If you want the EU to change then you will have to look like you really want to be involved

ToriesEUThe Conservatives consistently sit on the peripheries of Europe, thus minimising their input. To have any real prospect of influencing the EU one has to be engaged.

This is the East of England Conservative leaflet for the European elections, which fall on May 22nd (the same day as the local elections). There are currently three Tory MEPs representing our region, a number that is bound to shrink.

The Conservative message seems to play on stranger danger, thus they speak about a referendum, immigration, the single currency, national borders, etc. It is a very negative read, and not one that would leave anyone believing that “only the Conservatives can deliver real change in Europe”.

There are a number of ways that the European Union can be improved, but I think only a positive, encouraging and involved presence will truly succeed. The Tories consistent desire to be neither fully with the project nor completely out has never been satisfactory. They are much like someone stuck in a revolving door – neither truly in or out. This has led to much of their problems over the last twenty years.

There is one sentence in this leaflet that I can endorse:

UKIP are neither credible nor competent and they can’t deliver for Europe.

Unfortunately, until the Conservative Party really commits itself to the EU they will struggle to deliver too.

The Tories online

Let’s have a look at this year’s Conservative team in Southend-on-Sea ….

Belfairs – Mo Butler

Amongst the hits on Google is a map of Butler MO (Missouri).

Blenheim ParkHelen Boyd

Has seven Likes on her Facebook campaign page – will need more votes than this to succeed. Odd, seems to think the photos from previous campaigns should adorn this group’s wall.

Chalkwell – Nigel Folkard

Ousted by me from Milton ward in 2012, I was rather hoping he would have another go in Milton in 2016, but I guess his eagerness to get into the chamber has seen him opt for this easier option. Anyway, he is Mr Invisble online.

Kursaal – Jane Ladner

The truly curious could read her Linkedin profile. It is not desperately exciting (then again, neither is mine).

Leigh – ?

PrittlewellMeg Davidson

Southend-on-Sea is not in the south east! Somehow believes that her time in Lincolnshire qualifies her to be a councillor.

ShoeburynessRoger Hadley

I could only see a picture of Mr and Mrs Cox on Roger’s Facebook campaign group page. As charming a pair as they may be, I cannot see how this will help with just one member so far.

SouthchurchSue Abrahams

She “has lived in Southend her whole life“. The pedant in me could point out that this sentence is missing a ‘so far’ to terminate it. Sue was the candidate in Prittlewell in 2012, so as gushing as she is about Southchurch I am inclined to take this with a pinch of salt.

St LaurenceJonathan Hodge

Sporadic blogger, indifferent content when he can be bothered. I think he is the youngest Conservative candidate this time. May win despite himself.

St Luke’s – Sally Carr

You can read more about Sally in this blog than anywhere else. Then again, that is true of most of the Tory team. I hope they appreciate the free publicity.

Thorpe – Alex Kaye

No online presence that I could detect, aside from here. Someone should point out to the author of this blog that a ‘Cllr’ prefix actually means they are a ‘current Cllr’.

Victoria – Denis Garne

Is on Facebook. That’s it! Another Tory whose has a greater online presence on Labour blogs than amongst his own party.

WestboroughDavid Burzotta

David must be an irony-free zone. He says “I have been inundated in my canvassing in Westborough ward for a campaign to be launched to keep Westcliff Library open.” This library is threatened by his party (in connivance with the Liberal Democrats). If he really wants to save it he should be urging residents to vote Labour.

West LeighFay Evans

Fay’s first pledge is “Put West Leigh residents first and party politics second.” Are the Tories now attempting to be pale imitations of the Independent Group?

West ShoeburyTony Cox

An able, if mostly misguided, blogger.

Veni, promisit, deliqui

Under 1,017 Thankyous! is this:

I made some pledges in my election campaign and I will stick to them all. One of them was to do a monthly “E-newsletter”. Please comment on here or send an email to blenheim@jamescourtenay.co.uk and ask to be added to the email distribution list.

I am still waiting for an E-newsletter.

Under About is this:

Everyone can make pledges though, that are all too soon to be forgotten about shortly after the election. James, however, will measure his performance against these pledges in the newsletter that he will send to residents – 3 times a year!

I do not recall seeing a newsletter in some while, and certainly there have not been three in the last year. (I think that imprint is wrong, too.)

That is two fairly straightforward promises that have been abandoned. Can you trust a Tory?

