THERE was no doubt what the surprise of the night was at the election count in Basingstoke and Deane last Thursday as UKIP candidate Matthew Ellery sensationally won a seat on the borough council.
Because Mr Ellery came second, behind the Labour candidate, it means that he will occupy the by-election seat that was left vacant after the resignation of Labour’s David Eyre in April. This means he will serve until May 2016.
The 20-year-old UKIP candidate was a surprise winner, triumphing after he came under fire from opposition parties and Basingstoke voters following offensive comments posted on Facebook, in which he called Basingstoke women “pug ugly” and, in a comment on April 14, said: “Genuinely feel like stabbing someone today!!!”
However, confusion surrounded the part-time Bournemouth University student, who is studying accounting and taxation, on election night after UKIP election agent Phil Heath maintained that the candidate was an Independent as he had been suspended by the party over the comments controversy.
In another twist on an eventful evening, it emerged that Matthew Ellery is in fact the son of Basingstoke UKIP leader, Alan Stone.
But despite the comments from Mr Heath at the election count, Mr Stone has told The Gazette that his son is completely on board with the party following a disciplinary meeting chaired by UKIP county councillor for Andover South Tony Hooke on Monday.
Mr Stone, who is UKIP’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Basingstoke in next year’s General Election, also said that his son was not suspended by the party but was suspended from the election campaign, whilst the party “looked into his behaviour”.
The Gazette has attempted to get in contact with Mr Ellery since last Thursday and has so far been refused access to the 20-year-old despite being told by his father that the newly-elected councillor would give an interview on Tuesday.
Instead, The Gazette was sent the following statement from Mr Ellery, who claims that the offensive comments posted by him on Facebook were only meant to be seen by his friends, despite his profile being public at the time. He has now restricted access to his profile to just his friends.
Mr Ellery said: “I was quite surprised to win the election, especially as the media had given me such a hard time over my Facebook messages. Maybe it was the increased attention that gave me the votes to win.
“My Facebook comments were never meant for everyone to see – they were private comments for my mates only. I do regret that they were seen by everyone.
“UKIP had a meeting with me on Monday. They have given me a few lessons on social media etiquette, and I don’t think I will be using it so much in the future.”
He added: “The Labour Party has been really rude and nasty ever since I won. I think they are jealous. If it hadn’t been for them making so much fuss, I don’t think I would have won. I am glad to be back with the UKIP team in Basingstoke – they are a good support (team) for me.
“I will work hard for Brighton Hill South and UKIP. It will be a challenge that I am sure I can rise to. My university work and professional career will be useful in my attempts with our UKIP county councillors to reduce the amount of wasteful bureaucracy in local government.”
His father added: “He was suspended from the campaign. We didn’t do any literature, and the electorate decided that he was a good candidate for the community, and the smear campaign about him in the national press was irrelevant.
“It is our first properly-elected seat in Basingstoke. We are proud that we have got one, but it would have been nice to get more.”