Human rights

I am a member of Amnesty International and was, at one point, the local treasurer. I have been a member for quite a few years now and fully support their campaigns.

I have written letters in support of campaigns that AI have run, although I have to admit that time pressures do not allow me to participate that much nowadays.

I can categorically state my commitment to human rights, and the Human Rights Act.

I can also state that I do stand up to stop torture across the world.

I am opposed to capital punishment, and am an advocate for freedom of speech, worship, and political affiliation.

Solid Gold Blenheim Park Action

006I was out again this morning, delivering leaflets. This time it was in Blenheim Park ward, and our team included Matt Dent. Whilst it was certainly fresh, it was dry and the sun was out.

If I make a list of wards where we have been delivering recently I get to a healthy seven: Belfairs, Blenheim Park, Milton, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, St. Luke’s, Westborough. Since I know that there is further campaigning going on this week I know this list will grow. You could get the impression that it is only Labour that is taking the impending elections seriously in Southend-on-Sea. I accept that my information will not perfect, but I believe that the Conservatives have done a bit in Blenheim Park and Milton, and UKIP have been out in Prittlewell and Milton. I have seen no evidence of recent activity from either the Liberal Democrats or the Independent Group.

Milton is shaping up to be a real bun fight in May. We are hopeful of completing a Labour hat-trick, but the Tories will be desperate to retain the seat and UKIP (and possibly an independent) will certainly make the contest a close call. I do not expect much of a Lib Dem presence.

Blenheim Park has a history of marginality, and I sense that despite a low profile here UKIP will be hoping to double their presence in the ward. This is being defended by Conservative Cllr James Courtenay, who cannot be sitting comfortably. It could go any one of four ways, and I know that the Labour candidate, the aforementioned Matt Dent, is determined to make a big impact.

Prittlewell ward is another where the result could go any number of ways. Cllr Ric Morgan was elected as a Liberal Democrat in 2011, and if he defends his seat he will do so as a member of the Independent Group.

It was mentioned to me the story of canvassing a while back when a colleague was discussing the local elections with a Milton resident who said that they had always been Labour until they had had a conversation with me. I recall this because it does illustrate that you cannot please everyone. Politicians inevitably fail their residents at some point; this is not to say that you should not try to accommodate all views – and seek compromise. What has frustrated me over the years is that whilst I try to be honest, I am aware that there are those who will say whatever they think the resident wants to hear. I mention this because as the elections draw ever nearer we will seeing a lot of politicians engaging in doorstep conversations, some of which will be designed to seduce a promise to vote for them. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this per se, I do have concerns about what is being said. This is one of the reasons I commit my thoughts to this blog – no-one can accuse me of saying one thing and doing another.

Blenheim Park’s Labour Candidate is also an assiduous blogger, and Blenheim Park voters will have at least on candidate whose views will not change from door-to-door.

Cold, but out

Cllr Kevin Robinson, Westborough candidate Charles Willis, and Cllr Julian Ware-Lane - wrapped up and eager

Cllr Kevin Robinson, Westborough candidate Charles Willis, and Cllr Julian Ware-Lane – wrapped up and eager

It was good to get outside, even if it was decidedly chilly. It was a few hours spent on the letterboxes of Prittlewell and Westborough wards. Should be out a few times this week, spreading the message. I am also using this quiet time to write some leaflets and to tackle my inbox. Canvassing recommences in a week’s time.

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.

Continuing a Blenheim Park theme ….

It is no secret that I enjoy doorstep campaigning. It suits my personality. It also serves my ethos of taking politics to people. It is often a platter of surprises, and sometimes a dish of repetition. However it is served, pavement politics is where it matters for me.

Today’s plate was a dish of surprises in many ways. It began with a conversation that included “you look very handsome in your photo”! That is something that I am not often told, often I get quite the reverse. Pretty soon I bumped into one of my teachers from secondary school, a teacher who still remembered me some forty years later. I shan’t repeat the praise he gave me – I was a little puzzled because I am sure I was quite a naughty boy in those days. However, it was good to see him, and pleasing that he remembered me.

I met a cousin – someone who I knew little of and had never met before. On recognising the surname, after introducing myself I inquired of the young man “was your grandmother called Pauline?”. After an affirmative response I added “I think she was my aunt”. He fetched his dad, I was invited in, and a family reunion of sorts ensued.

I also met someone I had refereed on many occasions over the years. I don’t think I ever sent him off, at least he couldn’t recall such an occasion either.

As to the politics; it was a mixed reaction. There were Tories, although outnumbered by those confirming support for UKIP. Labour just about won in my small sample, although some of this will be down to my presence. No Liberal Democrats or Greens, despite Cllr Graham Longley’s name coming up more than once. As for issues, it was largely the NHS, immigration and the economy.

One resident was displeased with all his councillors who he felt had let him, and his neighbours, down. I suggested that he had the power to remove them, as all voters do. If your elected representatives are not cutting it then vote them out.

Matt Dent, standing in Blenheim Park - and standing in Blenheim Park

Matt Dent, standing in Blenheim Park – and standing in Blenheim Park

Are last orders looming for our traditional pubs?

I was pleased to see that the Southend Echo carried an article recently on the subject of traditional pubs (Closing time – last orders looming for our traditional pubs?)

Traditional community pubs are under threat, and this was why I introduced a motion to Full Council last December to help protect them. I wanted to ensure that planning permission and community consultation are required before community pubs were allowed to be converted to betting shops, supermarkets and pay-day loan stores or other uses, or allowed to be demolished.

My motion was backed by the Labour Group, and rejected by the then ruling Conservative Administration.

The Echo article showed that some historic pubs have already gone. Pubs are not only landmarks, they often are valuable community assets that have rich histories stretching back through the centuries. I think communities should have a say in what happens to them.

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