Last night I dreamt about Polly Billington

Ella Vine, Thurrock activist

Ella Vine, Thurrock activist

Scott Nelson, another Thurrock activist

Scott Nelson, another Thurrock activist

Being a politician is pretty close to a seven day a week role. This is largely, I confess, of my own doing – the amount of time and effort put into the role is at the discretion of the politician, and levels of commitment vary on all sides.

The by-product is that politics is very much on my mind for significant chunks of most days. This invariably invades my subconscious.

I have not been to Thurrock constituency recently (and it is something I have been meaning to do) but it is a place with a number of friends and comrades of my acquaintance. It is a Labour priority, and our best hope for Parliamentary representation in Essex come May. It is one of three key seats (with Harlow and South Basildon and East Thurrock) in my county, although I am hoping for some surprises amongst the other fifteen. In 1997 Labour won six seats in my here, and I am sure that we will once again see that level of representation in the not too distant future.

0.2% separated Labour from success in 2010 in Thurrock, and this in an awful electoral year for us. Since 1945 it has been Labour in all elections except 1987 and 2010, and whilst the boundaries have changed during this period it still is a red beacon in a generally Essex sea of blue.

UKIP have it in their sights. However, whilst they will look at May’s elections and think their chances are pretty good there are some things that suggest that 2014 may be their high tide mark in south west Essex. For starters, the most recent by-election in Thurrock saw a comprehensive Labour victory, attracting over half the votes cast. However, what will be intriguing over the coming months is the level of scrutiny UKIP will be subject to. At present they are the beneficiaries, in large measure, of a ‘damn the lot of you’ vote. Beyond their anti-immigration and anti-EU stance most voters would struggle to name any of their other policies. Being anti-everything is an easy role, the difficult thing is to set out a properly costed agenda for the country – which they must do if they really want a say in the UK’s future. This scrutiny will expose them for the very right-wing party they are, and whilst disgruntled Tories may dream of scrapping the NHS and lowering taxes for the extremely rich, this cannot be what working people want.

Jackie Doyle-Price is making all the right noises about fighting to retain her seat but privately she must know the game is up. I have no doubt she will fight hard all the way up to May 7th (I would in her shoes) but a Tory hold here would be a miracle, nothing less. UKIP will dent her vote, but a UKIP presence is academic anyway.

The local council (which is split over a couple of constituencies) is hung with Labour as the biggest party and leading a minority administration. I would hope that a majority Labour administration is just around the corner.

I really did dream about Polly Billington (although it was actually two nights ago) and she will be an excellent representative for Thurrock.

I have written to David Amess on the subject of Lord Freud

Dear Mr David Amess MP

I am writing to ask whether you agree with the comments of Lord Freud, your government’s Minister for Welfare Reform.

Lord David Freud, talking amongst friends at Conservative Party Conference, said he thought there was “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage”.

In my view, Lord Freud’s remarks were completely unacceptable, and it is also unacceptable that someone with these views remains in charge of such an important post in your government.

This is not just my view, but also that of Ester McVey, your government’s Minister of State for Employment, who said, “those words will haunt him. I cannot justify those words, they were wrong.”

It seems, however, that David Cameron does not agree. He did not speak to Lord Freud personally and yet gave him a clean bill of health to allow him to keep his post.

It is incredible to believe that, while leading disability charities have said that Lord Freud’s comments were offensive and shocking and called on him to reflect on his position, the leader of your party is seeking to duck the issue. This is a lack of moral leadership at best. It is unclear how far a member of your government or party would have to go in offending disabled people in order to lose their job, when in many other walks of life the comments by Lord Freud would have led to a resignation.

Can I ask you whether you agree with Lord Freud’s statement that there is “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage” and that some should work for as little as £2 per hour?

If you do not, will you ensure you vote in favour of a vote of no confidence in Lord Freud on 29 October?

If you do agree that Lord Freud’s views should be government policy and that he should remain in post, you must urgently justify these views to the people of Southend West.

By supporting a vote of no confidence, you have the chance to show that compassion is not yet completely dead in David Cameron’s Conservatives.

If you cannot support this vote and in turn back such heartlessness comments, you will show that David Cameron’s Conservatives cannot stand for the majority in Britain today.


