Farewell Regional Board, parting is such sweet sorrow

My membership of the East of England Labour Party Regional Board came to end this weekend. I have been a member since 2008 and have enjoyed those seven years.

I won an election to get onto the Board, and have fought off a number of challengers over the years. My end came not through the ballot box though, but rather through a failure of paperwork.

Whilst I am undone by a failure of my CLP, I am not desperately disappointed; perhaps it is time to give someone else a chance to serve.

I confess to being a little irked, especially now that Southend’s voice in the Labour movement has shrunk a little. I have no idea who has replaced me.

At least it removes one distraction in a year that sees me trying to retain a presence in Southend’s council chamber. My contest in Milton will be an intriguing one. It is a marginal, and my scalp is certainly high on the local Tory hit list.

Mind you, I have yet to see my Tory opponent do anything in the ward, but perhaps hers is an under-the-radar campaign.

A dozen for your delectation

Matt Dent, Taylor Barrall, Cllr Cheryl Nevin, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

Matt Dent, Taylor Barrall, Cllr Cheryl Nevin, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

The selection of Labour candidates for next May’s council elections in Southend-on-Sea is ongoing. So far, the following have been selected:

Blenheim Park Matt Dent
Chalkwell Taylor Barrall
Eastwood Park Elaine Wardrop
Kursaal Helen McDonald
Milton Cllr Julian Ware-Lane
Prittlewell Mike Fieldhouse
Southchurch Ros Sanders
St Laurence Reg Copley
St Luke’s Donna Richardson
Thorpe Rod Birks
Victoria Cllr Ian Gilbert
Westborough Cllr Anne Jones

Thus, five wards have yet to select, and I imagine that these will be done in the next couple of months.

Of this magnificent dozen (well, eleven of them are magnificent anyway) five are first-time candidates, five are women, two are defending their seats, and three are current councillors. One is a former mayor, one is eighteen. All would grace the council chamber with aplomb.

Five write blogs, and the four others include




On Your Side in Milton


Wardrop versus Walker

Elaine with Julian

Elaine with Julian

I think it is fair to say that the all-male representation for Eastwood Park has it easy, or so it appears. Theirs is a comfortable tenure judging by the solidly strong vote they attract.

I expect that Cllrs Byford, Moring and Walker will claim that their hefty slice of the vote is a reflection of their industry and ability to articulate and champion their residents concerns.

Eastwood Park, and its previous incarnation as Eastwood, has been Conservative since 1996 at least (which is the limit of my records). In 1996 Labour attracted 22.07% of the vote – something we have struggled to get beyond since. However, with a sizeable Liberal Democrat vote to squeeze (Eastwood was once a Liberal stronghold), and Green votes which could swing our way, I think it could be an interesting contest. I wonder whether UKIP will bother turning up; they failed to field a candidate in May despite a reasonable vote in 2014.

First-time candidate Elaine Wardrop has been selected to take on Cllr Chris Walker next May, and Elaine has the enthusiasm and the desire to get out there and work This ward saw the highest Tory vote on the borough this year, but each election stands on its own as far as voters are concerned, and I am sure she will put up a good showing.

For the curious, the worst wards for the Tories in Southend-on-Sea this year are :

20.9% St Luke’s
23.5% Victoria
25.4% Kursaal
26.3% Thorpe
29.4% Westborough

Out in St Luke’s, and elsewhere

Cllr Kevin Robinson, Donna Richardson, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane - speaking to St Luke's residents

Cllr Kevin Robinson, Donna Richardson, Cllr Julian Ware-Lane – speaking to St Luke’s residents

This weekend I was out in a mere three wards: St Luke’s, Blenheim Park and Milton. I also know that we had teams out in Kursaal and Westborough.

It was a pleasure to join our St Luke’s candidate, Donna Richardson. If my snapshot is anything to go by then we are on for a Labour landslide here in May. However, that does somewhat fly in the face of the facts of recent elections, which have seen both Conservative and Labour vote shares plummet. This has enabled the rise of the Independents, whose lacklustre representation must worry residents. Their only contribution to debate recently has been Cllr Ayling’s whining about having to pay for paper and ink (currently provided for by the hard-pressed Southend tax-payers).

Cllr Ayling’s only contribution to the blogosphere in three years is a complaint about a reduction to his Special Responsibility Allowance. Come now , Brian, you were not elected for this.

Labour and Conservative vote shares in St Luke's ward, 2001 - 2015

Labour and Conservative vote shares in St Luke’s ward, 2001 – 2015

“There’s someone from the Labour Party at the door”

The Westborough team, part one: Cllrs Willis, Jones and Robinson - out this weekend

The Westborough team, part one: Cllrs Willis, Jones and Robinson – out this weekend

In the course of doorstep conversations one occasionally inquires of the resident what they think of the Labour Party. It is useful to know where our support is, as it is equally useful to find out why those who do not support us prefer the alternatives. Often these conversations involve a dissection of policy, but sometimes it can be quite superficial.

