Ukip figurehead steps down

UK Independence Party Wigan Parliamentary candidate and Wigan branch chairman Alan Freeman

UK Independence Party Wigan Parliamentary candidate and Wigan branch chairman Alan Freeman

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A LEADING figure for Wigan Ukip has moved on from the party, the second high-profile member to do so following this year’s elections.

Former branch chairman and local election candidate Alan Freeman cited concerns over the party’s failure to land a council seat in the last decade.

Mr Freeman follows Emma Appleton, who stood for the party in Standish ward in May, through Ukip’s exit door. He now plans to stand in next year’s elections either as an independent or under the umbrella of a new political movement.

Ukip’s first Wigan branch chairman said: “I still back Ukip’s policy for a referendum on Europe and haven’t changed my views. But I feel the party fails to get across its messages on a local level as they are often over-shadowed by national issues.

“There has not been a specific thing, I have thought long and hard over it, but I think it is time for a fresh start.

“There are a lot of issues, such as Devo Manc and the changes to Wigan Infirmary, that people care about and I’d like to focus on them.”

Wigan’s Ukip group has now split into separate branches covering Wigan, Makerfield and Leigh with chair Maureen McCoy stepping down but remaining within the party.

In this year’s elections, Mr Freeman came second standing in Ashton ward gaining 950 votes, 1788 behind Labour’s Jenny Bullen.

Ms Appleton, who received 923 votes this year, announced in June her decision to leave the right-wing party.

She said in-fighting on a national level meant the public were not taking Nigel Farage’s party seriously.

Andrew Collinson, the new branch chair for Makerfield Ukip, said: “Alan has played an important role, he will be missed but we don’t want to stand in the way of someone who wants to take a different path. Our membership has increased significantly since the elections and we’re looking forward to the future.”