In the final of a series of profiles of candidates for Tees Valley mayor, Nick Gullon speaks to UKIP’s John Tennant

IT is rare for someone to stand for election to a post they want to abolish, but that is exactly what John Tennant plans to do.

If the leader of UKIP on Hartlepool Borough Council is elected as the first Tees Valley Mayor, he proposes to hold a referendum on whether the role should exist before it even gets off the ground.

“The main problem is the Tees Valley is made up of different cultures,” he explains.

“Darlington feels more connected to North Yorkshire or South Durham and Hartlepool doesn’t feel connected to Cleveland before we can even consider the Tees Valley.

“It is an artificial link that has very little credibility, so that credibility needs to be tested before we go further, and the only way to do that is with a referendum.”

Remarkably, Mr Tennant has no problem voicing which side of the argument he would be on.

“I would more likely side with no but if I was elected, I would abstain from the vote as I think it is unfair to take either side of the argument.

Mr Tennant attended Leeds University where he studied for a history degree. At one point, he was training to be a secondary school teacher, but he is now working as an office manager for UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott, alongside his role, what he describes, as “leader of the opposition” on Hartlepool Council.

“I have always loved history – my favourite period to read and write about was the French revolution.

“It has completely changed European politics across from Russia to Ireland and down from Sweden to Spain.

“The most fascinating part about that period for me was the sheer upheaval – there was a lot of infighting – if you lost, you lost your head. It never really settled until 1920.

“Even now, they haven’t quite decided how to be governed.”

A “sheer upheaval” would be an accurate way of describing UKIP’s influence on British politics over recent years, and their emergence fitted perfectly with Mr Tennant’s views.

“Politics for me is about representing, listening and getting the job done. That is the main reason why I joined UKIP – they are essentially anti-establishment and they believe in independence and free thoughts, which is not compatible with being an EU member.

“I generally believe in direct democracy and making sure people get the representation they deserve. Too many politicians are in it for themselves and for a career, and I am certainly not one of them.

But are UKIP's best days behind them? Do they still have a role to play now they’ve achieved their sole ambition? Mr Tennant believes so.

“At UKIP, we feel it is time for a post-Brexit new kind of politics. The established old is dying very slowly, Labour is suffering, the Lib Dems are suffering.

“UKIP is the most successful party of the 21st century despite at any one time having only two members of parliament. If we can achieve that, look how much we can achieve if elected.”

And the North-East has seen elements of this success. A number of second places in the 2015 General Election, and according to Mr Tennant, the party had their best aggregate vote share in the region compared to anywhere in the county.

“UKIP are a happy family in the Tees Valley – the North-East has always been seen as one party, but we are breaking that control,” said Mr Tennant.

“The first thing we need to achieve is credibility. I am the realist in this election – anyone can say they are going to buy an airport.

“If I was an independent, I would have the same arguments."