I have been campaigning under four leaders. Only Tony Blair appeared largely exempt from the argument the runs: ‘I cannot support the Labour Party because of your leader’. Alright, it sometime came up, but with nothing like the frequency that accompanied Ed Miliband’s tenure in charge.

Even Gordon Brown did not attract the sort of commentary that usually included: ‘I just cannot see him running the country’. Whatever, dear reader, your thoughts were of Gordon, he clearly was able to manage the job of Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn does attract about as much comment about his suitability for the role as Ed Miliband did. My snapshot is not large, but the pattern for Jeremy is largely the same as it was for Ed. If you are a confirmed Labour supporter then you will be kindly disposed to whoever holds the reins a per pro the Labour Party leadership. If you are usually lukewarm about the prospect of voting red then the current leadership is doing little to persuade you over.

I do detect a general approval of the change of mood that has been Jeremy’s tenure thus far. Whether this will help change the political landscape only time will tell. Jeremy will enthuse those on the left; there is a question mark over whether he can do likewise for the centre-ground, or even those normally to the right of centre. At the moment he seems unconcerned about everything right of Labour, looking to attract support from those generally inclined to sit on their hands.

In my modest way I try to encourage non-voters to become engaged in the democratic process, and I can state with some certainty that it is a big ask. Whilst a noble calling, and one which I can support, basing your election strategy on this is extremely ambitious to the point of being reckless. However, I realise that a mere humble councillor does not enthuse in the way that a major political performer does.

Labour’s strength is in its outreach to the community. We are the biggest party in the UK, in Southend-on-Sea too (we believe). We are out almost every week, and engaging with residents, trying to get a sense of what needs doing, and then actually trying to do it. For instance, I reckon we were out in three wards on Saturday, and possibly more since I cannot monitor all activity. Of course, we are neither Liberal Democrats nor in the Independent Group, and so cannot be all things to all men, attempting the impossible feat of pleasing everyone. Sometimes the conversations are robust, but mostly people are pleased to see representatives of the people’s party.

And we have a record in administration in Southend-on-Sea that we can point too, with some pride I feel.


Pleased I is

Pleased I is

I contested my first Milton ward selection in the summer of 2010, and yesterday I was successful for the third time (also being selected in 2011). It was a great honour in 2010, when the political backdrop was a safe Tory ward with three Tory councillors and a ward that had never elected a Labour candidate in its current configuration. That has all changed since, and we were mightily unlucky not to have secured the hat-trick in May this year.

I do not doubt, though, that despite the advances Labour has made in this most wonderful of wards this is going to be a battle. I won in 2012 with a narrow majority, and the Tories will see this ward (particularly after holding it this year) as a top target. I am sure that they would be pleased to see not just Labour defeated, but me too. I do not take this as a sign of personal animosity though, but rather a testament to my industry when it comes to challenging them, both locally and nationally.

What has also changed since 2012 is that Milton ward now boasts the largest Labour Party membership in the east of the town, and this increase is not just in ‘silent’ members. The ward now has a fine and growing band of activists, and as other ward selections are announced you will see Milton members now becoming our candidates. In 2011 and 2012 I had a shoe-string operation, largely based around my willingness to work and work – this year I will have a loyal band of supporters, big enough that I can also lend them to other campaigns.

I look forward to the campaign, and I hope to meet as many Milton residents as I can. This is a mere continuation of what I have been doing since 2010, and Milton residents are never surprised to see a Labour face at their door nowadays. I am a keen proponent of pavement politics, and despite what it may seem with my forays into the local media and contributions in council meetings, this is where I am happiest.

I am modestly proud of my achievements in the three and a half years that I have thus far served the residents of Milton, and whilst I have neither always succeeded, nor indeed even pleased, all the time, I hope that people will recognise my willingness to speak out for both the ward and the issues I champion.

I must thank all those who have placed their trust in me. It truly is an honour to represent Labour anywhere, but especially in Milton ward.

And … don’t forget to vote Labour on May 5th, 2016!

Jezza did it, and now it’s our turn

During the recent Labour Party leadership election campaign I was consistent in my support for Liz Kendall. I was also consistent in stating that whoever was successful they would get my full support. I think it is for all of us who want a Labour Government to get behind the leader, and I fully intend to do what I can to see that it is Jeremy Corbyn who resides at 10 Downing Street after the next General Election.

I still believe that Liz Kendall represented our best chance of success come 2020, and I think that we, the Labour party, has chosen to take the most difficult route to success. However, there is no getting away from the huge mandate that Mr Corbyn now enjoys within the party, and we have to translate this into votes; next May provides an interesting test (especially in my ward!)

