March’s by-election summary

There were twelve local authority by-elections in the March.

party vote share % seats won candidates net gain
Labour 34.2 4 9 -2
SNP 23.5 3 4 2
Conservative 19.3 2 11 1
Independent 11.8 2 7 0
UKIP 4.0 0 2 -1
Liberal Democrat 3.7 1 7 1
Green 2.9 0 5 0
Others 0.6 0 2 0

The overall numbers are somewhat skewed because three contests were in Wales, and four in Scotland, leaving five in England.

Number of candidates for each of the main parties in Essex’s local elections next month

Lab Con LDem UKIP Grn Oth
Basildon 14 14 11 14 4
Braintree 50 46 9 20 20 4
Brentwood 12 12 10 10 4
Castle Point 14 14 8 8
Chelmsford 43 57 51 29 14 8
Colchester 20 20 20 14 20 3
Epping Forest 7 16 10 8 7 2
Harlow 12 12 7 12
Maldon 11 31 1 6 9 12
Rochford 9 13 1 11 2 10
Southend-on-Sea 19 19 19 9 18 14
Tendring 46 60 4 37 5 21
Thurrock 16 16 1 16 3
Uttlesford 23 39 24 7 3 36
296 369 168 201 98 129

This gives a rough idea of the relative strength across the county of the parties in terms of ground troops. Of course, this does not always translate into votes.

I am disappointed that Labour’s tally of candidates is not closer to the Tories, and this is a regular complaint of mine. However, in a county that is not always receptive to Labour voices we are still comfortably the second strongest.

UKIP are fielding more than the Lib Dems. It is a patchy story for the Lib Dems, who are all but extinct in quite a few places at the moment. Their decline in Rochford is quite noteworthy. The UKIP tidal wave has not quite materialised though, although there does appear to be informal pacts with independents in some places..

The Green party will claim this is a good slate for them, although it does not match the hyperbole put out by some of the more excitable commentators.

And the really good news? Not one far right candidate.

A Ware-Lane sandwich

Whilst not quite a hustings veteran I have done a few over the years. I enjoy them, although I still get nervous.

You do live with the fear of being completely stumped by a question. I do not memorise our manifesto or learn whole stacks of statistics, and do not take briefing papers with me. I find that speaking from the heart works for me.

I am not certain how many turned up at St Saviour’s church hall on Thursday night; estimates I have received put it in the 80 – 100 range. It was certainly a lively audience.

The heckling began during my opening remarks which did take me somewhat aback. I was only setting out what I thought was important when choosing who to vote for – I said it was a combination of principles and competence. I am not sure what was especially contentious in that, but the large Tory contingent were determined to give me a hard time.

I kicked off the proceedings, and was last to speak: everything else was sandwiched between.

I sat at the end of the table, next to UKIP’s Brian Otridge (which auto-correction software insists on renaming ‘ostrich’). My opening remarks were limited to two minutes, which was not adequate. However, we all had the same constraint.

It was well chaired, and I am grateful to the Southend Echo for organising it. If I could suggest one improvement it would be for microphones to be used.

I counted eleven questions. These were on the NHS crisis, failing schools, faith and grammar schools, immigration, the European Union, the biggest policy we disagreed with our own parties about, what private members bill would we like to introduce, second homes for MPs, MPs pay, Leigh fishing, can you trust politicians.

I spoke about the need for a properly funded NHS, and that only Labour does this. I would stop the marketization, and would support and work with the local hospital’s management team.

I said academies are turning schools into businesses and are removing local accountability. I also mentioned the unacceptably high number of less than good schools in Southend. I spoke of my preference for universal comprehensive education, and that social mobility was hindered by selective schools.

I said we need a fair immigration system, and that immigration had largely been a good thing for the UK. I spoke of the economic madness of leaving the EU, and the instability that would ensue from two years of debate running up to a referendum.

I could think of no current Labour policy I could disagree with, and that I would like to tweak the Right To Buy legislation so that either a buy-back clause or immediate re-use of funds could be enabled.

I would not need a second home if elected, although I might have to stay in a hotel from time to time. MPs are paid enough, I added.

On Leigh fishing I said the EU rules were wrong and needed changing.

I think we can trust politicians, although some have let us down.

There was some heckling, which is fine. If I could make out what they were saying I replied. It made it lively, and gave the audience a chance to interact with me.

Afterwards one of the hecklers, a Tory, said I was dishonest because I did not put my middle names on my literature. She evidently had no problem with David Amess sticking to his first name and surname. She also did not like me referring to people as comrades – “this is not Soviet Russia”. I did point out that it was a term of affection. She was just not going to like anything I said.