Shoeburyness intouch – a swansong for Roger?

ShoeburyintouchOne of the intriguing battlegrounds next month will be Shoeburyness ward. Conservative Cllr Roger Hadley is defending a 650 majority – but that was gained in a General Election year. In 2011 the Independents achieved a 366 majority, and in 2012 they increased this to 488. Roger will do very well to hold out, and it will be a test of his personal popularity as well as a measure of just how hard-working the latest Shoeburyness Independent is.

Shoeburyness is a ward the Tories must hold if they wish to retain control of the borough. It is typical of a number of wards where defeat is seemingly staring them in the face. It will be a fascinating contest, and I expect a tight finish. Turnout will be crucial, as will each team’s ability to encourage their supporters out to the polling station. It may all come down to the postal votes, which in Southend is a favourite weapon of the Conservatives.

Kursaal ward intouch – Cllr Louise Burdett Announces Her Retirement

KursaalintouchWhatever happens in May there will be a new face representing Kursaal ward. I think it will be Labour’s Charles Willis and I think he will be beat Tory-hopeful Jane Ladner. Jane is looking to replace Cllr Louise Burdett who announces her retirement. Louise retires because of motherhood.

I suspect that Louise has realised she will lose anyway, and I do not doubt should would deny this. Yet it is undoubtedly very difficult to combine motherhood and local politics, and I think this is regrettable. We have young mothers in my local party who are able to combine this role with political activism, but we have others who find it an impossible task. I do not agree with Louise’s politics, but she should be able to contribute.

Combining being a councillor with working can be challenging. Maybe we need to look at what the role involves, because if we cannot accommodate young parents and workers then we will have a very grey-haired chamber.

Helen Boyd, working for you (but only if you vote Conservative)

BlenheimtorieshelenboydSaturday morning I spot the Conservative candidate for Blenheim Park leafleting down my road. I observed on Twitter:

Just seen the Tory council candidate leafleting down my road – will I get one?

I did not get one, not on Saturday anyway. One was put through my letterbox late Sunday afternoon.

Do you think I embarrassed them into this? She leafleted my road and the neighbouring streets on Saturday, and returned to do just my door on Sunday, after I had tweeted. Do we now have Conservative candidates who only wish to communicate with their friends and supporters unless caught out?

I may not be voting Conservative, but surely it is not unreasonable for me to expect them to at least attempt a conversation with me.

I have not had anyone canvass at my door for years, let’s see whether this changes ….

West Shoebury intouch Council Elections Special – much unsaid

WestShoeburyInTouchWhilst not perfect (undated for starters), for a Conservative leaflet it is not bad at all. I like the layout and the map.

The map reminds West Shoebury residents of what Cllr Cox has been doing in his ward. I am intrigued by the five lots of resurfacing – Milton ward, which must be a contender for the busiest ward in terms of traffic volumes, cannot boast this. It just shows you what having a Cabinet member representing your ward can do – oh, so does Milton!

I am tempted to produce a map showing Tory waste, ideas frustrated by opposing members, and examples of Milton being dumped on. It would make for a depressing read.

This West Shoebury intouch makes no mention of the cuts or attacks on those on welfare. No mention of the damage inflicted on the education system or the privatisation of the NHS. No mention of sliding standards of living. Plenty of green though – is there a revival of the vote blue go green here?

The A5 booklet concept reminds me of what the Castle Point Labour Party produced for years. I repeat that in appearance I find it quite attractive. Yet again, though, it is another leaflet from a Government party that is reluctant to speak of what their government is doing. When Labour were in power we were not so shy.

Abandoned for a cocktail?

Westborough resident Jonathan Hodge, pretender for the St Laurence seat this May, has written about Southend’s Budget.

He has written:

Much has been said by scaremongers too that our borrowing is out of control and the interest on the debts is extremely high. This is nonsense; the interest on our borrowing is 1.8%, which is the equivalent of repayments of £10 per week for a family on an income of £30,000 per year.

Now, perhaps I am missing something here, because Mr Hodge seems to be confusing debt and income. At best it is badly worded, at worst it is a failure of understanding.

Whilst I do not agree with the Independent Group’s argument on the scale of borrowing, to query it is not ‘scaremongering’. Jonathan Hodge’s party may prefer silent obeisance; the opposition prefer the rigour of debate.

