Definitely uncertain – the problem for the Dud

The Rochford and Southend East constituency consists of ten wards, eight of which lie within the Borough of Southend-on-Sea and two are in Rochford District.

In all its incarnations this constituency has seen nothing but Conservative candidates returned to Parliament in the last hundred years.

If you add up the votes from May’s elections in these ten wards you get this:

26.6% Independent (9 candidates)
23.2% Conservative (10)
17.9% Labour (10)
12.5% UKIP (6)
3.4% Liberal Democrat (8)
1.5% Green (2)
0.1% National Front (1)

No Conservative victories (unprecedented as far as I can recall) in the local elections coupled with a reducing activist base means that James Duddridge MP has a problem, a very big problem. He remains favourite for next May’s General Election when increased turnout and a decision about who occupies 10 Downing Street should see him scrape in. However, it is far from clear cut, and from what I have seen he will be hoping that his party’s popularity improves because his own standing in the constituency is plummeting.

Mr Duddridge will hope that many who voted Independent in local elections will swing behind him in the national election, yet this is far from certain, and with a dwindling pool of helpers he will have to find reserves of energy not seen in his tenure so far. His ability to shoot himself in the foot with alarming regularity has also got to be reversed.

If he reads his political history he will take no comfort from the 1980 by-election result in the then Southend East constituency which saw Teddy Taylor crawl over the finishing with a mere 430 vote majority – in large measure due to Liberal candidate. As Clegg could not catch a cold at the moment this is not going to help the Dud this time.

The 1980 result:

36.8% Conservative
35.6% Labour
25.1% Liberal
2.5% others

Nice try!

Nigel Holdcroft is employing his best seduction techniques in an attempt to make this idiot even more useful (The trials of an Administration supporting blogger). He woos me when I take a swipe at other parties, and plays hurt when my faculties are either trained on the Tories or not employed at all.

I am not yet at the stage of sitting cross-legged in my garden, pulling petals off a daisy to the mutterings of “he loves me, he loves me not”, but I can imagine Nige thinking this day is not far off.

It is true that moving from Opposition to Administration does present challenges, more so when one is shackled with partners that ordinarily I often disagree with. However, let me reassure those viewing from Nelson Street that I have lost none of my fire when it comes to issues of equality and fairness.

The truth, though, is that I am signatory to an agreement and that what has mostly been announced emanates from policy enshrined in that agreement. Whilst I was critical of how some announcements were made (and the language employed in one or two instances), nonetheless I do welcome what was announced.

Of course, I am wary that we may be seeing the beginnings of a jam tomorrow strategy – promising to fix everything is laudable, but dangerous. Whatever good news is being delivered today, I cannot see any way to avoid delivering a lot of pain later. Every promise to purchase a failing hotel, for instance, must mean something being cut elsewhere. However, as I said to Nige (when he was important): “if Labour had managed a landslide in Southend and wrested control from the current administration last May then we would be facing the same difficult choices. We would, though, be lambasting the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government that is forcing these cuts on us.” (March 2013)

I note, though, that even Mr Holdcroft cannot resist asking for more expenditure, asking for Scrutiny Committees to be webcast is not a cost-free exercise (I remind him that the webcasting of Full Council costs about £3000 a meeting).

Hospital parking charges going up

Car parking charges at Southend University Hospital are to rise. The changes will take effect from Friday 1 August with rates revised as follows:

Up to 30 minutes free
Up to 3 hours £3
3 to 6 hours £4
6 to 12 hours £6
Over 12 hours and up to 24 hours £10
7 day concession £10

Full details of parking charges can be found on the hospital’s website.

It is worth remembering that NHS in-patients were to receive free car parking if Labour had won the 2010 general election.

Rewards for failure – what the increasingly privatised NHS brings

Yet again we witness another rewarded for failure, the Chief Executive of Southend University Hospital has picked up an extra £20K in a year that has seen her A&E department branded amongst the worst in the UK.

Jacqueline Totterdell (RGN, RSCN, BSc (Hons), MBA) claims she “is committed to continuing the drive for ‘Southend Excellence’, working collaboratively with our partners and supporting our staff to fulfill their potential.

Her staff’s potential evidently is not reflected in decent pay rises – whilst Ms Totterdell struggles to get by on £175K, her staff have been offered a below inflation 1% rise.

