Matt Dent’s letter to the Southend Echo

On Monday evening I attended the local election debate at Hinguar Primary School for West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates, advertised in your pages (Southend Echo, 9th May). You can imagine my surprise, then, where upon arrival and with no notice I was informed that the terms had been changed and it would be just for Shoeburyness candidates.

The effect was to create a debate only between the sitting Conservative councillor and the Independent candidate (whose group had been involved in organising the event). It was a shame that the debate was so needlessly constrained, particularly given that the main subject of discussion (the sea wall) is primarily in West Shoebury ward, where I am campaigning to represent the residents after the election.

But what angered me greatly was the assertion that the Labour candidate for Shoeburyness had “decided not to turn up”. This was absolutely not true. Maggie Kelly was unable to attend due to the short notice and her working commitments, which is the very reason that I – as the candidate for West Shoebury – was to take part in the debate.

Labour’s voice was deliberately cut out of the debate and I am very disappointed that the organisers resorted to this, as Labour is the only party in Southend with an optimistic and forward-looking plan for the borough. A cynic might wonder if this was the reason I was not allowed to participate.

Matthew S. Dent
Labour candidate for West Shoebury

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Matt has also written on his blog about this issue: How Labour was cut out of the Shoebury hustings

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3 Responses to Matt Dent’s letter to the Southend Echo

  1. Bernard says:

    Maggie was given three dates and chose none of them so what were the Residents Association (FAROS) who organised this meeting, supposed to do about it? There was no hidden agenda and the residents were wanted to know what the actual Labour Candidate would be doing for the ward, not someone who for all we knew, hadn’t even been given permission to represent them.

    I hope the forward thinking Labour party in Southend will publish this reply!

  2. Bernard: It was a fixed debate, and showed how little interested in true democracy the Independent Group are.

  3. Bernard: Maggie couldn’t make the dates, so it was agreed that I would stand in for her (as West Shoebury candidate) since the issues are largely the same. This was the case from the Wednesday before, up until 18:50 on the Monday of the hustings, where Anne Chalk apparently changed her mind, and then complained that we hadn’t brought a statement from Maggie.

    I had been given permission, and it was only withdrawn at the very last minute. No justification for the change has been given, and so I am forced to conclude it was to protect a very weak Independent candidate.

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