Jonathan Garston Conservative 1709 38.9%
Gray Sergeant Labour 1658 37.8%
Vida Mansfield Green 476 10.9%
Tammy Cooper Independent 295 6.7%
Robert Howes Liberal Democrat 247 5.6%

About fifteen years ago I left the Labour Party for about a year and joined the Green Party. A year later I was back with Labour. When I tell people this I am usually asked why I left. The simple answer was that I became involved in politics to effect change. The Green Party will change nothing, whereas Labour does achieve power and therefore can change things.

I left Labour not because I wanted far-left politics – the Green Party in those days was a purely an environmental lobbying group. I left because something had made me cross with Labour. This happens from time to time; even a loyalist like myself finds themselves irritated. Labour is a broad coalition across the centre-left and compromises have to be made. It cannot please everyone all the time. But it is the best vehicle we have for social justice, equality, etc.

Of course the Green Party is entitled to stand candidates. But their supporters must understand that actions have consequences. Until we have electoral reform, something the Greens argue for (and incidentally, I am a member of the ERS – are any of the Greens in Southend?), we have a first past the post system. In Milton ward this simply means that it is either Labour or the Conservatives that can win.

Last year the Green vote in Kursaal saw a UKIP councillor elected. This year, in Milton, it was the Tories who benefited.

What triumph for environmentalism is it to see Jonathan Garston secure another four years in the council chamber? Jonathan, who wanted a coach park in Warrior Square (thankfully stopped by Labour in the Joint Administration); Jonathan, who held the Planning portfolio under the previous Conservative administration that saw overcrowding and ugly development in the town centre. What has Jonathan done for the poorest in the town, or the vulnerable? Where is his voice for equality? His is a Green triumph, yet he answers none of the questions that the Greens want answering.

I doubt that many Green activist will agree with my analysis, or particularly care. Theirs was as much an anti-Labour message as anything.

Gray was an excellent candidate who worked very hard. Unlike the Greens, who seemed content to post images of themselves in the pub on social media on polling day, Gray spent long hours on the doorstep. He got Labour’s best ever vote, and was beaten by the Tories best ever vote. Fifty-one votes separated Gray from the council chamber. Compare this 51 with the 476 achieved by the Greens.

Of course, it may be somewhat presumptuous to assume that Green supporters would normally back Labour. However, I know some of these Green voters, and I do not see any former Tories amongst them.

Vote Green get blue may be a lazy soundbite, but in Milton, in this year, at this election, it has a ring of truth.

Essex; the scale of the electoral mountain in Essex

The table below shows the winners in General Elections for Essex constituencies since 1983, a predominantly blue picture over the last thirty-two years. This illustrates the struggle that Labour activists are faced with year in, year out. There are some successes, and there is potential. Consolidating the anti-Tory vote is the aim, and the retreat of the Liberal Democrats may help in the years ahead.

1983 1987 1992 1997 2001 2005 2010 2015
++Basildon and Billericay Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Braintree Con Con Con Lab Lab Con Con Con
Brentwood and Ongar Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Castle Point Con Con Con Lab Con Con Con Con
$ Chelmsford Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
@ Clacton Con Con Con Lab Lab Con Con UKIP
+ Colchester Con Con Con LD LD LD LD Con
Epping Forest Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Harlow Con Con Con Lab Lab Lab Con Con
$$ Harwich and North Essex Con Con Con Con Con
@@ Maldon Con Con Con Con Con
# Rayleigh and Wickford Con Con Con Con Con
** Rochford and Southend East Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Saffron Walden Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
* South Basildon and East Thurrock Con Con Con Lab Lab Lab Con Con
Southend West Con Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Thurrock Lab Con Lab Lab Lab Lab Con Con
Witham Con Con


* Basildon prior to 2010
** Southend East prior to 1997
+ Colchester North prior to 1997
++ Billericay prior to 2010
$ West Chelmsford 1997 – 2005
$$ North Essex prior to 1997 – 2005
@ Harwich prior to 2010
@@ Maldon and East Chelmsford 1997 – 2005
# Rayleigh 1997 – 2005

Well done, Mr Cameron

southAnd EastFirst, an apology. In his acceptance speech Sir David Amess said something like (this is my best memory and not verbatim) ‘this is a momentous night for the Conservatives”. In my speech (which followed David’s) I said that “it is still twenty-three years since the Conservatives had won an election”. I was wrong.

