Over to you James ….. Blenheim Park intouch Summer 2015

inTouchBP1The latest instalment of Cllr Courtenay’s intermittent newsletters hit my doormat recently. Judging by the quality of this one I can fully understand why these are not a regular feature of the political year in Blenheim Park ward.

James expresses his delight at his re-election “with a significantly increased majority“. “I hope this reflects the work I have put in….” Whilst I am more than happy to offer my congratulations, I think even James would admit that the coincidence with the General Election was the real reason for his success. He will seek (I presume) a third term in 2019, and I expect a tougher campaign for the Tories then.

It looks like Helen Boyd will have a second stab at convincing Blenheim Park residents that she deserves their support. I fully expect that a Labour candidate (possibly Matt Dent looking to continue the good work he has already put in) will succeed next year. Helen will find it difficult going as local elections tend to find those representing the Government party as out of favour. More cuts will be biting by then too, and I expect to see more Tory losses next May in Southend-on-Sea, not gains.

The dominating theme in this leaflet is the proposals for a pavilion in Blenheim Park. Two things strike me. Firstly, whilst I welcome James’s support, the reality is that it was me who proposed referring these proposals back to Cabinet – and James seconded my motion. His article reads like it was all his work, rather than the truth which is that he played a supporting role.

The second point I would make is that whilst I am opposed to the plans, James does not appear to share this view. He merely wants to see a proper consultative exercise, and neatly sits on the fence as regards to the actual plans themselves. I invite him to condemn the proposals, or at least clarify where he actually stands in the issue.

The gloater, with not much to gloat about

The unedifying sight of a gloating Prime Minister will surprise those able to take a step back and have a dispassionate look at what happened on May 7th.

Let me get one thing out of the way first, it was a night of horrors for Labour. Despite a smattering of successes, we have a problem. That problem is less, in my view, about what happened in April and early May once the starter gun had been fired on the General Election, than about the four-year failure that led to a night of disappointment. It went horribly wrong during the summer of 2010, and never recovered.

Perhaps we were naive in thinking that we could be in charge when the biggest recession since the 1920s hit us and could bounce back within five years. We were certainly seemingly unprepared for the sight of wavering Tories returning to the fold when faced with a ballot paper. It was all lost, though, when we failed to defend our record in Government, and allowed a narrative of recklessness to take hold in the collective voter consciousness.

However, Mr Cameron needs to remind himself that he sits in number ten with the smallest majority since 1974. He also needs reminding, so it would seem, that his dozen-seat buffer came with a mere 36.9% of the popular vote. Whilst Labour lost big-time in Scotland, this was the Tories fate too; his is a Government of the English by the English.

The Conservative success was as much about the fragmenting of the opposition as anything. Labour actually increased its votes share overall, and made fair progress in England – a almost Scottish wipe-out exaggerated just how far behind we fell. Nonetheless, it looks the fracturing on the right largely evaporated, whereas on the centre-left the voters enjoyed the range of options on offer.

Cameron will be content with his party’s performance in the midlands and the south; although London remains stubbornly largely red. The north, Wales and Scotland sees isolated pockets of blue. Of course, the reverse is true of Labour, and in my region (East) for instance, our problem is worse than the Tory northern problem. Nonetheless, as victors the Conservatives must expect to be more representative of the UK as a whole.

The Conservatives are rightly pleased with their successes, but this success should not be allowed to hide their problems. Faced with an Opposition plumbing new depths in General Election failure, a hung Parliament followed by a small majority seems less like the sort of thing to gloat about, then one to worry about. Labour has a problem, but so do the Tories.


Those hoping that Cameron’s dozen majority during the current Parliament will soon evaporate are likely to be disappointed. The table below suggests that by-elections are diminishing in frequency, and besides the incumbent party usually holds on.

Parliament Total Won by incumbent party Caused by death Appointment Resignation Re-election Void election
1979-83 20 14 15 2 2 1
1983-87 31 25 11 5 15
1987-92 24 16 20 4
1992-97 18 9 16 2
1997-01 17 15 10 3 3 1
2001-05 6 4 4 2
2005-10 14 10 8 2 3 1
2010-15 21 17 6 1 11 2  1

We have younger MPs, and MPs for whom being an MP is the goal at the end of a career in politics. Whilst Cameron’s majority is twelve, once you take into account the Speaker, Sinn Fein, and friendly parties then his majority likely doubles – and overturning that would require a great many by-elections – more than has been the norm since 1979.

I conclude, and this is no genius conclusion, that this Parliament will go full term. The only party who can make it otherwise are the Conservatives themselves – unlikely unless something goes disastrously wrong with that EU referendum.

