THE Swindon branch of UKIP has hit back at claims by its former chairman that the party is disorganised, divided and lacking in purpose.

Leading local member Martin Costello has leapt to the defence of his party following Monday’s announcement that former chairman and parliamentary candidate John Short had defected to the Conservatives.

Mr Costello accused the Conservatives of “a blatant attempt by the establishment to down play the remarkable rise of UKIP, not only in the town but the country as a whole.”

He added: “It should not be forgotten that in the 2015 General Election, nearly four million people voted for UKIP nationally.”

Despite the number of votes, the party still ended up with just one MP in the Commons, but Mr Costello blamed that result on the electoral system, saying it was “hardly representative democracy.”

“A dedicated team of brexiteers worked hard last year leading up to the referendum to distribute information throughout the Swindon area and the result in Swindon was a resounding 10,000 majority for leave,” he added.

“Some of the credit for this can go to UKIP campaigners nobly assisted by members of the other Leave campaigns.

“The only disillusionment we are seeing is that which people have in mainstream politics. Ordinary and hard working folk are being largely ignored by career politicians who have only their personal interests and elitist agendas at heart rather than those of the electorate.”

Mr Short handed over the reigns of the local party to current chairman Lincoln Williams earlier this year and since then there has been an increase in the membership, particularly among young people.

With the referendum now in the past, members say they want to adopt more policy positions on local issues.

Mr Costello said: “With the new structure in place I feel that the Swindon branch is becoming a formidable force following the national trend.

“A rise in the youth membership is allowing us to keep in touch with all communities, young and old, and to focus on issues that are key to our fellow Swindonians such as opposing rises in council taxes to cover shortfalls in local authority funding.”

The part is also campaigning on the idea of 'local homes for local people' and issues around long waiting lists.

Mr Costello said: “We are always welcoming to new members and encourage the community to contact us with any concerns or issues that we should be highlighting and campaigning for to make Swindon a better place for all."