Southend’s elections: poor punditry (with bias)
May 6, 2012 9 Comments
There will be a number of pundits who will be picking over last Thursday’s results in Southend; I do not see why I should miss out on the fun.
Last Thursday’s results were significant in that the council chamber has no overall control. Three net gains from the Tories have caused this: two Labour and one independent.
However, I am in no doubt that the gain in Belfairs was a blip. Had the local Conservative association handled Councillor Aylen’s de-selection better (and I admit to no insider knowledge here) then the Tories would still have control. It is possible that Stephen Aylen has been approached by the Tories since Thursday with a view to coming to some sort of accommodation – I guess the fullness of time will tell.
The Labour gain in Kursaal was almost inevitable. Our strong candidate was clearly more in touch with residents’ concerns. My victory in Milton was the result of two year’s hard work. We narrowly missed out in Westborough and made significant progress in St Luke’s.
Southend’s Conservatives must be worried. Belfairs aside, they won in six wards, and only two in the East will surely make James Duddridge itchy. That Labour came a very close second in Rochford will make Mr Duddridge even more grateful to the Boundary Commission for re-drawing his constituency boundaries so advantageously for him.
Seven wards are not enough for the Tories to hang on for long. I expect they will still be in charge locally after the inevitable horse-trading of the next few days, but the writing is on the wall. Unless they can up their game and suddenly become popular they will be out in 2014. Their one crumb of comfort will be the three-way split in the opposition.
I do not see much good news for the Independents either. They will point to Brian Ayling’s victory in St Luke’s, but this ward should never have gone Tory in the first place and Councillor Ayling owes much to anti-Tory sentiment rather enthusiasm for him particularly. Belfairs is no real gain for them, as I have already stated.
The gap in Westborough is narrowing, they lost Southchurch, and only Chalkwell elsewhere see them anything like serious challengers. Their cause has not been helped by the rent-an-endorsement antics of Ron Woodley.
UKIP must fancy their chances in West Shoebury. A mere 73 votes away from victory I cannot imagine anything other than two years of banging on doors here for them. The 2014 elections will be held on the same day as the Europeans, and UKIP usually do well in these. Tony Cox will have to pull his finger out. Whether the likely rise in turnout that the conjunction of the two elections will bring will help make Tony’s re-election bid easier is a judgement call – I confess I am not sure. It does make the possibility of a 2014 all-up election quite a gamble for the Tories.
UKIP also managed a second place in Eastwood Park, a ward that has become the Tories safest seat in recent years. UKIP are a long way behind, and it is the fourth spot for the Liberal Democrats that is most noticeable here. Under old boundaries, Eastwood used to return Liberal Democrat councillors.
The Liberal Democrat support has halved in the borough since the General Election. Support for the far-right is also shrinking. Green support is still minimal, down on what they were attracting five years ago (although at under 2% comparisons only carry limited validity).