Cllr Julian Ware-Lane
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West

So-called independents, no longer independent, and marching rightwards

I managed to catch up with yesterday’s Sunday Politics East. Aside from the pleasure of seeing my friend and Parliamentary Candidate for Great Yarmouth, Lara Norris, I watched an article about Castle Point. This featured Rebecca Harris MP and her impending battle to keep her seat, a target for UKIP.

There seems to be a pattern developing in south Essex, so-called independents aligning themselves with UKIP. In Castle Point the Canvey Island Independent Party, via Dave Blackwell (their leader), are backing UKIP in next year’s General Election.

Dave Blackwell formed CIIP after Labour bruised his ego by not selecting him as their Parliamentary candidate in the run-up to the 2005 General Election. Cllr Blackwell has now finished his journey from erstwhile socialist to the fringes of the far-right. His endorsement of UKIP follows on from this May’s local elections in Castle Point which saw CIIP and UKIP avoid each other in the borough’s fourteen contests.

It is no secret that if the electoral arithmetic had been right then the Independent Group in Southend-on-Sea would have aligned itself with UKIP in a two-party administration. As they say in the USA, the math did not work, and we got a three party Joint Administration which did not include UKIP.

Over in Basildon a rather curious thing has happened. Kerry Smith, UKIP’s Parliamentary Candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock has been de-selected – apparently a portend of an imminent defection. Whilst that defection has not yet been announced, you cannot help at wonder why UKIP central is so keen to have defectors as candidates in preference to their own loyal foot soldiers.

David Cameron’s government: some disabled people are “not worth the full wage”


Poll musing

psephology The study of trends in voting.

I am an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to analysing opinion polls. Nonetheless I am a fan of UKPollingReport (for whom I have borrowed the data herein on recent opinion polls).

A week and a half on from the Clacton by-election it is worth a peek at what the opinion polls are showing.

Lab Con LD UKIP Grn
19 October 2014 YouGov 35 32 7 16 5
18 October 2014 ComRes 34 31 7 19 4
17 October 2014 Populus 35 33 10 14 4
17 October 2014 YouGov 32 31 8 18 7
15 October 2014 Ipsos MORI 33 30 8 16
15 October 2014 YouGov 34 30 8 18
13 October 2014 Populus 36 35 9 13 3
13 October 2014 Ashcroft 32 28 8 19 5
13 October 2014 ICM 35 31 11 14 4
12 October 2014 Opinium 35 28 9 17
12 October 2014 YouGov 34 32 9 16
12 October 2014 Survation 31 31 7 25
12 October 2014 Ashcroft 34 31 8 18

I feel obliged to say that I still think that the Clacton by-election does not tell us much about how well UKIP will do next May, except that their best chances of representation in Parliament appear to rest with Conservative ship-jumpers. The imminent Rochester and Strood contest will not tell us much either, other than at an average of £239,000 per by-election these new UKIP converts do like to waste tax-payers money on what is effectively a publicity campaign for their new party.

Heywood and Middleton did provide a surprise. Whilst Labour’s vote held up (and actually registered a modest increase), the opposition coalesced around UKIP to give them a very respectable second-place. Of course, Labour had no incumbency to fall back on, unlike the new/old MP for Clacton.

I think that some Tories will be wondering about their decision to oppose AV, particularly as even their safe seats are beginning to look marginal and the prospect of transferred second preferences would likely calm some nerves. There is speculation that another Tory MP is about the succumb to a loss of nerve (possibly someone else in Essex), and the thought of chunks of their vote going towards the EU-opposing anti-immigration party clearly focuses their minds on the potential for a foreshortened political career.

The averages for the opinion polls over the last week indicate the following levels of support:

33.8% Labour
31.0% Conservative
17.2% UKIP
8.4% Liberal Democrat
4.6% Green

Whilst being in the lead is obviously good news for Labour, the narrowness of the lead (and narrowing from 6% leads regularly seen not that many months ago) will give pause for thought. Comfort will be derived from an electoral system that would still deliver a Labour majority, although there will be noises made about mandate if that victory is gained from barely over a third of the votes cast.

Although many commentators believe Labour has a Miliband problem, I think our failure to defend our record in dealing with the crisis at the end of the Brown Government has led to continuing problems as regards to Labour’s economic credibility. The economy, in the view of this blogger, is still the primary driver for voter intentions.