My full name is Julian Gabriel St.John Ware-Lane. Said Tory-Woman thinks it aristocratic, and therefore objectionable. For the record, I am working class and not a member of the aristocracy.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council elections candidates announced

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council elections candidates announced

Labour Conservative Liberal Democrat UKIP Green Independent Independent
Belfairs Dave Alston Lesley Salter Mike Grimwade David Dearle Barry Bolton Stephen McKiernan
Blenheim Park Matthew Dent James Courtenay Richard Herbert Paul Lloyd Jimmy Wild
Chalkwell Lars Davidsson Stephen Habermel Jessie Skinner Peter Walker Lucy Courtenay
Eastwood Park Martin Berry Trevor Byford Paul Collins Fiddian Warman
Kursaal Judith McMahon Alex Bright Richard Betson Verina Weaver Simon Cross
Leigh Chris McGurk Bernard Arscott Peter Wexham Jon Mullett
Milton Gray Sergeant Jonathan Garston Robert Howes Vida Mansfield Tammy Cooper
Prittlewell Tony Borton Meg Davidson Colin Davis Andy Beale Paul Ryder
Shoeburyness Maggie Kelly Roger Hadley Norman Redican Susan Smith Anne Chalk
Southchurch Ros Sanders Ann Holland Roger Fisher Barrie Page Julian Esposito Keith Sharman
St Laurence Reg Copley Steve Buckley Ted Lewin David McGlone Tanya Rayment Carl Whitwell
St Laurence Sean Jones David Burzotta Carole Roast Denis Walker
St Luke’s Jes Phillips Val Jarvis Nora Goodman Roger Weaver Stephen Jordan Paul Van Looy Anthony ABC
Thorpe Rod Birks Jon Bacon Jim Clinkscales Liz Swanson Ron Woodley
Victoria David Norman Denis Garne Donna Collins Peter Breuer Ian Hurd
West Leigh Jay Woods Georgina Phillips Chris Bailey David Stansfield Sarah Yapp
West Shoebury David Carrington Tony Cox David Betson Eddie McNally Nigel Outten Margaret Haydon
West Shoebury Matt Zarb-Cousin Derek Jarvis Charlie Row Alex Moyies
Westborough Charles Willis Daryl Peagram David Barrett Paul Mansfield Alan Hart David Webb
  • Three Parliamentary candidates are also seeking a seat on the council: Collins, Cross, Yapp.
  • Three former Parliamentary candidates are standing: Bolton, Norman, Wexham.
  • UKIP’s candidates are split so that five are in the East, and four in the West.
  • Fourteen former councillors are seeking a return: Bailey, Clinkscales, Collins, Copley, Cox, Garne, Goodman, Grimwade, Hadley, Lewin, Redican, Roast , Roger Weaver, Verina Weaver.
  • Of the fourteen former councillors, three flew previously under different party banners: Garne, Roger Weaver, Verina Weaver.
  • Three full slates.
  • St Luke’s has the most candidates (seven).
  • One candidate does not live in the borough: Ann Holland.
  • Fourteen councillors are defending their seats, making five seats that will have new representation.
  • Labour are first and last alphabetically: Alston and Zarb-Cousin.
  • There are two by-elections: St Laurence, West Shoebury. Voters here will have two votes.

South Essex General Election candidates

Across south Essex the local councils are putting up notices of who is standing in both local and Parliamentary elections on May 7th.

Here follows the candidates for the Parliamentary elections.

Labour Conservative Liberal Democrat UKIP Green English Democrats
Basildon and Billericay Gavin Callaghan John Baron Martin Thompson George Konstantinidis
Brentwood and Ongar Liam Preston Eric Pickles David Kendall Michael McGough Reza Hossain Robin Tilbrook
Castle Point Joe Cooke Rebecca Harris Sereena Davey Jamie Huntman Dominic Ellis
Chelmsford Chris Vince Simon Burns Stephen Robinson Mark Gough Angela Thomson
Epping Forest Gareth Barrett Eleanor Laing Jon Whitehouse Andrew Smith Anna Widdup
Harlow Suzy Stride Robert Halfon Geoffrey Seeff Sam Stopplecamp Murray Sackwild Eddy Butler
Rayleigh and Wickford David Hough Mark Francois Mike Pitt John Hayter Sarah Yapp
Rochford and Southend East Ian Gilbert James Duddridge Peter Gwidzala Floyd Waterworth Simon Cross
South Basildon and East Thurrock Mike Le-Surf Stephen Metcalfe Geoff Williams Ian Luder
Southend West Julian Ware-Lane David Amess Paul Collins Brian Otridge Jon Fuller Jeremy Moss
Thurrock Polly Billington Jackie Doyle-Price Rhodri Jamieson-Ball Tim Aker

This is not a list of all candidates – there are a few independents and some parties only fielding the one candidate. Parties not in this list are: Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol, All People’s Party, YPP, TUSC, and Liberal Party.

