Every which way but lucid

It is a gift that keeps on giving. I refer to Cllr Mark Flewitt’s blog. His latest delight begins thus:

The Planning meeting being held from 6pm on 1st September at Tickfield has become murky because the meeting is being held at the suggestion of Cllr Mark Flewitt who wanted the meeting for public and members as to a 200 page Highway Report “Ardent” in respect of the Bellway Development application currently awaiting decision by the Development Control Committee.

Read that without taking a breath, which the lack of punctuation suggests is what is intended.

I wonder whether Cllr Flewitt realises he is supposed to represent all who reside in St Laurence ward, not just those opposing a brown field housing development. Still, it gets me wondering as to how I can get him to boycott other council meetings.

“Right turn, Clyde.”

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.

Dreadful? My thoughts exactly – a dreadful leaflet from St Laurence’s Tory twosome

StLaurenceInTouch1 St Laurence Conservatives know how to produce a truly awful leaflet, and once again they are unstinting in their drive to lower the quality of political debate in their corner of Southend-on-Sea.

The leaflet is largely the work of former Havering Labour councillor Mark Flewitt (who tried to get elected as an Independent before adopting the blue rosette). His active, if somewhat erratic, imagination allows for interesting reading.

He is fighting a one-man campaign to get a new acronym adopted. He constantly refers to the Joint Administration as ‘LiL’ (“Labour Independent LibDem” as he describes it) – I cannot help but think he misses a trick by not opting for ‘ILL’. Anyway, since no-one else cares for his acronym this particularly fight is lost already.

Mark’s gymnastic abilities go beyond his ability to flit between political parties – he now opposes what he once promoted in the Council chamber. He seems to believe that he can execute these U-turns without anyone really noticing. Wrong.

He rubbishes a “so called specialist report” (initiated under the previous Conservative administration); describes it as “227 pages of largely technical detail“, and then makes the astonishing claim that it “reaches … an incredible conclusion and without explainable evidence.

Does Mark ever proof read what he writes? He complains about the quantity of technical detail and complains about a lack of evidence. This logic defying stance is enough in itself to justify why he does not deserve another term in the Council chamber.

He name checks Barling Parish councillor Adam Jones (forgetting to include his title on each occasion), but the picture that accompanies this piece has this year’s failed Conservative candidate Jonathan Hodge in it. Uh?

Cllr Flewitt is an irony-free zone, not only does he complain about the Ekco site re-development ( a brown field location), but the goes on to whine about (so called) proposals to build on Bishop House gardens.

He includes an item on Dementia friends – interesting. I have been at two Dementia Friends events and have only seen one other councillor there (not a Tory). If Flewitt insists on careering into any passing bandwagon he could at least turn up at the supporting events.

Claims that the Conservatives are the only opposition are wrong. The Joint Administration also excludes UKIP, a party who constantly out-Conservative the Conservative Party.

This leaflet is so poor that I am tempted to offer to deliver it for them – its ineptitude speaks for itself. The Tories were rejected in St Laurence this year, and I will be working to see them rejected in 2015.

Putting finger to keyboard and removing all doubt

I am a regular reader of Cllr Mark Flewitt’s blog, but only because I like to keep abreast of what is going on politically in my corner of Essex. I read it in much the same way as I read all local political blogs, although I cannot pretend it is an enjoyable task. Cllr Flewitt’s employs the most tortuous logic in often appallingly written posts and is often a better advertisement for his opponents then for any cause he is seeking to support. In his favour is the fact that he is a regular writer, and can be occasionally quite humorous (although whether that is always intentional is debateable in itself).

He has chosen, in his most recent post, to write about the Council’s negotiations regarding the waste disposal contract. This has been debated (I use that word advisedly) in internal councillor emails, and Cllr Flewitt has decided to use some of this debate. Quite what should be publicly aired is a matter of judgement.

However, Cllr Flewitt’s is trying, again, to make trouble about decisions being taken by the Joint Administration – seemingly oblivious to the most blindingly obvious fact. The Joint Administration has been in place since June 5th – a mere nine weeks. The contract renewal process began under the last administration, using their rules. Cllr Flewitt was part of that administration.

Perhaps Cllr Flewitt is seeking, obtusely, to admonish his former Leader and his team that ran the town up to this June. If that be the case then carry on! If he thinks he is going to make any headway in leading his reactionary collective back into power he is sorely mistaken.

If I was Cllr Lamb I would be tempted to quote Abraham Lincoln to Cllr Flewitt. Can his party sustain the steady stream of own goals coming from St Laurence ward?

Tory councillor forgets he is complicit in the neglect of cliffs slippage

Sole remaining Milton Conservative councillor Jonathan Garston appears to be suffering from amnesia. This is the only conclusion one can arrive at after reading his comments about the cliffs slippage by Clifton Drive in Westcliff-on-Sea.

The cliffs slipped here after the August 2013 deluge – some twelve months ago, not the seven or eight that the deliberately forgetful Tory councillor asserts. Ten of those twelve months saw the borough run by the Conservatives, with Jonathan as Cabinet portfolio holder for planning. His legendary underperformance in this role was even acknowledged by his own party as they scrapped the post.

His wish for funding did not extend to his forcefully asking for this at any Council meeting I attended. This area sat largely neglected, and any tidying up it received came about through my intervention.

The area will require cash to fix it; and thanks to cuts imposed by Conservative-led Government cash is in short supply. Cllr J Garston may now hope “the area would have been opened up two months ago”, but this wish was unvoiced at the time (when his party still held the reins of power locally). Perhaps he can now remind us (since this is in a conservation area) why he failed to fulfil his promise of more regular Conservation Working Party meetings during his tenure in charge of this area?

Definitely uncertain – the problem for the Dud

The Rochford and Southend East constituency consists of ten wards, eight of which lie within the Borough of Southend-on-Sea and two are in Rochford District.

In all its incarnations this constituency has seen nothing but Conservative candidates returned to Parliament in the last hundred years.

If you add up the votes from May’s elections in these ten wards you get this:

26.6% Independent (9 candidates)
23.2% Conservative (10)
17.9% Labour (10)
12.5% UKIP (6)
3.4% Liberal Democrat (8)
1.5% Green (2)
0.1% National Front (1)

No Conservative victories (unprecedented as far as I can recall) in the local elections coupled with a reducing activist base means that James Duddridge MP has a problem, a very big problem. He remains favourite for next May’s General Election when increased turnout and a decision about who occupies 10 Downing Street should see him scrape in. However, it is far from clear cut, and from what I have seen he will be hoping that his party’s popularity improves because his own standing in the constituency is plummeting.

Mr Duddridge will hope that many who voted Independent in local elections will swing behind him in the national election, yet this is far from certain, and with a dwindling pool of helpers he will have to find reserves of energy not seen in his tenure so far. His ability to shoot himself in the foot with alarming regularity has also got to be reversed.

If he reads his political history he will take no comfort from the 1980 by-election result in the then Southend East constituency which saw Teddy Taylor crawl over the finishing with a mere 430 vote majority – in large measure due to Liberal candidate. As Clegg could not catch a cold at the moment this is not going to help the Dud this time.

The 1980 result:

36.8% Conservative
35.6% Labour
25.1% Liberal
2.5% others


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