Blenheim Park Ward inTouch Issue 7

CourtenayP1Issue 7. Of what? Is that the number of newsletters put out by Cllr James Courtenay since his election in 2011? Whatever, I am pleased that he is communicating with his residents – which is more than can be said for Blenheim Park’s newest councillor.

In comparison to what some of his compatriots have putting through letterboxes recently this is a wonderfully erudite A4 sheet. However, this is faint praise in reality, and like his colleagues James seems to struggle to have anything of substance to say since being consigned to opposition in the council chamber.

James’ piece on Europe is a good example of him appearing to wanting to tackle an important subject. Maybe he struggled to condense his views into the small amount of space he allocated to this subject, but it does come across as somewhat muddled. I think James wants to be on both sides of the debate over Europe – a position not unique amongst Conservatives. I think this is the root of their troubles, and why they are leaking support to Europe. Arguing for a referendum neatly avoids a commitment to the EU.

Cllr Courtenay also addresses changes to community policing. He writes: Essex Police, like the rest of the public sector, has been going through some changes, primarily to save money. Aside from his curious use of commas, he is being somewhat disingenuous; the public sector is under sustained attack from a Government intent on shrinking services for ideological reasons. Policing has been hit, and it leaves me with difficult conversations with residents who want to feel safe, yet see police stations closing, fewer police on the frontline, and now community meetings trimmed.

I recommend everyone to subscribe to Cllr Courtenay’s E-newsletter. I am sure that should one ever materialise it will be a marvellous read; or perhaps not.

Tim or Timür – does it matter?

In short: yes. If it did not matter why would it feature in the national newspapers, who are writing about the Tory leaflet being distributed for the Aveley and Uplands by-election?

I do not care about Mr Aker’s nationality; it is not an issue for people who share my centre-left politics. Clearly Thurrock’s Conservatives do care.

The leaflet also refers to the Human Rights Act (a wonderful Labour achievement in my view) and uses pictures of Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada in what is clearly a push to inflate prejudices. I have not seen the whole leaflet, but what I have seen leaves a bad taste.

You can read about it here –

Tories resort to ‘cheap tactics’ by calling Ukip’s Tim Aker by Turkish name Timür

Calling Ukip candidate by Turkish name did him a ‘favour’, says Tory MP over controversial campaign leaflet

Are the Thurrock Tories talking Turkish over Tim?

The Conservatives should be better than this, and despite my differences with them I find they usually are. I am afraid that David Cameron’s party is treading where his predecessors would not have trod. I can only hope that behind closed doors Teresa Webster and Jackie Doyle-Price are being reminded of what responsible politics looks like.

There are four candidates for the by-election this Thursday, and they are:

John O’Regan – Labour
Tim Aker – UKIP
Eddie Stringer – Independent
Teresa Webster – Conservative

The result in May

Maggie O’Keeffe-Ray UKIP 1085 47.0%
Teresa Webster Conservative 683 29.6%
Clifford Holloway Labour 372 16.1%
John Livermore Liberal Democrat 161 7.0%

St Laurence Conservatives latest In Touch – absurd and dismal in equal measure

StLaurenceInTouchWinter2014

StLaurenceInTouchWinter2014pg2Conservative Party leaflets in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea are usually glossy and colourful; they are also, in the main, characterised by an absence of substance. My role is to critique the output of our opponents, although I hope I do praise where it is merited. The lack of any meat in Tory literature does not make this task easy, and as they give every appearance of being reluctant to big up their Government they deprive me of chances to analyse this too.

I really do not know where to begin with the latest offering from the Conservatives in St Laurence ward – it could easily have been assembled by the Monster Raving Loony Party. It is two A4 pages to be sure, and a collection of the oddest assemblage I recall seeing on a political leaflet. I am left wondering whether there is any quality control being undertaken by the Conservative Party in Southend West. I really do hope it has been widely distributed.

Firstly, typos creep into to all literature. This blog has it. But this leaflet cannot have been proof-read – it really is an assault on our beautiful language. I do not exaggerate when I say that some of it is so poor it is painful to read.

For reasons known only to the editor of this leaflet it includes pieces on Kate Bush and Malala Yousafzai. Like many I admire what Malala has done, although I do find it somewhat incongruous to find her squeezed between lots of references to Christmas.

I am also a big fan of Kate Bush, but cannot understand how she, or Malala, or indeed James Bowen (who is also included) are at all relevant to what the Conservative Party are doing in St Laurence ward.

There are no photos of either of the two Tory ward councillors, but there is one of Jonathan Hodge who failed in his attempt to be elected here in May. This suggests to me that he will try again in May.

I am puzzled by how some within the Conservative Party (and, to be honest, some within my party too) who think the way to beat UKIP is to out-UKIP them. Whilst I am sure that the Tories in St Laurence are worried about UKIP, and they have attempted to tackle this in this leaflet, all they have achieved (in my opinion) is to remind voters that they backed UKIP in May. Echoing UKIP’s anti-EU obsession is not a counter to that party, it is an encouragement. Surely voters will not be tempted by UKIP-lite if they have the real thing on offer.

It is a mistake to report that the “Conservatives say “NO, NO And NO” To European Union Absurd £1.7 Billion Surcharge” when they are going to pay it – they have to.

The following statement is also worth considering: “The situation of European funding and membership will be subject to change“.

Really? Change – are you sure? The Conservative Party position, as far as I interpret it, is that they will renegotiate our arrangement and then allow the British people a referendum on this. I fully expect, if we get that referendum, that wise Tory heads will back EU membership. St Laurence Conservatives are saying, unequivocally, that “membership will be subject to change” – the only change from membership is to cease to be a member.

