Sunday, 17 May 2015

A gracious winner

I was interested to read a recent blog item by Conservative Councillor Tony Cox after his successful fight back on to the council following his unexpected loss last year. Tony is a capable and dedicated councillor and the Council and Tory Group are stronger for his return.

However he was commenting on his regret that a 2nd West Shoebury seat had become available due to the sad death of Liz Day and his embarrassment at beating his colleague Derek Jarvis in to second place.

I know how he feels. When I was asked to consider standing to return to the council in 2006 it was as a result of former leader Howard Briggs deciding to stand down a year early. As a result it was a double header with me standing with Gwen Horrigan who had come to the end of her four year term.

Gwen was a popular and hardworking councillor and a thoughtful and lovely lady. Voting on the night was all over the place with many voters not voting for two candidates from one party but opting for all sorts of interesting permutations. Gwen and I finished well ahead of the other candidates but I received just three more votes than Gwen. This meant that I received the four year term which was rightly Gwens and she had to restand twelve months later. Those three votes meant three extra years.

I am sure that the result was because my name appeared before hers on the list of candidates and she had also been the subject of an unpleasant and untrue leaflet from another candidate on the eve of poll. I did suggest a recount but Gwen was having none of it and was nothing but supportive towards me.

So I know just how awkward Tony is feeling at the moment.

Whilst on the subject of election results at the east of the town I was delighted to see Roger Hadley safely returning to the Council. Another hard working and effective councillor and his victory was well deserved.

Friday, 15 May 2015

UKIP - now you see them - now you don't.

I have raised before the issue of the legitimacy of any new Rainbow Alliance which may be formed under the continued leadership of Independent Party member Ron Woodley, but if the rumours are correct then the new team would not look out of place in the pages of an Orwell novel or Private Eye.

Of the five councillors elected under the UKIP flag we are now told that only two remain loyal ukippers and the other three have formed yet another party group calling themselves “The Southend Independence Group”.

Always an interesting question as to whether in these circumstances they should therefore stand for re-election. Probably less relevant for their Leader James Moyies who was a reasonably high profile candidate but as for the other two they did little other than ride to a win on the national popularity of UKIP rather than any personal campaign and as such if they are no longer active members of UKIP it more than slightly undermines their position.

However in the meantime it is noticeable how critical over recent months some local Labour party members have been both of UKIP as a party and the campaigns and qualities of a number of their local councillors and candidate - and on this point I would admit to agreeing with them. In such circumstances it would be bizarre indeed if they ignored all of this history and happily welcomed in “The Southend Independence Party” to the joint coalition. I know they want to keep hold of their cabinet seats but surely this is a bridge too far, working with previously elected representatives of a party that Labour activists often portray as being “…even worse than the Tories”.

Politicians don’t do much to enhance the reputations of themselves or politics more generally when they completely change their position based on personal benefit and it would be interesting to see Labour Group Leader Ian Gilbert welcoming this alliance.

It reminds me of the famous scene from Animal Farm when having trained the sheep to chant “Four feet good – two feet bad” things had to change when the controlling pigs wanted to stand on their rear feet to mimic their previous human masters and arranged to change the chant to “Four feet good – two feet better” without acknowledging that anything had changed.

Are Labour councillors about to move from “UKIP bad” to “The Southend Independence Party better” avoiding the awkward truth that nothing has changed about the policies or priorities of these born again councillors.

Nelson Street

For those of you who have been following the ongoing tale of the resurfacing of Nelson Street I can confirm that, with the exception of some tidying up, the job appears to be finally at an end some 7 weeks after it started.

As I have mentioned we have had some trials during the works and I am still perplexed as to why only the west side of the newly laid tarmac was stripped off again and re-laid when the whole job looked identical to the naked eye and of satisfactory quality.

However I am pleased to confirm that the final result looks very good and well worth the efforts of the 5 or so workers who appear to have been involved most days since the end of March.

I am still interested as to how much it cost but it does mean that the road condition reflects the historical importance of this picturesque road.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Southend Council - a question of legitimacy!

In the run up to the General Election, when all the polls were pointing towards a coalition of one kind or another, the thorny issue of legitimacy was a regular theme. In particular if the Tories won the most seats and received the most votes but were still short of an overall majority would a new government which sought to exclude them be legitimate.

In the event the “First Past the Post” electoral system (assisted by a chronically inept campaign by Labour) delivered an overall majority avoiding the need to address the problem.

However the storming performance by the Conservative candidates in the Southend Council elections on the same day raises the same question but in a more pressing way.

Of the 19 seats on offer the Conservatives won 13 with Labour picking up 3, the Independent Party (sic) 2 and UKIP 1. If the Conservatives had not been defending a strong performance 4 years before this would have been sufficient to sweep them to an overall majority but as it is they have 22 seats, to 11 Independents, 9 Labour, 4 Liberals and 5 UKIP (to include the various splinter and sub groups that make up Southend UKIP!).

So the Conservatives have a massive endorsement from the electorate, with over 50% of the vote, more than double the number of successful candidates than everybody else put together, and are by far the largest party.

We must now wait with interest to see whether Cllr Ron Woodley manages to cobble together a continuation of his rainbow alliance. If he does, thereby preventing the Tories from taking power, how will such an administration be able to claim any semblance of legitimacy?

Of course it would also mean Labour agreeing either expressly or implicitly to a marriage of convenience with UKIP either as partner members of the Administration or as supporters – an interesting concept. Having said that Labour has been happy to support Cllr Woodley as Leader, notwithstanding his right wing tendencies, so maybe this further step would be worth it to keep hold of their share of power and the allowances which go with it for those members with Cabinet posts.

Interesting times indeed!

A successful campaign in Southend West

It is frightening to think that I have been actively involved as a member of the Conservative team in Southend West for every General Election and Local Election campaign since 1979. This has included standing successfully as a candidate on 4 occasions and acting as agent for local election candidates over 10 times.

However this year saw a new experience as I had the privilege of acting as David Amess’ agent in the General Election campaign. I can’t pretend it was as arduous a job as I had feared as David is a tireless campaigner - canvassing for about 6 hours a day, 6 days a week for the entire campaign – and he was supported by a capable, enthusiastic and tireless team of volunteers.

It was great to see such a hardworking constituency MP being rewarded with a substantial rise in his majority from about 8000 over the next candidate 5 years ago to about 14,000 votes this time round.

It had also occurred me that if I had been the first Southend West Conservative agent to oversee anything but a victory I may have had to leave the town under the cover of darkness!
Congratulations are also due to Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge who after a difficult few months overcoming health issues ran a great campaign delivering a majority of almost 10,00 over the next candidate. It is good to know that Southend’s interests at Westminster continue to be represented by two such astute and effective members of parliament.