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!

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