May 15, 2014 1 Comment
With just three hustings on offer this year, what were the chances of a clash? Chalkwell and Westborough both had theirs on Wednesday evening – I plumped for Chalkwell.
Unlike the Shoeburyness shambles of two night’s previously, all five candidates were present, allowing for the possibility of a decent debate and a chance to see what all the contenders were like. In the end there were no real fireworks and the affair was pretty sedate. The liveliest it got was when the subject turned to education.
All spoke for about five minutes about themselves. I do not understand why the Conservative candidate felt obliged to read out something rather than just speak off the cuff like the others did. I do not expect councillors to be great orators (although some are very good) but the simplest subject to speak about is yourself, and if you cannot manage this comfortably then it can only go downhill from there on in – and for Nigel Folkard it did. His obvious experience (he was a councillor up to 2012) was not on show.
Labour’s Lars Davidsson’s softly spoken Swedish lilt is full of quiet humour and understated intelligence. He was not afraid to challenge Southend’s ruling administration, nor make the case for social awareness and inclusion. His point that success cannot be measured by fiscal number-crunching alone, and that outcomes should also be measured was well made.
Colin Davis came across reasonably well too. He rather let himself down when he claimed the Liberal Democrats had saved Westcliff Library. He tried valiantly not to give the impression that he was just making up the numbers. I expect he will struggle to get many votes next week, but I would say he was about the third best act on show last night.
UKIP’s Leonard Stanley began well. His five minutes on himself came across quite well, but he rather let himself down when it came to answering questions. On too many occasions he either agreed with previous speakers or did not know – I cannot recall a single occasion when he had a unique thought. I may be doing him a disservice – I did not record the event – but that was the impression I was left with. He was fighting it out with the Tory for the wooden spoon as regards to last night’s performance – which may be in contrast to their showing at the ballot box.
I am not one to praise any Independent candidate, but I have to admit that Lucy Courtenay came across well. She is articulate and was quite comfortable answering questions. I am no fan of the Independents – especially as those in Southend claim to against party politics yet behave just like a party. Lucy claims she is not part of the Independent Group – if she is elected we shall see whether she opts to be non-aligned or not.
The questions to the candidates broadly covered parking, cycling, drug taking and drinking along the London Road, reduced A level lessons at Southend grammar schools, looking after vulnerable people, and the Cabinet system. On that last subject only the Conservative candidate wanted to maintain the status quo; the others wanted a return to the Committee system. It does appear that this issue is highly significant for a number of candidates, which I find peculiar. Can it be that the mechanics of how the Council takes decisions is really more important than the decisions themselves?