On another note; this leaflet is dated “Winter 2014” on one side and “Winter / Christmas 2014” on the other – I wish they would make up their minds. I feel obliged to point out that all but ten days of the winter that is coming falls in 2015. It is also worth noting that the local Tories still cannot manage to support local businesses – this leaflet is printed in Worcestershire (and they cannot even manage to get the grammar right on the imprint).

If you say stupid things

” You may as well just tax me on this glass of water.”

There is something called VAT Notice 701/16: water and sewerage services

This includes the following :-

2.4 What is the VAT liability of water supplied for non-industrial use?

• Distilled or deionised water and water of similar purity – standard-rated
• Mineral, table and spa waters in bottles or similar containers held out for sale as a beverage – standard-rated (see VAT Notice 701/14 food)

Sorry, Cllr Flewitt – wrong again! (see “You can’t just point at things and tax them….”)

Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan – from the shadows, emerging now his election is around the corner, the one and only Tory left in Milton

GarstonleafletI guess when you go from three down to one councillor you are left with the option of still calling your leaflets ‘In Touch’, or accept that you are on your own.

I have to say I find some of the terminology odd: ‘crossing facility‘, er, isn’t that a ‘crossing’.

Jonathan makes some curious claims. For instance he says “I will look carefully at all planning applications and judge the needs of the ward and the effect the plans may have.” Apart from the somewhat mealy-mouthed nature of this statement I think most residents will recall that Jonathan was portfolio holder for planning that did almost nothing to defend his ward. He wanted a coach park in Warrior Square, for instance, fortunately an injudicious idea now dumped because of Labour pressure.

Jonathan also told me that I could not challenge many of the planning applications in Milton ward – I ignored him and am pleased with the successes I have had.

Jonathan will also look at licensing applications; why did he scrap the cumulative impact strategy?

Jonathan suggests that the Joint Administration is about to scrap weekly rubbish collections, which is untrue. I do remind him that he helped scrap the distribution of black sacks – a move I voted against.

The reverse of this leaflet has a calendar and some contact telephone numbers. The useful number for the Police (431212) is really not that useful – the Police would prefer everyone to use 101.

Not one mention of David Cameron, the Coalition Government, or any of the wonderful (sic) things they have done.

I’d rather be in Ed’s shoes than Mr Cameron’s (a myopic view from Nelson Street)

At the moment Southend’s Conservatives chief blogger is their former leader, the man who stepped down from the Council in May. Nigel Holdcroft is someone I can profoundly disagree with much of the time, can agree with some of the time, and can almost always look forward to his writing. If politics is the battle of ideas then we need people like Nigel to at least counter what is coming out from the centre-left along the northern edge of the Thames estuary. Tony Cox appears to be enjoying being away from the chamber too much, Cllr James Courtenay is an infrequent writer, and Cllr Mark Flewitt is a better advertisement for his opposition than I am sure he intends.

Occasionally Nigel name-checks me, most recently just over a week ago. He writes of The challenge for Labour candidates, an article that also mentions my fellow Labour parliamentary aspirant, Cllr Ian Gilbert.

I have noticed recent tweets from our own candidates Cllrs Julian Ware-Lane and Ian Gilbert questioning the existence of any leadership challenge or doubts as to Ed’s performance.” Thus wrote Nigel. He adds: ” We are told that it is all mischief making by a couple of disenchanted mps and the wicked national media. Oh come on boys you know as well as the rest of us that Ed’s leadership is doing a good impression of a car crash. You would garner far more support if you were honest and accepted that there is a problem.

Of course I am a loyalist, and I am bound by my loyalty to support the leader. But, as far as I can see, there is no widespread discontent with the leadership of Ed Miliband. The Conservatives may wish for an unhappy Opposition, but it is just not happening.

Whilst we may wish for better polling, for instance, the flux that we are witnessing in national politics means that whoever was in charge would see only narrow leads.

Where it matters, in actual policy announcements, Miliband is doing as well as anyone could.

When talking about Labour leaders it is often said that Michael Foot was the worst; this ignores his major achievement – holding the party together when the SDP was gaining a lot of traction. In 2010 Labour suffered a dreadful defeat, and the fact that within one term we are seriously in contention again speaks volumes for Ed’s leadership. We have not fractured, we are not riven by splits, and we are determined to end the catastrophic Cameron premiership.

Mr Holdcroft may wish for a “malaise affecting the Labour Party“, yet I think there are real problems a lot closer to home for Nigel. This Thursday we are likely to see UKIP make its second gain from his beloved Conservative Party, and one can only guess at the jitters this will create within Conservative quarters. The leader with real problems is David Cameron, and there are serious questions being asked of his leadership. Whilst there will always be isolated individuals questioning Labour Party tactics and policy, there is no debate regarding the job in hand. This is not true of the Tories for whom there is a battle royal between those who wish for one-nation Conservatism and those who favour a rightwards lurch towards policies hostile to Europe, immigrants, and human rights.

Back? Still waiting

Anna Waite used to be a big noise in Southend-on-sea – despite not actually living in the borough. She was the Leader of the Council before the electorate’s verdict delivered her more leisure time. She writes a blog about the borough, although one has to say her output is best described as sporadic.

Her latest post is called Back!, although she isn’t – not really.

This post was written on October 15th – a full twenty-seven days ago. She writes: Well it’s just over a year since my last post and I have decided to return to blogging again because there is so much going on that I think needs mentioning. Over the next few weeks I will be writing on the town, the seafront, the pier, yet again, some highway ‘improvements’ and much else.

I guess ‘next few weeks’ could mean anything, but rather like her former councillor colleagues this Tory does seem to be struggling to say anything (let alone make it readable and relevant).

All promise and no delivery; much like the state of her party in the borough.

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