Third-class workers: those with disability?

There are currently two different pay rates for the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Those aged 18 to 20 get £5.13 per hour, and the rest get £6.50.

It would seem that some in Conservative circles think there should be a third category, the disabled, for whom as little as £2 per hour would be their choice. I do not agree.

The argument supposedly goes that there are some disabled whose disability is so great that the NMW is a barrier to them being employed. Employers, so it is claimed, need to be bribed in order to see the merits of employing them. This bribe could, it has been postulated, come in the form of financial incentives that would boost the pittance that employers actually wish to recompense the so-called extremely disabled. Alternatively, one could just give the severely disabled a very low salary.

This fails on a number of levels.

The NMW is meant to be the minimum recompense for labour given. It is presumed that those who work (and I happy to agree) must expect a salary floor; this serves two purposes, not only does it end exploitative practises but is also is recognition that there is a minimum worth for all workers. The happy by-product is, of course, increased spending power – a gain for society in general. Those on the lowest wages spend the greatest proportion of their wages (saving a near impossibility) and thus increase the prospects of others seeking employment or profit.

If an employer could get away with employing people for as little as £2 an hour it would also give them a competitive advantage over those who pay the proper rates for a job.

I have yet to meet an employer who would see his business jeopardised by employing someone incapable of doing their job. If incentives are to be offered to employers so that they will consider employing the disabled (in itself not at all objectionable) then how about giving grants if and where the workplace has to be modified. Most places of employment should already be disabled friendly, but you can imagine circumstances where extra measure may be required. These one-off incentives make sense to me in an way that long-term incentives to under-pay do not.

There will be jobs that the disabled just cannot do. However there are jobs (such as mine) which they will be able to do just as well as any person who is not disabled.

What the Conservatives have said (and, admittedly, backtracked on) is effectively there is an inferior type of worker – the disabled. So inferior that even the minimum (which I hope that many will be earning far more than in any case) is more than they deserve.

Utterly, utterly shameful.

Southend-on-Sea: 55,000 residents fall within the 30% most deprived areas of the country

The Southend-on-Sea Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment includes some very interesting data about the borough. I have previously reported on some of these numbers, but I think the data worth revisiting. The data rather presents a less than glowing picture of the borough.

The wards with the greatest percentage of over 65s:

1, Belfairs
2, Thorpe
3, Eastwood Park
4, Southchurch

Westborough has the lowest percentage of over 65s. Westborough has the highest percentage of under 19s, followed by West Shoebury, St Luke’s, and Victoria.

In the 2011 census, 87% of the population described themselves as White: English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British. This compares to 79.8% for the whole of England. The level of diversity is increasing. Just over 10% come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities; a significant increase from the 2001 census. Victoria and Milton Wards have the highest proportion of BAME communities. 125 languages are spoken, with Polish, Bengali, Czech, Chinese, Shona and Tagalog/Filipino being the most common.

Southend-on-Sea is one of Essex’s most deprived areas: 55,000 residents fall within the 30% most deprived areas of the country and 16,000 fall within the 10& most deprived areas. The wards with the highest levels of deprivation are located within the East Locality with Kursaal, Victoria and Milton being ranked the highest on the IMD (2010). 1 in 4 children live in poverty compared with 1 in 5 across England.

This picture of deprivation, together with pockets of affluence, result in significant differences in both life expectancy and disability free years within Southend-on-Sea. Disablity-free life expectancy at birth is 13 years lower for men, and 11 years lower for women, living in Victoria & Kursaal wards compared with those in West Leigh.

Life expectancy is a measure of how long a person, born into an area, would be expected to live by reference to current observed rates of mortality. The gap in life expectancy, between the best and worst, helps to illustrate how inequalities affect the population differently. In Southend-on-Sea, the gap between the most deprived and least deprived areas is: Women 8.8 years, Men 9.1 years.

Starting from the most deprived to the least deprived, the wards in Southend-on-Sea are thus arranged: Kursaal, Victoria, Milton, Southchurch, Shoeburyness, St Luke’s, West Shoebury, Blenheim Park, Westborough, Prittlewell, St Laurence, Chalkwell, Belfairs, Leigh, Thorpe, Eastwood Park, West Leigh.

(IMD – Index of Multiple Deprivation)


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