project.

On the back page of The Estuary Alternative paper – in the Resources section, there’s a list of all the grassroots community projects across the south of Essex that we’re aware of. Each one has a different story and background you can learn from. The whole point of setting up The Estuary Alternative is to encourage all of these groups to talk to each other to exchange experiences, ideas and skills.

A step in this direction has been taken with the formation of the Essex Social Strategic Alliance whose flyer is reproduced on the back page…a flyer we hope will have to be updated frequently as the alliance grows! By linking up, we can be greater than the sum of our parts…that’s how we’ll start to bring about real change…

Elite jitters over a planned protest at The Shard

Class War have called a protest at The Shard to highlight the obscenity of the existence of tower after tower of empty luxury apartments – all too often acting as investment vehicles for the super rich – while London is experiencing a severe housing and homelessness crisis. In particular, Class War want to draw attention to the many survivors of last year’s Grenfell Tower disaster who are still stuck in inadequate temporary accommodation while the capital is awash with empty apartments. The Shard was picked because it’s an iconic building and a high profile example of the problem with its empty luxury apartments.

Then, the owners of The Shard got wind of the planned protest and sent in the solicitors. At the time of writing, this situation is ongoing so it’s best we don’t make any comment which may inadvertently prejudice the situation for Class War in general and Ian Bone in particular. However, there has been plenty of media coverage since the solicitors got involved so we’ll present what we’ve seen so far here and we’re sure you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions.

Shard owners seek to ban protest by Class War activist (The Guardian)
Qatari royals in High Court threat to South Norwood pensioners (Inside Croydon)
Shard’s Qatari owners try to halt pensioner class war activist from holding ‘ghost towers’ protest (RT)

It’s fairly certain that there will be more media coverage of this. We’ll allow ourselves one little comment… If the owners of The Shard thought that a court summons for an injunction hearing would nip this protest in the bud then it has to be said that their efforts are an epic fail. The media are picking up not just on the story about the injunction but also on the issue of the empty investment apartments that led to the protest getting called. Whatever the owners of The Shard do from now on, the story is out there and they’ll be fighting an increasingly desperate rearguard battle to stifle it.

As far as we can make out, unless the owners of The Shard and their solicitors can conjure some pretty draconian restrictions to apply to a large area surrounding the building, a protest will be taking place this Thursday evening from 6pm onwards. One that is likely to be a lot bigger than initially anticipated owing to the shit storm generated by the actions of the owners and their solicitors. We will be in attendance at this one – given what we’ve had to say on the impact of the social cleansing of London on the housing situation out along the Thames estuary, it would be rude of us to not attend.

Given how desperate the owners are to nip this one in the bud, we would advise those attending the protest to be wary of any attempts to sabotage, undermine and discredit the action. Bear in mind the very, very close proximity of the offices of The Times and The S*n to the proposed location of the protest.

What’s really interesting about all of this is what the reaction by the owners of The Shard and their minions tells us about the state of mind of the super rich. A few posts on Facebook from Class War – a group who on their own admission use the tactic of irreverently taking the piss to draw attention to the failings of the system – has provoked a reaction out of all proportion to any threat that may be posed. Despite the rhetoric of some of the material posted by Class War, based on past experience, the protest will be pretty theatrical, ribald and irreverent with the the aim of getting across to the passing public a serious point about the roots of the housing crisis in London. A nuisance and an embarrassment to the owners of The Shard, certainly but a serious threat to the integrity of the tower, no way.

Despite this, the owners are throwing everything they can at Class War to nip this protest in the bud. A super rich elite confident about their place in the world would simply shrug this protest off. The over-reaction suggests an elite who are anything but confident about their place and purpose in the world. Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut is the action of an elite that is becoming increasingly fearful as they become more aware of the growing levels of resentment at their privilege. While they can call upon the weight of the law and when push comes to shove the force of the state in a way that threatens our very existence, their actions are born out of fear. Whatever the super rich and their minions throw at us in the coming years, as long as we remember they’re acting from fear, eventually we will prevail.

Thurrock UKIP have gone – what comes next?

All 17 UKIP councillors in Thurrock have quit the party and have established a new political grouping called the Thurrock Independents – see here for the full story in the Thurrock & South Essex Independent: BREAKING: Local UKIP councillors quit party and form new Thurrock Independents group. Given the comments from some of these councillors, most notably Cllr. Luke Spillman (Aveley & Uplands) about the direction that UKIP had been taking for the last few years, this news hasn’t exactly come as a surprise for us.