Are the Tories giving up on the east of Southend?

The most notable thing about the Conservative shadow cabinet on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is the bias towards members drawn from the ranks of those representing wards in the west of the borough.

Had the deputy leader come from a west ward it would have been an east-free zone.

Southend-on-Sea has seventeen wards – nine forming the Southend West constituency (and hence in the ‘west’), and eight part of the Rochford and Southend East constituency (à la the ‘east’).

No places for the two candidates who got their largest votes this year either (Cllrs Phillips and Byford).

There has been a notable blue retreat in east Southend. Tory leader, Cllr Lamb, gives every impression of effectively having abandoned half of the borough.

To paraphrase that great Liberal Winston Churchill: when it comes to the shadow cabinet and the east of the borough the Tory leader is truly a lamb in lamb’s clothing.

The Conservative performance in Southend-on-Sea: 2015 compared with 2010

This table compares Conservative votes shares in the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council elections for 2010 and 2015. Whilst it is true that the coincidence of the General Elections distorts local election voting, it nonetheless is a good guide to where Conservative support is in the borough, and how that support is holding up.

2010 Con vote % 2015 Con vote % Change
St Laurence 36.31 51.16 14.85
Prittlewell 32.17 46.3 14.13
Eastwood Park 46.09 57.89 11.8
Chalkwell 42.71 49.44 6.73
Westborough 23.26 29.44 6.18
West Leigh 46.41 52.12 5.71
West Shoebury 46.10 51.20 5.1
Blenheim Park 33.96 37.81 3.85
Leigh 37.95 41.49 3.54
Belfairs 39.21 42.56 3.35
Southchurch 37.37 38.56 1.19
Milton 37.91 38.97 1.06
Shoeburyness 38.33 38.81 0.48
Victoria 27.82 23.53 -3.99
Kursaal 29.58 25.39 -4.19
St Luke’s 25.66 20.87 -4.79
Thorpe 32.32 26.33 -5.99

I have sorted this table by the size of the change in vote share over five years. This indicates where the Conservatives are doing well, and where they are going backwards.

The first thing to note, though, is that whilst in no ward in 2010 did they receive more than half of votes cast, in 2015 they passed this mark in four places. Eastwood Park not only shows the biggest Conservative vote share, it is one of their better wards in terms of improved vote. Cllr Trevor Byford, in his acceptance speech, credited the SNP with his significantly improved vote. I am not so sure that is true, but whatever the reason it looks increasingly like their safest ward.

In four wards their vote has gone backwards. Thorpe is a surprise as this was once solidly blue, and yet now looks like they are not making a comeback here any time soon.

The 1.06% improvement in Milton was almost all of their majority there (accounts for 46 votes, and the majority was 51).

In 2010 the Conservative won in ten wards, this time around it was twelve (with thirteen councillors elected as West Shoebury gave them two seats courtesy of a by-election).

If you look at vote share there is a clear east-west divide. Of the best eight only one (West Shoebury in third place) is in the east. Considering how recently they had councillors there, St Luke’s as their worst ward is a surprise. In 2010 Westborough was their weakest ward, and three eastern wards were in the top eight.

Of the wards where they have a councillor presence they are weakest in Blenheim Park.

Silly season in Nelson Street

Nigel Holdcroft is a clever man who likes to give the impression of being a very silly one from time to time. His post on the legitimacy of a Cllr Woodley led administration (Southend Council – a question of legitimacy!) is a good example.

I shall skirt over the leadership vote in 2012, when the then Cllr Holdcroft held onto power despite his group being one short of a majority – although one could question that administration’s legitimacy. I shall not because within the limitations of the electoral system current in Southend-on-Sea, he won a fair election.

This does not change this year. The Independent Group is some distance from having a majority on its own, and so some sort of coalition has to be cobbled together. If this is achieved then Cllr Woodley continues to lead. Nigel can bleat all he likes, until his party has enough councillors they will be condemned to opposition. (One could question why they are devoid of friends – four groups look set to reach an accommodation, whereas the Tories are left on their own.)

Our Nige quotes the latest set of election results in Southend-on-Sea, and correctly points out that those adorned with blue rosettes saw thirteen victories out of a possible maximum of nineteen. However.

I counter this with a look at the votes each party attracted.

Only 39.3% voted Conservative. Whilst this is more than any other party, it is some way short of a majority, and leaves 60.7% of the borough choosing to avoid the Tories.


Labour, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats attracted a combined 43.5% of the vote – 4.2% above the Tories. I call that a mandate.

If the Conservatives can persuade both UKIP and the Greens to back them then the debate takes an interesting turn. Until then, please shut up.

What do UKIP and the Tories have in common?



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