Sunderland council leader: ‘We were never worried about UKIP’

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SUNDERLAND City Council leader Paul Watson has said last night’s election results are a “massive vindication” of his party in the face of the UKIP onslaught.

The Labour leader said his group had seen off the anti-European parties attempt to gain seats in Sunderland, and the result showed the support there was for he and his colleagues in the city.

Local elections at the Sunderland Tennis Centre - Coun Paul Watson in conversation.

Local elections at the Sunderland Tennis Centre - Coun Paul Watson in conversation.

“I think it demonstrates that we’ve had a massive vindication of our policies,” he said.

“We’ve won 21 out of the 25 seats that were there. We are overall minus one, but we are, however, in power with a massive, massive majority of 64 out of 75 across the council.

“I think although we would have like to have won every single one, we’re very, very pleased with the end result.”

He added: “Clearly there’s been a big influence of UKIP across the city, fighting on single issue, and we’ve made sure that they haven’t gained a seat (here).

“I think that demonstrates just how the people of the city have supported us.”

Coun Watson denied he was ever worried about the threat of UKIP in Sunderland after Nigel Farage promised an “earthquake.”

Nationally UKIP has won 122 council seats so far this year, and while they failed to make gains in Sunderland, they did make inroads with voters – coming second in the majority of wards where they fielded candidates.

Coun Watson said: “You’re always respectful of the opposition, but I think that none of them worry us because we believe in what we’re doing and believe we’re doing the right thing and have the right policy for the city.

“As I say, I think we’re respectful of their arguments and the debate they’ve put forward, but I don’t think we were worried about them.”