Jonathan continues: will do everything we can to make life a little easier for hard-working residents in difficult times, everything we can within the financial restrictions we face.

Many of us see his party in Government doing all that they can to make the rich richer at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

He takes a swipe at Cllr Ted Lewin: He failed to represent his ward and party during a key vote, and having checked the reason why I can now say it was because he was on holiday. If you’re a St Laurence resident reading this, let me assure you that – if you elect me to replace Cllr Lewin on May 22nd – I would never abandon you for a cocktail on the beach.

He fails to mention that Cllr Adam Jones, Conservative representative for St Laurence, was also absent, as was Cllr Richard Brown (Conservative, Chalkwell). I have no idea why they were absent. I do not know, either, whether Cllr Lewin was indeed sipping cocktails on a beach. I do know that I try to be careful booking my holidays, but it is difficult to get away without having to sacrifice a meeting or two.

Never mind Mr Hodge, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your Liberal Democrat representative, Cllr Paul Collins, was present, and he voted against the budget.

Jolly boating weather and a hay harvest breeze

Focus Youth Centre is closing. This was originally planned for this month, although an informal source tells me that this may have moved out a couple of months – a stay of execution if you like. At the December 12th Full Council the future of the Youth Service was discussed. I wrote at the time:

I asked the portfolio holder for children and learning to clarify what he meant by ‘few’ when he kept referring to the number of young people using Focus in the debate on the Future of Youth Service. I asked whether the numbers were more or less than the number of users at the Lower Thames Rowing Club on Leigh Marshes. He originally agreed to supply these numbers, then retracted this promise. He accused me of being “disingenuous” – clearly he is uncomfortable with accountability.

Subsequently I did get the numbers I was after; Cllr Courtenay supplied these the next day.

The total attendance for the period April 2012 to March 2013 was 5266 (405 individuals). This compares to Cluny (5364 and 322) and Shoebury (7263 and 578).

The rowing club has something like 70 members. If 405 is a ‘few’, then I wonder what description could be given to ‘70’. The council is prepared to spend £200K on seventy rowers, yet closes a youth club for want of £150K.

Perhaps the youth club aficionados should have turned up with oars.

Cause to become political in character

There is a theme developing amongst a number of Conservative councillors in Southend that voting against the budget without providing an alternative is mere political posturing. As one of those who did oppose I refute this.

If nothing else, the Labour councillors can lay claim to consistency; two budgets so far in my tenure, and both unanimously opposed by all six of us. Last year we did provide amendments – no less derided by Cllr Holdcroft and his administration – which at least confirms than posturing resides firmly in the Conservative camp.

There is a failure, probably deliberate, to grasp, amongst Conservative members, what the role of Opposition is. It is not about yah-boo politics (Labour responses to the budget last week were restrained and considered), but about holding the administration to account.

Of course, I accept that Cllr Holdcroft was in a bind – all things being considered it was a far from disastrous budget (and there were things to applaud) – but in many ways it was a bind that he had a hand in making. What we are seeing is Government-made austerity, and this is a Government that the administration helped to elect.

Cllr Flewitt (Conservative, St Laurence) writes that our opposition to the budget was “a crude and insulting way to represent residents interests.” Cllr Flewitt does rather get confused; he attacks the Labour and Liberal Democrat members, then claims “of course their way behaviour antics, best summed-up as if i cannot get my own way, i will stand-up and then leave the chamber”. This is clearly a reference to Cllr Woodley (Independent, Thorpe). Mark clearly needs the services of a proofreader.

Mark likes to huff and puff about others politicising – a case of seeing in others faults prevalent in oneself.

Rejecting the budget is not a condemnation of all that it held. My budget speech shows that there were things I welcomed. But I cannot vote for job losses and library cutbacks, despite the absence of alternatives.

I have yet to see the minutes of the last weeks’ Full Council meeting and so cannot confirm the names of those Independents who voted with the Conservative to ensure the budget was passed. However, Mark Flewitt does name them in his post.

Cllr Marimuthu Velmurugan almost always votes with administration these days, even if he says is not going to. His support was no surprise.

Cllrs Stafford and Woodley have that memorandum of understanding and so they were obliged to support the budget.

Cllr Aylen was, until 2012, a Tory and so his support may be understandable.

What did surprise me is that Cllrs Chalk and Van Looy voted for the budget. I doubt we will ever hear an explanation for that, although I would be happy to publish their thoughts for doing so in this blog.

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