Friday, 28 August 2015

Independents in meltdown

I was amused to see Belfairs Councillor Steve Aylen’s recent spat with the leadership of Southend’s Independent Party. Steve was a Conservative councillor during my time as Leader, however having been rejected for potential re election he stood successfully as an Independent.

I always had a bit of a soft spot for him when in our group in that he clearly had a love of Belfairs Park and consistently voted in support of the Conservative Administration until deselected - when he voted pretty reliably against us! On the basis that our policies had not changed I am unsure as to how he justified this about face. Generally he wasted a great deal of my cabinet colleagues’ time on irrelevances but otherwise didn’t do much else.

He has now resigned from the Independent Party to become an “independent” Independent and according to the Leigh Times feels that he was being bullied. Does this mean that he will start to vote against the Independent led Administration? The problem is that this might result in him voting with the Tories? Perhaps he should abstain on everything and then he wouldn’t have to support either of his former parties.

Former Independent Party colleague Ann Chalk (who in a previous life was a Labour candidate) is quoted as saying that she agrees with Steve that the Independent Party has become a political party and endorses his “allegations of bullying”. She also asserts that their group meetings “…are a farce, as key decisions are made in advance behind closed doors and minutes are doctored”. Cllr Ayling, another Independent Party member (and this time former Liberal Democrat), has also supported Steve.

It is no great surprise that Steve is starting to feature in the local press extolling his fight to stand up against all comers in defending Belfairs, because he tends to run a similar campaign in the months before every re election campaign. We will also see letters in the press from his friends commending his stance.

The underlying point in all this nonsense is that it demonstrates the ridiculous scenario of trying to form a party of Independents, (and yes I know that is a contradiction).

They aspire to a shared Leader, policies, common material and campaigning etc. without any shared ideological beliefs. Taking advantage of the anti-Westminster and politician sentiments, and a strong Thorpe Bay residents association, they have misled the public into thinking they were actually proper “independents” being concerned with the best interests of the ward in which they live and represent.

You can’t put a purple rosette on a previous party activist and think that by electing them you are breaking the mould of politics and you can’t have a true independent who becomes the member of a party group and accepts the imposition of policies with which they disagree by the leaders of their group.

So yes Ann Chalk is right the “Independents” are indeed a party, as are the “Independents of Southend”, but was ever thus (even when she was a member) and to suggest to the contrary has been farcical.

Who to vote for as Labour Leader?

I was tempted to apply to vote in the Labour leadership election but allowed my conscience to get the better of me as it didn’t seem very “British” to attempt to influence an issue relating to a rival party.

Having said that I would have struggled to decide who to vote for. I know that the popular view is that a win for Jeremy Corbyn will condemn the Labour party to losing the next general election but I am not so sure. It seems to me that Mr Corbyn and his policies are so unelectable that even an organisation as chaotic as the Labour Party will manage to ensure that he is ousted before that time, with the risk that having made one monumental error they may stumble across a candidate who actually presents a more electable face.

My inclination would be to vote for Andy Burnham. He would inevitably make it through to the next election, and as his performance over recent years and in particular the leadership election has demonstrated, he makes Ed Miliband look effective. My view has been strengthened by news that local Labour leader Ian Gilbert has indicated his support for Mr Burnham. As a local politician who has led his group in to the current hotch potch council administration and supports the damaging decisions being taken by current Leader Ron Woodley I would question his judgement on effective leaders!