Over-rewarding the already rich is a familiar feature of the Conservative-led Government, who are also intent on seeing the NHS sold off. Administrators and executives getting huge salary hikes is something we may have to get used to. We may also have to get used to a reduction of available procedures as market forces increasingly override medical need.

Public health care should not be seen as either a business opportunity or a means of personal enrichment.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council: The Cabinet

There appears to be confusion in some quarters as to who has what responsibilities in the Cabinet. Hopefully this table will clear things up.

Ron Woodley Independent Thorpe Leader
Ian Gilbert Labour Victoria Community Development
Graham Longley Liberal Democrat Blenheim Park Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development
Martin Terry Independent Thorpe Public Protection and Waste
Anne Jones Labour Kursaal Children and Learning
Mike Assenheim Independent Shoeburyness Regulatory Control
David Norman Labour Victoria Adult Social Care, Health and Housing

Admittedly there is a lot of grey insofar that there is overlap between portfolios. Also, the titles are a shorthand description of responsibilities.

There are now seven in the Cabinet, a reduction of one on the previous administration.

Weak analysis by Mr Rejected

Nigel Holdcroft’s psephological writing has left me wondering whether he really does not know his stuff, or is deliberately choosing the blinkered approach. Either way, his attempt to explain away the May election results in Southend-on-Sea as some sort of short-term blip is wide of the mark – very wide.

He is bound to defend his record, but this obstructs objective analysis of what went on. His party’s rejection this May needs to be looked at in context.

Before we look at the facts I feel obliged to offer Nigel, and his fellow Southend Tories, a bit of advice. If you continue to act and speak as if this year’s rejection was a one-off and that things will return to normal (i.e. Southend back in Tory hands) in pretty short order then you will be disappointed. You have got to face up to one obvious fact: Southenders did not like what you were doing to the town. Unless you admit this and change tack you will suffer further losses.

Nigel has written: As it was the Conservatives polled aprox 30% of the vote acroo the Town, well ahead of UKIP with 19% and the rest from 18% downwards

This is broadly correct as it is, although it avoids the most obvious conclusion from these numbers. First, though, a reminder of what happened in May:

30.29% Conservative
19.10% Independent
18.99% Labour
17.50% UKIP
12.96% Liberal Democrat
1.23% Green
0.04% National Front

The Conservatives, it could be argued, won in the Borough. I think a more accurate telling of the story is to state that with 69.71% voting for other parties it was quite a rejection.

The context of these elections is of a town that has only ever elected Conservative MPs since 1906 and has seen the local authority run by the Tories for far more years than they have sat in opposition. The fracturing of the anti-Tory vote in many ways emphasises the desperation of residents keen to see anyone without a blue rosette elected. I accept that this does not really account for the UKIP surge, which in many ways demonstrates that even the Tory faithful have begun to lose their faith.

I have always said, though, that any election taken in isolation can only tell part of the story. Thus, we should look at the story over a number of elections, and this shows a steadily declining Conservative vote in the town. 2014 was no one-off, but rather a continuation of a trend begun in 2005; a trend that shows the Conservative vote dwindling year after year.

To be fair, during the same period there has been only a modest growth in the Labour vote (from 16.6%). It is the vote of the ‘other parties’ (other than Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) that has grown considerably over the last decade (from 7.8% to 37.8%). To complete the story the Liberal Democrat has halved over the same period.

So Nigel, you may think that in the “ West … the picture looks strong” and you maybe “looking forward to a strong blue fightback in the East” but unless things change in your party I do not see why you think as you do. It is somewhat arrogant to think that any rejection was a blip and that the electorate will suddenly change their minds and think you were alright all along.

Mind you, perhaps I should encourage you to continue thinking this way. After all, your loss is my gain.

Perhaps ambiguous

All of Southend-on-Sea’s councillors have a page on the Borough Council’s website. This page includes details about their occupation; mine shows ‘IT Consultant’

Cllr Mark Flewitt’s (Conservative, St Laurence) page shows this: Credit Controller and Library Assistant

Libraries are run by the local authority. You cannot be a councillor if you are employed by the Council. Therefore, I find this distinctly odd – I shall make inquiries.

Of course, this may be a mis-description, or I may be mis-reading what is put here. At the very least, though, it is ambiguous.


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