It was tempting to show only those parties with a full slate, but my Green friends would doubtless have cried ‘foul'; and having include the Greens I felt obliged to include the English Democrats.

The last time I stood (local elections, 2012), the chair of the English Democrats (Robin Tilbrook) sued me for defamation (unsuccessfully); I wonder whether he will do so again? Perhaps if I mention that his Harlow candidate is a former member of the National Front and the BNP he will be tempted.

Basildon and Billericay has the least crowded ballot paper – a mere four candidates. Seven names will be shown on ballot papers in Harlow, South Basildon and East Thurrock, and Thurrock.

The real contest, for who will run the country for the next five years, is between Labour and the Conservatives. UKIP will be hoping to pinch enough Tory votes to see some success, the Greens are seemingly intent on helping the Tories by splitting Labour’s vote. I predict the English Democrats will lose every deposit.

On being squeezed from both extremes

There are two sets of elections in Southend-on-Sea on May 7th. As voters go to polling stations to decide who they want to represent them in Parliament, they will also cast votes in the council elections. This introduces a few thoughts. Will the increased turnout radically affect the vote in the council elections? Will the alignment with the General Election affect how people vote in the local elections? Will the rise of UKIP and the Greens affect outcomes? It is ‘yes’ to all three.

In 2001 Labour had councillors elected in five wards: Kursaal, Shoeburyness, St Luke’s, Victoria, Westborough. By 2010 that had reduced to one: Victoria. Since then there has been some revival in Labour fortunes locally, although we have still to fully recover in some former strongholds.

Last year (2014) Labour won in three wards, and narrowly missed out in a fourth.

2014 was UKIP’s year. Then they won five wards in Southend-on-Sea in what was actually a pretty hit-and-mss operation. It made some of us wonder what a decent campaign would have delivered, and we expected to find out this year. Except.

Except that they have spent more time fighting amongst themselves as opposed to fighting for their residents. I still expect to see a full slate and some decent results, but I also suspect that their tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory may yet come into play. I think it quite possible they will draw a blank this year, but equally they could do well. They will benefit from the swamping of local stories by national news as election day draws ever nearer, which for them is just as well.

Who do UKIP damage in Southend? It is tempting to repeat the mantra that they damage the Tories more than anyone else. However, their five seats came at the expense of two Tories and three Liberal Democrats. To muddy the waters here a bit, the UKIP gain in Kursaal, whilst nominally at the expense of the Tories, was seen by most commentators as a victory over Labour (certainly Labour were second, and 36 votes behind). So, whilst they do take Tory votes, in Essex they also hit an element of traditional Labour support.

Labour are also under attack from the Greens, who seem to direct more of their ire at Labour than they do elsewhere. The Greens have always struggled in south Essex, although their brand of NIMBYism clearly resonates in Hullbridge. Whilst it is always possible that we could see a Green councillor or two in Southend-on-Sea, this would constitute a significant improvement in their fortunes. Where the Greens will make an impact is in Labour wards, for Labour’s hold is always tenuous. I hope that the Green’s shift to the far left will not see mass desertion, but should this happen then they will be cheered on by the Tories who will be the gainers from this scenario.

I expect UKIP and the Greens to put up full slates. Throw in a smattering of independents and you will see many wards were the choice is of six candidates. With six candidates inevitably the bar for success lowers – expect to see winners on or around 30% of the vote.

It is going to be tight in many wards – only the very solid Tory wards are likely to see handsome majorities. However, since every vote also counts towards the General Election then we are going to see some surprises in the council elections. Whilst a Labour vote in Thorpe may be seen as wasted in normal years, this year it could elect a Labour MP – and voters will know this.

January and February’s by-election summary

There were eleven local authority by-elections in the first two months of this year.

party vote share % seats won candidates net gain
Conservative 28.8 6 11 0
Labour 28.4 4 10 +1
UKIP 12.8 0 10 -1
Liberal Democrat 10.3 0 8 0
SNP 8.6 1 1 0
Green 7.2 0 6 0
Plaid Cymru 1.8 0 1 0
Independent 1.6 0 4 0
Others 0.5 0 1 0

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