In it to win it

My selection as Labour’s General Election candidate in Southend West has inspired the Liberal Democrat’s sole surviving blogger in the borough to write not one, but two, pieces about it. You can almost sense the rising panic at Southend’s equivalent of Lib Dem Central, so much so that they want to me to give in just as I am getting going.

Neil Monnery believes that fielding a strong candidate (I am flattered to be thus described) has damaged our chances. He writes that Labour shoot themselves in the foot in Southend in an argument that suggests my contesting in Southend West will weaken Ian Gilbert’s chances in Rochford and Southend East.

I am not sure quite what Neil’s campaigning credentials are although I do know he stood in Westborough ward in 2012. He came sixth place in a ward that at the time had Lib Dem representation; sixth out of six, with a 90 votes and 5.4% of the votes cast. I will leave it to the reader to pass judgement on this but if the strategy was to do as badly as possible then Neil’s campaign was a roaring success.

I have fought quite a few campaigns, losing far more often than I have won. However, if you factor in those that I have supported and organised (as opposed to those I have contested) then my record is reasonable. I understand about targeting, and about maximising scarce resources. I also know about our membership and what they deserve, and what a long game involves.

Neil’s attempts at analysing David Amess’s chances miss out a chunk of the story. Whilst he may be right in his view that Mr Amess will get re-elected, he ignores evidence that suggest change is possible.

Labour did come a poor third last time around in what was Labour’s worst General Election result since 1919. The Nick Clegg bounce significantly boosted the Lib Dem vote; this time around it will be what is known as a dead cat bounce – voters are deserting a party that has kept Cameron at number ten and enabled him to foist all sorts of unpopular legislation on the UK.

Despite Labour’s unpopularity, David Amess’s vote share went down slightly – hardly a ringing endorsement given the political climate in May 2010. He attracted 46.1% of the vote, with a turnout figure of 65.1%. Of course I am aware of the dangers of hypothesising about unused votes, but Amess’s vote share as a percentage of the electorate stands at 30% – meaning that 70% did not care to support him.

I am in the contest to win it. Southend West Labour Party members deserve a candidate who tries his best, Labour supporters deserve a candidate who tries his best, the electorate in Southend West deserve a candidate who tries his best. David Amess deserves an opponent who will take the fight to him. That a Liberal Democrat views this as bad news merely serves as an additional incentive.

The drivel machine is at it again

I am not going to disseminate all of Cllr Mark Flewitt’s latest dystopian prose, but do offer some thoughts.

I honestly do not know what “a red heron argument” is, although I can imagine that Mark meant ‘herring’. Still, it does conjure up images of a scarlet hunter.

Did he describe council staff as ‘bureaucrats’ when he was in the Cabinet and in administration? It is generally not thought a good idea to criticise council staff, particularly as they are unable to respond. Picking on the defenceless is bullying.

complexity’ is not a noun.

Mark must a have a crystal ball – ‘likely outcome’.

The ‘current Administration members occupying almost two thirds of the council’ – Mark’s arithmetic skills are somewhat lacking. The Joint Administration numbers 27 – 53% of the chamber.

We recognise’ – royal pretensions Mark?

ironically the people of Southend will not have a vote in this’ – I refer to Nigel Holdcroft’s arguments about the council not being run by referenda.

In fact, the whole letter is so poor I take great pleasure in reproducing it here (my apologies to lovers of erudition.)

Dear Staff and Management of Cory,

I have tried my best to find out why you have lost the contract to collect our rubbish and waste despite having taken so many initiatives for the recycling within Southend Borough Council area. Many residents are shocked along with councillors at the loss and especially the way you appear to have been dumped at the first hurdle.

I understand that you do not know why you scored so poorly in the procurement process but shockingly, neither do the majority of councillors as information has become bound in secrecy and a red heron argument about your lack of success for re-cycling is rumoured to have been the reason.

The Conservatives certainly begun the procurement process, we had to as the new contract needed to be in place for late 2015. We, as you know, lost control of the Council on 22nd May 2014 and the bureaucrats with the LIL Administration (Labour Independent LibDem) simply ran-on with the process and on the 6th August after 6pm we received an e-mail telling us that you had lost a place in the process, but we do not know why.

In drawn out and painful communication with the Director and Independent Portfolio Holder, we are now told that this process requires a balance between price and quality. Were you too expensive (?) but in this complexity, you cannot talk to us, as you are still in the contract you have lost. This is totally unsatisfactory to you and us; in fact we cannot even know who has made this decision.

We would have immediately referred this perverse decision or result to the Waste Management Working Party with the likely outcome of a recommendation that you remain in the process to ensure that as a long serving contractor with us you were extended some further tests to make certain that this was a safe decision and that the “scoring” was correct. We are calling for that to happen but with the current Administration members occupying almost two thirds of the council, we are not likely to be successful.

You, (Management) are due to learn early this coming week of the “scoring” and maybe you will simply accept defeat and that this contract has come to an end or you may conclude that this has been a poor decision and has failed to take some of your procurement evidence in to account or that any submission was misunderstood and resulted in poor scoring. You will be well aware of legal process open to you and of judicial review avenues.

We recognise that waste collection from local authorities is commercially sensitive and we wonder if the loss of your contract has something to do with any un-willingness (on your part) to revert to a fortnightly collection of all waste or black sacks in particular? We simply do not know and ironically the people of Southend will not have a vote in this but this could provide a saving to the council budget, something the LIL Administration will have to take full responsibility for, along with any consequences arising from it in the near future.

