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Hyndburn councillors quit UKIP, slamming party's leadership

Paul Thompson and Malcolm Pritchard will become independents

Councillors Malcolm Pritchard (left) and Paul Thompson are quitting UKIP

Hyndburn’s only UKIP councillors have announced they are leaving the party, after becoming disillusioned with its leadership.

Paul Thompson submitted his resignation to national party bosses earlier this month, while Malcolm Pritchard said he will not be re-standing for election next May.

Former Mayor Coun Pritchard said: “The party is going the wrong way. There are too many d*** h**** now all trying to spoil it.”

Coun Pritchard, a former Labour and independent councillor, announced his UKIP candidacy ahead of the 2014 local elections, to stop ‘rumours and lies’ about him being a ‘closet Conservative’.

He told the Observer he will not be renewing his UKIP membership when it expires in the New Year. He said: “People have called me racist for being in UKIP, but I’m not a racist. Never have been, never will be. I have enjoyed working with Paul and the MP candidate Janet Brown. It’s the hierarchy that’s there now that I don’t agree with.”

UKIP has suffered electoral major setbacks both locally and nationally this year, amid struggles to shake off claims that Brexit made it obsolete.

In Hyndburn, the party lost more than 7,000 votes in June’s snap general election - with many switching to the largest two parties amid claims UKIP chiefs were encouraging voters to vote Tory.

Party leader Paul Nuttall quit soon after the election, at which UKIP polled just 2 per cent.

Coun Thompson, who represents the St Oswald’s ward, said he plans to re-stand as an independent candidate at the local elections next year. He said: “I just can’t tolerate what’s going on within the party. It’s not going to go anywhere.

“I’ve been a member of UKIP for nine years. We have just lost our track with people not listening. There’s only one way to get a party together and that’s to get councillors.

“I’ve worked as hard as anybody to become a councillor and then they lost sight of it.”

He added: “The council have been absolutely wonderful with me and I won’t lose any positions. I am now an independent. I will be standing again next year. I love being on the council.”

James Barker, UKIP North West chairman, sympathised with concerns revolved around the future leadership of the party.

He said: “We are all hoping for a very moderate candidate to come through - which is probably the reason why Paul and myself are concerned as there are some people that would like to take us to the right and that’s not where myself and certainly the hierarchy want to go down. We are hoping for a successful outcome for a moderate candidate.

“Paul has been fantastic for us.

“He is thought of very well by his constituents and he’s done a sterling job for us and, more importantly, he’s done a sterling job for the ward he represents.

“I do hope that when the leadership challenge has been resolved, which isn’t long off now, I think Paul might change his mind when he sees the successful candidate.

“But we will have to wait and see. It’s a democratic process.”

He added: “I don’t know Malcolm as well as I know Paul but I know that Paul has talked of him in good terms and they were hoping to push on from here. All we can do is hope that will be the case and they will advance the cause.”

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