Predictably, Labour and Tory councillors have swiftly poured scorn on this new political venture: Opposition parties react to new Thurrock Independent Party. With the balance of power on Thurrock Council meaning that in recent years, neither Labour or the Tories have had an unassailable majority, slagging off councillors and a political grouping that either party may need to call upon after the local elections in May to form an administration may not be the wisest move. However, this sniping is typical of the playground attitude that quite often can be a feature of proceedings at Thurrock Council.

It has to be assumed that the councillors making up the Thurrock Independents have been doing a fair bit of soul searching before reaching their decision to quit an obviously failing UKIP. We would like to think that some of that soul searching may have been about the role of a local councillor. Now, obviously we never had a brief for UKIP councillors in any way, shape or form (and never will have a brief for any reactionary independents) but as they now claim to be independents working for the benefit of the residents, we’d like to offer them our thoughts on the role of local councillors: A few thoughts on local councillors…

We’ve been having a look at the comments about the Thurrock Independents on social media and it would be fair to say that the reactions are mixed ranging from supportive to outright derision. Given that a fair few people voted for these councillors because they were standing in the name of UKIP, the point has been made that they should all consider quitting and put themselves up for re-election either in by-elections or at the next local elections in May. Obviously, some of the former UKIP councillors have served their terms and are up for re-election anyway but there’s a body of opinion (mainly UKIP supporters in denial who can’t accept that it’s over for their party) that thinks the lot of them should face the electorate to see if they’re still wanted.

It does appear that Tim Aker who as a councillor is one of the Thurrock Independents intends to carry on as a UKIP MEP: Thurrock MEP defends defection to the Independents. This would indeed be an unusual, possibly unique situation with one individual fulfilling two political roles with two political groupings. Aker has justified this by claiming that UKIP still has a job to do in Brussels as the Brexit negotiations move along. How Aker’s split political loyalties will go down with his fellow UKIP MEPs will be interesting to see.

It was only a few years back that Thurrock was touted as the area where UKIP would get an MP and be the catalyst for national success. Thurrock was graced with visits from former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage and resources were showered on Thurrock to make it a stronghold for the party. Now UKIP no longer exist in Thurrock – from heroes to zeros in just a few years. It is a sign of how volatile politics is becoming when a party can rise very swiftly and then more or less collapse just as swiftly. Alan Sked who founded the Anti-Federalist League in 1991 which changed it’s name to UKIP in 1993 thinks they’re long past their use by date and should disband now to save the Eurosceptic cause any further embarrassment: I founded Ukip. It’s a national joke now and should disappear.

So what now? Many commentators have said that UKIP have fulfilled their stated aim of securing a vote for Brexit and there’s no reason for it to exist. However, over the years, UKIP has adopted a more openly anti-immigrant stance. Across southern Essex, this aspect of UKIP proved attractive enough for many former BNP voters looking for a political home after the rapid decline of that party to vote for them at local council and general elections. With UKIP’s demise in Thurrock which we strongly suspect will be getting repeated across the country, there’s currently a political vacuum for those of an anti-immigrant disposition.

Despite numerous protestations from UKIP about their party not being racist and not having anything to do with political elements further to the right, there has always been an element in their ranks who have flirted with the far right. In 2016, we found that a UKIP local election candidate in the Pitsea North West ward in Basildon, one Michelle Regan, had attended a protest supporting truckers in the company of the British Movement. When we pointed this out to the then leader of the UKIP councillors on Basildon Council, Linda Allport-Hodge, she vigorously defended Regan, managing to ignore the British Movement supporters and the sunwheel flag they were holding she was standing right next to!

Vigilance is needed because there are reactionary elements waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum that is being created by the ongoing implosion of UKIP. You only have to look across to continental Europe to see how slickly presented identitarian parties are hoovering up the votes and moving into positions where if they aren’t close to gaining power, they potentially hold the balance of power. Which means we have to develop a radical politics that working class people can engage with and unite around as a matter of urgency. We only have a short period of grace to do this before the malign reactionary elements regroup and come crawling out of the woodwork to exploit people’s concerns about immigration for their own nefarious ends.