Essex Labour groups and the struggle for gender parity

One of the travails of local Labour party organisers is the striving for gender parity in their representatives. We aspire to this in our internal organisations, we aspire to it in our council chambers.

Travails? Indeed – a laborious effort (pun intended). I have met no-one in my circle of activists and comrades who wants anything but more women involved in local politics, and yet I have met few who can claim success.

See here:

Male Female
Basildon 9 1
Braintree 8 3
Brentwood 2 1
Castle Point 0 0
Chelmsford 1 0
Colchester 6 3
Epping Forest 1 0
Harlow 10 7
Maldon 1 0
Rochford 1 0
Southend-on-Sea 5 4
Tendring 7 2
Thurrock 13 9
Uttlesford 0 0
Essex CC 6 3

This table shows the numbers of male and female Labour councillors in the fourteen local authorities plus the county council in Essex. In eight of these authorities we have gender parity, including the council that I am a member of. Eight out of fifteen sounds like reasonable, if limited, success. Except, that of these eight, two have no councillors, four have just one, and a further one has only three Labour representatives. Only in Southend-on-Sea is there a reasonably large group that manages parity.

(Note: whilst parity means the same number of men and women, odd numbers of councillors mean that getting within one of equable numbers counts as parity.)

This failure is not through want of trying. It cannot be because women are not interested in politics – in general voter turnout is higher amongst women than amongst men. Women, in general, tend to favour Labour more than their male counterparts, so it cannot be that our (Labour’s) politics fails to attract females.

For whatever reason, and despite repeated entreaties to our female members, fewer women come forward to stand in elections than men, and fewer still are prepared to put in the hours of grind necessary for electoral success. We do not give up though, and whilst some of the reasons will be cultural, we should be able to encourage women to come forward as potential community leaders.

The picture in Essex will improve, of that I have little doubt. Will I ever live to gender parity everywhere? The honest answer is that I do not know. I do know that our rules insist that we keep trying, that we have women-only shortlists – and this not only vexes those male activist who feel shut out, it vexes those of us tasked with finding women to come forward.

15 Royal Terrace

239

This is in the Clifftown Conservation Area. This is a very dilapidated property that now, in my opinion, constitutes a danger to passers by. It has been allowed to rot for more than a decade.

240

Concerns that the new hospice build may be delayed

The proposed re-development of the former Ekco factory site has much to recommend it. It is a brown-field site and the proposals are for housing (including a good mix of social and affordable homes), some offices, and a new home for Fair Havens.

Southend West Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Julian Ware-Lane, is concerned that objections could lead to delays in building the homes and the new hospice. Fair Havens cannot progress
their project unless the landowner can get permission for the development as a whole.

Homes have to be built somewhere, and if not here then perhaps Southend West’s Conservatives, who are leading the objections, can suggest where.

The Ekco site is a brown-field site, and this is what we should be using, whenever possible, for new housing. Of course new homes mean more cars, and I can understand why those near the development might be concerned. But we have a housing shortage and this does seem an ideal site. I do understand the concerns of locals including those of the Thornford Action Group, but tackling the housing crisis sometimes means making some tough decisions.

Fair Havens originally wanted to build on the greenbelt in Leigh, but pressure brought by campaigners, including Julian Ware-Lane, meant that these plans were abandoned. Julian on a visit to the Chalkwell Avenue site suggested to Fair Havens that they look at the Ekco site, and he is delighted that this looks likely to be their new home. However, objections could introduce delay.

Fair Havens do sterling work in looking after people in the final chapter of their lives. My mother was one of their patients. The facility in Chalkwell Avenue is no longer big enough and a new home is desperately needed.

Alexandra Yacht Club fire

Cllrs Nevin and Ware-Lane by the burnt remains of the clubhouse

Cllrs Nevin and Ware-Lane by the burnt remains of the clubhouse

Milton Councillors Cheryl Nevin and Julian Ware-Lane were saddened to see the burnt remnants of Alexandra Yacht Club clubhouse today. Alexandra Yacht Club is amongst the oldest Yacht Clubs in the world. The clubhouse was earmarked for demolition next week after subsidence caused the yacht club to relocate to the nearby Naval and Military Club.

Cheryl quickly spotted the breaking news on @YourSouthend twitter feed, rang fellow councillors, cabinet members and press contacts to find out more. “It was clear that a major blaze was underway. I was concerned for residents living nearby, but had a source on scene updating me“.

Julian had been holding his rolling street surgery in Royal Terrace and Clifton Terrace yesterday afternoon, just hours before the blaze. “It is a bizarre coincidence that I was within yards of the building, and talking to residents about the condemned building, only a few hours before this terrible inferno.

Cheryl and Julian met with Yacht Club members today who were putting on their Annual Commodores Race Day to offer their help and support. Cheryl said “As a ward councillor and former dinghy sailor I am keen to offer any help I can. I hope we can facilitate the Club’s recovery and I will be liaising with Council and Club Officers over the coming weeks. I hope they can find a new and permanent home soon.

And the Southend West campaign begins …. in Prittlewell

Cheryl, Matt and Kevin, this morning, Prittlewell ward

Cheryl, Matt and Kevin, this morning, Prittlewell ward

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