08:07 Monday 29th February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: A Cambridgeshire Conservative councillor is the latest to switch parties and join UKIP. Adrian Dent says he’s disillusioned with the party at Cambridgeshire County Council. And he’s the county councillor for Bassingbourn. He joins me in the studio now. Morning to you.
ADRIAN DENT: Good morning Chris.
CHRIS MANN: How long have you been a Conservative?
ADRIAN DENT: Since I could vote, and that was eighteen. An awfully long time now, thirty seven years.
CHRIS MANN: And you’ve been an elected councillor for the last three years, for Bassingbourn on the County Council.
ADRIAN DENT: I have. Yes.
CHRIS MANN: So why are you leaving the Conservatives, and perhaps more importantly why are you joining UKIP?
ADRIAN DENT: It’s a personal choice. I lecture in change and change management and lean manufacturing, and I’m used to seeing change happen quickly. And I’m not happy in the role that I am as a Conservative county councillor, and I want to make change happen quicker. That’s why I became elected. I wanted to make a change for the people who voted for me.
CHRIS MANN: And how are you going to do that by joining UKIP? What will the difference be? Because you’re not going to change the situation on the County Council, are you?
ADRIAN DENT: No, but I can have more of my say. I’m allowed to say what I want. There is no whip in UKIP, and that’s the bit that I find that I couldn’t .. I’ve thought about this long and hard for fourteen months before I’ve done this, and you can’t say that’s a fast decision. It’s not. I have just become more and more increasingly frustrated with the whip situation, and I just wanted to move. It’s a personal choice. Nothing against the people who are in the Conservatives, but it doesn’t fit with my personality.
CHRIS MANN: Well let’s bring in the Deputy Leader of the Conservatives on Cambridgeshire County Council. The Leader is on holiday at the moment, but Mac McGuire. Morning to you sir.
MAC MCGUIRE: Morning Chris.
CHRIS MANN: So, too much whipping. not enough freedom in the Conservatives.
MAC MCGUIRE: I have to say .. first of all let me say I’m disappointed obviously to hear that Adrian has decided to move across to UKIP. I’ve known Adrian since he got elected. I’ve worked closely with him, particularly on issues (UNCLEAR) Bassingbourn Barracks. It was him and I who were most involved in that. And I’ve always found him a good chap to talk to. I’m surprised that he’s playing this whip business, because he knows that we all have a say in this party, and it’s very seldom that we decide that there are issues that we need the whip as he calls it, the group vote as opposed to the individual. And I can’t honestly recall Adrian saying at any time, certainly not to me, and I’ve worked with him as I said, but I’ve certainly not heard anything that he’s said to Steve Count, who is obviously out of the country at the moment so I can’t talk to him, that he’s ever had any concerns about raising any particular issue.
CHRIS MANN: OK. So give us an issue Adrian where you feel you’ve been muzzled.
ADRIAN DENT: The last vote when we were talking, and not the Budget, the Budget I was working well within that .. unfortunately I was taken ill and wasn’t able to be at the Council for the Budget. But I was planning to second a motion by one of the LibDems, and we received a brief saying we were voting against it.
CHRIS MANN: And you had no choice in that.
ADRIAN DENT: No.
CHRIS MANN: So Mac, there you are. You’ve got a specific. Defend yourself.
MAC MCGUIRE: Well I don’t know what particular motion he’s referring to by the LibDems, and he certainly hadn’t raised it with me. And I’m the one who’s responsible for ensuring that if we decide we’re going to have a .. speak with a unified voice in a unified vote, the whip if you like, I’m the one who he would have perhaps to have spoken to say look, I’m not happy with this. I don’t know this particular motion he’s referring to, but clearly when we meet prior to it and we see a motion coming from one of the other parties, we have to decide what our position is going to be on that motion. And I don’t recall Adrian ever saying he had any particular trouble.
CHRIS MANN: Well there’s two ways outsiders might look at this Mac. One is that Adrian perhaps is making a fuss about nothing. But the other one could be that you guys aren’t looking after your own members. If you don’t know what he’s thinking, the fact that he was upset about something, well isn’t that your job?
MAC MCGUIRE: Well clearly it is. But unless we have any indication that a member is upset, I mean we don’t see them on a day to day basis. In fact I haven’t seen Adrian for some time over the last few weeks. It’s got to be well over a month since I last met him. So I have had no indication that Adrian was upset. Had he been I would have certainly tried to persuade him ..
