Hanging and limping

Wishes do come true. Well, in some respect they do. The political blogosphere is a moving feast, and the Tory portion has seen Mark Flewitt become its leading exponent. His Tory bedfellows, Tony Cox, Nigel Holdcroft and James Courtenay, are only intermittently contributing to the online debate – their blogs see weeks elapse with nothing added. I am no fan of Cllr Flewitt’s writing, which I find muddled at the best of times, but he does at least ensure his blog is updated regularly.

There is a new kid on the Southend-on-Sea political blogging front – UKIP’s candidate for Prittlewell ward has entered the fray. I hope he expounds his political philosophy online so that the rest of us can understand what he stands for. Paul Ryder does need to get a grip on constituency boundaries though, his understanding of what constitutes Southend West appears to be wrong. He writes “… delivering leaflets in Milton ward for the Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West, Brian Otridge“. If he really was delivering candidates in support of Mr Otridge’s campaign then he was doing it in the wrong constituency – Milton ward belongs to Rochford and Southend East constituency!

In amongst today’s conversations the sole UKIP advocate was someone for whom the return of capital punishment was the prime motivator for voting for the anti-Europe and anti-immigration party. Capital punishment is not normally a party issue – as it is a matter of conscience it is always a free vote in Parliament. I am opposed to capital punishment, primarily because I am opposed to all killing. I am not sure whether UKIP have an official line on it, although Louise Bours MEP is certainly advocating its return.

Other conversations for this limping canvasser failed to unearth any support (again) for the Liberal Democrats or the Greens. At least the Lib Dem councillor for Blenheim Park ward was known to some of his residents – the Tory and UKIP councillors were unknown, and many were unaware that UKIP actually had a councillor in Blenheim Park ward.


Straining at gnats

I was white van man once. Well sort of. Back in 1984 I bought a Vauxhall Chevanne from an electrician friend. I am no workman, and I cannot explain why I thought that this vehicle was an ideal family automobile – but at the time it suited my purposes. Yes, it was white. It transported me to football games, it transported my wife and I plus infant son to Wales on holiday. We did the shopping in it. White man, white van, in Essex – moi.

There have been two stories about the world of micro-blogging recently that offer a cautionary lesson to the Left. Both @EmilyThornberry and @MsJackMonroe have seen themselves at the centre of storms which leaves me wondering.

The Islington South and Finsbury MP posted three images from Rochester, the second of which was of a house with a large white van outside and three England flags on display (although one of these was really a West Ham United flag – which made me wonder if supporting your country is so important, why not your local team, Gillingham FC?) The accompanying text read: Image from #Rochester

I will be honest, I struggle to comprehend how this offended. However, I do understand that in some eyes it was seen as a commentary on white van man by a member of the metropolitan elite. Making such judgements about someone from Islington also displays snobbery – being judgemental about someone perceived as judgemental. She apologised, and in what I see a gross overreaction has resigned from Labour’s front bench.

The austerity chef wrote: Because he uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends: #CameronMustGo

I guess, in both cases, in comes down to perspective; those on the Right, some anyway, will be outraged. I have no knowledge as to whether Mr Cameron has even heard of Ms Monroe, let alone read the tweet. If he is personally offended then Ms Monroe should apologise. However, I am bewildered as to why some of those offended feel the need to be even more offensive in response.

There is often a blurred line that separates legitimate political comment from personal attack. For me a simple test is whether a politician uses their personal life for political purposes, for if they do then that aspect must be subject to critique.

I tweet, and am aware that being limited to 140 characters hardly allows a proper analysis of any argument. I live in fear of typos; as anyone who reads my emails will attest I am a poor typist. I dread the day that my clumsy fingers leave me causing some offence. Twitter is not the medium for serious debate, although it provides links to places that are. It is a reflection of our sound-bite age that Twitter is often the go-to resource for the latest news and opinion. Being short and snappy has its advantages; it is also the place for online pratfalls.

The lesson, as far as I can see, lies less with what was written and more in the medium; less with the tweet, more with the response. One hundred and forty characters allows little room for subtlety or considered argument, but gives much scope for misinterpretation.

Switcher Toby’s blog

Toby Mountain is a Rochford District Councillor, elected as a Conservative and now serving as an Independent. He has a blog, the not self-effacingly titled Rayleigh View (does he really speak for all of Rayleigh?)

Under About Us is this: A view of Rochford District from the perspective of a Rayleigh resident

The use of the plural is either a mistake, or Cllr Mountain has royal pretensions. He also refers to himself in the plural under Comment (Contact Us Please feel free to contribute comments to any of our news items)

He writes: Toby is committed to increasing openness and transparency – but apparently this does not extend to allowing his voters a say on his change of party allegiance.

Second (of two)

A comment made by Neil Monnery got me thinking (yes, that happens occasionally). I have tried to find out who is the top ranked political blogger in Southend-on-Sea (and nearby).

It turns out that Neil has the top raking political blog in the area, and I am second. And that is it. I could find no-one else ranked by eBuzzing, and I cast the net pretty wide. If I have inadvertently forget to check someone out then please forgive me.

Ranking amongst political blogs Ranking amongst all blogs
156 1696 The Rambles of Neil Monnery http://neilmonnery.co.uk/
185 2243 Julian’s musings https://warelane.wordpress.com/



The electronic window – who is writing the commentary

Bloggers blogging about blogs, online navel-gazing at its best/worst. So, what follows will either bore or excite.