There is cause for optimism; the huge growth in our membership (which I can attest has seen our numbers more than double in Southend-on-Sea alone) should auger well for the many campaigns ahead. I am looking forward to working with the newest recruits, who are bound to give fresh energy to our campaigning.

The leadership campaign was a mixed affair, in my opinion. It was too long, fought too soon after the May defeat. However, I have mixed views over the number of hustings, which must have been wearying for the four candidates (as well as for the five who contested the deputy leadership), and it must have entailed a lot of repetition. But, with the numbers attending these it clearly demonstrated an appetite amongst activists and interested persons for public debate.

Jeremy had a very good campaign. It demonstrated that social media is having a significant impact, and his brand of pure socialism has certainly gained traction. He was also successful, I believe, because of the tone of his campaign – his occasional apparent amateurism leant him an authenticity that his three opponents just could not match. You knew that he believed in what he was saying, which is a rare commodity in some political circles.

I think his stances on some topics will have to change, evolving into something a little more palatable to the wider electorate. A pragmatist myself, I see nothing wrong in accepting that to achieve success a little compromise is sometimes needed.

As for Liz – well, I have to accept comprehensive rejection. I hope she will have a part to play in future, and she should, when the time is right, re-visit her decision about not serving in a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet. She should be acknowledged for her role in creating the lively debate in the contest, and at least she stood for change. Hers was as radical an alternative as Corbyn’s, and it certainly does no-one any favours to have four identical flavours to select from. She also refused to buckle under pressure, and perhaps she may yet be our first substantive female leader.

Which leads me to the issue of gender. The Labour movement can be extraordinarily conservative at times, and to have no females in any of the really big positions is surely something that has to be addressed at some point.

Here are the recent polls, which show a small bounce for Labour. UKIP are still showing impressive numbers, and the Greens are falling away somewhat. It is earlier days yet, though, and only so much can be read into these numbers.

Lab Con LDem UKIP Grn
25 August 2015 ComRes 28 42 8 9 6
14 September 2015 ICM 32 38 8 13 3
20 September 2015 ComRes 30 42 7 13 3
20 September 2015 YouGov 31 39 6 16 3
20 September 2015 Opinium 32 37 6 14
24 September 2015 Ipsos MORI 34 39 9 7 4
30 September 2015 ComRes 30 39 9 12 4
02 October 2015 YouGov 31 37 7 17
average 31.0 39.1 7.5 12.6 3.8

We have had a good debate, and it looks like Jeremy Corbyn is keen to continue this. I for one look forward to taking part in the many discussions to come. I am sure some heat will be generated, just as I am sure that most will respect alternative outlooks, and the need to agree and work as a team. Divided we stand no chance. We have a long four and a half years in front of us, which will not only see radical changes to public services and welfare, but also see changes to our democracy that are designed to make it tougher for us, Labour, to succeed. If we are to kick the Tories out of national government, as well as ejecting them from local authorities, then we will have to roll our sleeves up and work – all of us, from all wings of our movement.




Yakety yak (trash)

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

There are some places where you just know that a visit will result in a conversation with Council officers. One such is the Ceylon Road car park.

One small victory I think I can claim some credit for is that it is not as dangerous as it used to be. I wonder through quite safely at all times of day. It cannot be said, though, that it is a place that is much cleaner, despite the best efforts of the two Labour councillors for Milton ward. It does occasionally look lovely and clean, just after a spate of emails from Cllr Nevin and myself. This is followed in pretty short order with the next batch of trash to festoon both the car park and the walkways that lead from it. To be frank, it is often quite disgusting. Still, we shall never surrender to stupid and irresponsible actions.

This car park is not the only place within the ward where there are regular litter issues, and I have to wonder at the mindset of some people, and it is clear that much of this must be down to regular repeat offenders. There are some, it seems, who just view the world as one big trash can.

Recently I went to a CAST meeting. There is an event on Thursday (8th October) where I will be one of the speakers talking about the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Also had an Essex Fire Authority meeting this week where the independent cultural review was discussed. It is no exaggeration to say that this was a very damning report.

And to my doorstep engagement, the most enjoyable aspect of politics as far as I am concerned. Jeremy Corbyn came up twice, once favourably, once not so – so honours even. I have to say that I am hearing reports that suggest his impact is not quite so even elsewhere. Ed Miliband also came up in conversation, and I find that those who dislike Labour and its brand of democratic socialism/social democracy will find any reason to be critical.

I am seeking re-selection this year in Milton ward, and next Saturday is decision day. I welcome challengers, no-one should be immune from the democratic process. I hope I have done enough over the last three and a half years to merit being allowed another go, although I am hearing rumours of a far-left attempt to have me de-selected – an irony for this Marxist brought-up former Communist who apparently, according to some, does not belong in the Labour Party. I guess my championing the homeless and migrants is just too right-wing for some!

Victoria Voice Summer 2015