The UK Independence Party is to contest the Riverside ward by-election. Fernando Grace, a former Tory who last week announced he would stand as an independent, has now secured the backing of the euro-sceptic party.
Fernando Grace was one of the three Conservative candidates in Riverside ward at the 2006 elections. He has recently joined UKIP who have agreed to support his campaign. Grace, who is originally from Portugal and has previously served as treasurer and chair of the Rockingham Community Association, is expected to publish a manifesto in the coming days.
The official list of candidates has now been published by Southwark Council, confirming that the Riverside election on 13 December will be a five-way contest between the Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative, Green and UKIP candidates.
Riverside ward, previous considered a safe Liberal Democrat seat, is now seeing frenzied political activity as anything other than a clear Lib Dem victory could destabilise the Lib Dem/Conservative joint administration which runs the borough.
Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy – whose brother-in-law James Gurling is a councillor in Newington ward – is the latest big name to join the by-election campaign. Speaking after the local party's annual dinner, Mr Kennedy said: "Liberal Democrats in Bermondsey have a proud record of standing up for local people.
Conservative candidate Rahoul Bhansali says that anti-social behaviour and crime are the key issues voters are raising with him on the doorsteps. "Anti-social behaviour is key annoyance factors in modern city living. I passionately believe that there is a better quality of life available to all Southwark residents if we work together to combat this problem," he says.
Meanwhile Labour has sparked controversy by circulating leaflets featuring a picture of former Lib Dem Riverside councillor Paul Baichoo – whose resignation prompted this by-election – making an offensive gesture. The image appeared on a social networking website.