Political blogging does affect elections; this is not disputed. Blogging often drives the news agenda, and those that get all their news and information from the internet are going stumble across blogs, whether deliberately or not. Those of us who blog regularly see a spike in hit rates at election times and when something really newsworthy is written about. This is no accident.

What is less certain is just what effect local blogging about local elections has. The reality is that however seemingly Herculean our efforts may be we are swamped by national news. But when what separates victory from defeat is numbered in handfuls of ballot papers then clearly an influence is magnified.

The blogosphere in Southend-on-Sea does not mirror the local power balance; it does approximate the national balance though. I am biased, but I think the best blogging comes from Labour, but the Tories do have a reasonable presence. The Tories have more bloggers, but their writing is not regular, and the quality is decidedly mixed.

I am somewhat embarrassed by my own numbers – which can be interpreted in a number of ways (for instance, do I actually have a life?) I think my blog has the most visitors, and this is a guess. I am not the most assiduous tweeter, and maybe I ought to do some sort of research there too.

Here is the state of play as regards to political bloggers in Southend-on-Sea – my apologies if there are any omissions.

author Party posts since elections address Last post
Cllr Julian Ware-Lane Lab 63 warelane.wordpress.com 21 July
Tony Cox Con 26 shoeburyblogger.blogspot.com 16 July
Nigel Holdcroft Con 25 nigel-holdcroft.blogspot.com 21 July
Matt Dent Lab 25 matthewsdent.wordpress.com 21 July
Cllr Mark Flewitt Con 18 markflewitt.wordpress.com 18 July
Neil Monnery Lib Dem 8 neilmonnery.co.uk 15 July
Paul Collins Lib Dem 6 paulcollins.mycouncillor.org.uk 10 June
Cllr James Courtenay Con 5 jamescourtenay.wordpress.com 18 July
Gray Sergeant Lab 5 graysergeant.blogspot.co.uk 22 June
Southend Fox Unaligned 3 southendfox.wordpress.com 2 June
Cllr Anne Chalk Ind 2 anne-chalk.blogspot.com 29 May

No UKIP bloggers, only Anne Chalk for the Independent Group. Paul Collins has retired his blog, so Neil Monnery is the sole flag-flyer for the Liberal Democrats. The field really does belong to the two major parties.

As the Tories adjust to life in opposition it will be interesting to see how their online presence develops.

My favourite non-Labour blogger in Southend? It has to be Nigel Holdcroft at the moment, whose writing is both intelligent and perceptive. I certainly do not agree with much that he writes, but I value what he contributes to the debate.

Done undone

In my travels around the political blogosphere in my corner of Essex I noticed that Jonathan Hodge’s blog is no more. The following message is now shown: This user has elected to delete their account and the content is no longer available.

Jonathan was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in St Laurence ward last month. Does this mean his retirement from local politics, or is he setting himself up for a challenge away from St Laurence next year? I guess we will have to wait and see.

I also note that former Liberal Democrat councillor, Paul Collins, is also retiring his blog, although he is, for the moment anyway, allowing the content to remain visible.

Some bloggers just allow their blogging to lapse, making no announcement of a cessation of activity, whereas others give the appearance of death (through long periods of inactivity) only to come to life after months of doing nothing.

These periods of quiescence are annoying – as I like to read, and occasionally comment, on the writings of others I visit them in the vain hope that something has been added. Politiical commentary and debate is important, and for some nowadays their entire political education comes from the web.

The View from the Pier is a frustrating example of the ‘is it/is it not’ dead blog. I have no idea who was behind it, but it certainly looked very promising for a while. Some seven months have elapsed since the last posting, which is either a long holiday or they have given up.


A couple of things strike me from reading a recent post by Independent councillor Anne Chalk (Heisenberg Rules Unfortunately). She complains: It is now time to let them vote and it is normal practice to visit the ward polling stations just to let those residents who have never met you in person know that you really exist before they finally cast their vote. The fact that there is no Labour or Lib-Dem presence anywhere doesn’t surprise the Independent or Conservative candidates who have now become accustomed to their quantum mechanical behavior.

She continues: these virtual Lib-Dem and Labour Candidates managed to appear on the ballot paper but disappeared before anyone had a chance to see them or ask them what they were going to do for Shoebury.

Firstly, I rarely visit polling stations – on polling day I have far too many other jobs. This year I managed to get to two out of the six that are in Milton. I do not understand Cllr Chalk’s criticism here. I usually do a short stint first thing on polling day, but I never seek to persuade people when doing in so – I think the polling station is not the place to do this.

Secondly, it was she, Cllr Chalk herself that stopped a Labour voice being heard at the badly organised Shoebury hustings.

Thirdly, Cllr Chalk appears to want to limit the choices available to Shoebury’s residents. I do not think democracy is at all served well if there is no socialist alternative on the ballot paper.

One thing Anne ought to be raging against is the virtual party – her Independent Group being a prime example. There is plenty of uncertainty, and very little principle, in that organisation.

Whilst mentioning the Shoebury hustings; I note that Cllr Nick Ward is a now a member of the Independent Group – despite stating that he would do no such thing.

At the hustings he was asked the direct question about whether he would join any group. He said he would not. The chair asked him to clarify: “So, you are saying that you will not join any group?” “That’s right” was Nick Ward’s reply.

This matters. It matters because if Cllr Ward cannot manage to keep to this relatively simple promise, how is anything else he says to be trusted? It also matters because of the proportionality arrangements that affect committee representation – and this is based on group numbers.