To be fair, on the information that I had when making this point it did look like no-one had got a majority in the House of Commons. Subsequently it turned out that the Conservatives ended up with a majority of twelve.

I do not always enjoy the results that voters give us, but I do respect it. On Thursday Mr Cameron achieved a more than creditable result. In part this will be due to Labour’s failure to convince, but let us not be churlish – Mr Cameron and his team did very well.

The Tories managed to increase both their vote share and the number of MPs, which is a very rare feat for a Government. Not since the October 1974 has a Government increased its vote share. 1983 was the last time a Government saw an increase in its MP numbers.

Labour, on the other hand, had a disaster nationally. For starters 2010 was described as awful at the time, and we have managed to do worse. Add in the near wipe-out in Scotland and our once proud boast of being the party of all of Britain lies in tatters.

The map here shows the extent of the task now facing Labour’s next leader. The one small crumb of comfort for Labour supporters in my neck of the woods is that the gains in Cambridge and Norwich South have doubled the number of MPs we now have in the East of England. However, Essex is as blue as ever.

So, a ‘well done’ to Mr Cameron, but be aware that we are gunning for you. Come 2020 we will have a better Labour Party.

Borough elections 2015, Southend-on-Sea – the headlines

So, the local election ballot papers have been counted in Southend-on-Sea, and here is a summary.

Party Votes % Wins
Conservative 39.3 13
Labour 19.2 3
Independent 14.4 2
UKIP 10.2 1
Liberal Democrat 10.0 0
Green 7.0 0

So, an overall second place for Labour across the borough (and two second places in the Westminster elections). Three first places (two in the East, one in the West) and four runners-up ((one in the East, three in the West).

The most marginal victories:

31 St Laurence (UKIP over Conservative)
51 Milton (Conservative over Labour)
165 Westborough (Labour over Conservative)

This leaves the chamber looking like this:

22 Conservative
11 Independent Group
9 Labour
4 Liberal Democrats
3 UKIP Local Group
1 Unaligned UKIP

Therefore it is still a story of no overall control.

Looking forward to the next challenge

Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a bubble, running an election campaign. You know there is a whole lot going on outside of where you are standing but all you can really see is the challenge you are personally faced with. This is especially so on election day when all you are focussed on is getting a good result.

I think we had a good result in Southend West. Of course I would have liked to win, but finishing above the Liberal Democrats and UKIP has to be good , and now we are definitely the main opposition to the Tories in this constituency.

I am off to the count for the local elections in a moment. In the next few days I will attempt some analysis of the results In Southend-on-Sea, and beyond.

I have to say a big thank for Team Labour in Southend West who did a magnificent job, putting in long hours. I am not tempted to name them, partly because I am liable to miss someone off, but also because some worked away without my really knowing who they were.

I also thank those in Southend West who voted for me, and promise that my campaigning days are a long way from over.

And now – onto the next challenge!

Today is election day, vote Labour


Tomorrow, vote Labour


All to play for in Southend West

southendWestSouthend West was created as a constituency in 1950. In the eighteen elections since then it has been won by Conservative candidates on every occasion. (Labour have been second on six occasions, Liberal Democrats twelve times.)

It is described as ‘safe’, and the statistics appear to bear this out.

However, I sense that things could be changing. See the chart here. This shows the Conservative vote as a percentage of all who are eligible to vote in Southend West. Things changed in 1997, when David Amess first arrived on the scene.

Something like three-quarters of voters are not voting Conservative. Now, I admit it is a stretch to suggest how these people would vote (although we know how some of them vote), but it does show that this ‘safe’ seat could be anything but.

The Conservatives attract less support that those who opt to not vote.

Consider 2005: The Conservatives won with 23.8% of the local electorate supporting them. Yet 48.6% of Southend West’s voters stayed at home that year – more than twice the number who backed Mr Amess.

The Conservative vote picked up in 2010, largely because of the unpopularity of Gordon Brown’s administration, yet they could only muster the support of 28.1% of the electorate. Again, this was some way short of the 33.9% who did not vote.

Is it all to play for in Southend West? I think it is.

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.