CHRIS MANN: To stay.
MAC MCGUIRE: To stay and to sort it out. I think what Adrian is actually doing .. he’s got his personal .. as he said it’s a personal choice. And it’s probably, from an email I had from him it’s probably issues to do with the party generally. And people of course naturally have a go at a local .. But you know I’m confident he’s only got fourteen more months as a councillor. I wish him well in trying to bring about the changes. I know Bassingbourn quite well. I remember it from when Linda Oliver held the seat. I think we’ll regain that seat in fourteen months, so I wish Adrian all the best. If he’s going to make a change in fourteen months, let him do it. And I’ve got to say he’s very naive about UKIP not having a whip. No UKIP say they don’t have a whip, but we saw at the Budget meeting how they make sure that every one of them .. because they say oh it’s national policy for UKIP .. I’m afraid he’s being terribly naive.
CHRIS MANN: No more Mr Nice Guy from Mac McGuire there. I have to say that the Leader of UKIP is sitting outside here just escorting Adrian to the studio today ..
MAC MCGUIRE: I’m sure he is.
CHRIS MANN: .. so I don’t know whether the whip’s about to come on. So Adrian, would you have changed your mind if Mac had spoken to you earlier in these loving terms on February 29th?
ADRIAN DENT: Mac in loving terms? I’ve known Mac .. a very nice guy.
CHRIS MANN: Mac the Knife?
ADRIAN DENT: No no no. He actually wished me well, and I thank him for that. As I’ve said on this, it is a personal choice, and the reason behind it. And he’s right. Part of it is due to the actual fact about the national party with regards to Brexit.
CHRIS MANN: Mac, do you fear UKIP in Cambridgeshire, of course a growing force? I know you’re the biggest on the County Council.
MAC MCGUIRE: No I don’t. As you say we’re the biggest on the Council. Even with Adrian’s departure we’ll have 30 seats to I think it’s they will be 12, so I don’t think .. We’re not going to see a change in .. for instance on gaining an overall majority we’d need to have five more seats to do that between now and the next election. But we know that in fact nationally UKIP are a spent force. That’s been shown nationally and locally. Yes they’ll have gains ..
CHRIS MANN: And yet your former Leader and a close friend of yours Nick Clarke who had been Leader of the Conservatives on the County Council, he defected to UKIP. He’s their candidate for the PCC election in May.
MAC MCGUIRE: We all have our own views Chris. As you said, Nick and I, and ou know that from past experience, we’re close friends, and I don’t hold the fact that people have different views to me as being any reason why we shouldn’t continue as friends. And I hope I will do that with Adrian. But people have their reasons for doing things, and sometimes the way they respond to issues they’ve got, well I suppose sometimes they leave a lot to (UNCLEAR)
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well Adrian I can tell you that just a couple of weeks ago there was a councillor that went the other way in Ramsey of all places, which as you know used to be UKIP controlled. There was a UKIP candidate went to the Conservatives in Ramsey.
ADRIAN DENT: Absolutely. It’s a choice, and we all have that choice. And mine’s a personal choice, and that’s why I’ve done it. I’ve issued .. sorry .. a release to my constituents on my website and sent it to all the parish councils, advising them the reasons why. There is no animosity here. It is a personal choice. I want to do this because I feel I will get better freedom to be able to serve my constituents well.
CHRIS MANN: There is still a stigma to being in UKIP. Some people will tell you that, that you’ll be branded in all kinds of ways and that they feel that it’s a very right-wing party, that they’re particularly strong on migration, still accusations of racism towards some UKIP people as you know. How are you going to defend yourself against that?
ADRIAN DENT: I think I have a very good track record. I’ve been a businessman for a number of years and worked in all parts of Europe, worked with a lot of people, have a lot of friends, have a lot of business partners who are also from Europe, from even further afield. I have no problems saying to people, I’m not a racist, I’m not against immigration. I want people here for all the right reasons. I want to see this country proud. I do not want to be ruled by Europe.
CHRIS MANN: And the events at Bassingbourn Barracks had nothing to do with this?
ADRIAN DENT: No. That’s a totally different matter, and I would still work closely with Mac on this, if anything else was to come up.
CHRIS MANN: OK gentlemen. Thank you so much Adrian Dent, county councillor for Bassingbourn, just switched from the Conservatives to UKIP. And we also had Mac McGuire on live there, the Deputy Leader of the Conservatives at Cambridgeshire County Council. gentlemen, thank you.