HARTLEPOOL is known for its rather idiosyncratic electoral tastes. Not only did it elect a man in a monkey suit as its mayor and three times it elected Peter Mandelson as its MP.

In his pomp in 1997, Mr Mandelson claimed 60 per cent of the vote and a thumping majority of 17,500.

But now, 20 years later, Hartlepool council has not only slipped out of Labour’s control but it has fallen to a group of pro-Brexit councillors, inspired by their attendance at Nigel Farage’s party rally in Sedgefield on Wednesday.

Many of them were sitting as independents and were formerly members of Ukip, so in a town that voted nearly 70 per cent to leave, their sympathies were known.

But if it is good enough for MPs to either switch parties or to be expelled from the party under whose banner they were elected and not face re-election, why should local councillors?

However, it is rather odd to see the Brexit Party running a council when it has no obvious polices or principles, beyond wanting out of Europe, to guide it. When you vote for a local Conservative, Green, Labour or LibDem, you know roughly what to expect, but what the Brexit Party’s thoughts are on social care, library provision and bin collection is anyone’s guess – indeed, part of Wednesday’s rally was a “policy pitch” as it began to work out what it stood for. And as it is attracting leftish Labour people and hard right Tories, it will be an interesting battle.

Another fascinating aspect of the Hartlepool move is that three Conservative councillors have allied themselves to the Brexit Party – even though Boris Johnson has again ruled out Mr Farage’s offer of a pact.

Perhaps here Hartlepool is setting a trend. We will soon have an election or referendum in which party loyalties will be practically irrelevant. It will be in or out, and this could be the first sign of a leave coalition being formed to take on the Labour, SNP, LibDem and Green remain coalition that has begun to operate in the House of Commons.