Who won in 2012, and whether they will be standing in May

ward elected in 2012 party in 2012
Belfairs Stephen Aylen Independent Group Has left the Independent Group
Blenheim Park Graham Longley Liberal Democrat Retiring
Chalkwell Ian Robertson Conservative Defending
Eastwood Park Chris Walker Conservative Defending
Kursaal Anne Jones Labour Moved wards (to Westborough)
Leigh Allan Crystall Liberal Democrat De-selected
Milton Julian Ware-Lane Labour Defending
Prittlewell Mary Betson Liberal Democrat Defending
Shoeburyness Mike Assenheim Independent Group Defending
Southchurch David Garston Conservative De-selected
St Laurence Mark Flewitt Conservative Defending
St Luke’s Brian Ayling Independent Group Defending
Thorpe Mike Stafford Independent Group Defending
Victoria Ian Gilbert Labour Defending
West Leigh John Lamb Conservative Defending
West Shoebury Derek Jarvis Conservative Defending
Westborough Marimuthu Velmurugan Independent Group Now left group. Is defending, but will have an official Independent Group candidate up against him.

This table shows who was elected in 2012, and whether they will be seeking re-election in May.

Belfairs – I have no idea whether the Independent Group will put someone up against Stephen. The other Independent in that ward, who has fought both elections since 2012, is a friend of Stephen’s and unlikely to stand against him.

Blenheim Park – Graham has been privately talking about standing down for some time. His recent ill health has likely strengthened his resolve to make 2016 his retirement year.

Kursaal – Anne has chosen to contest her former home ward of Westborough. She did not seek re-selection in Kursaal.

Leigh – This will be Peter Wexham’s comeback attempt, tempting headlines of “Lib Dems opt for youth”! I do not know whether Allan will seek somewhere else to contest.

Shoeburyness – There is some speculation that defeated Independent Anne Chalk will continue her vendetta against Mike and stand against him in May.

Southchurch – David has somehow managed to be de-selected, and end up with a brighter prospect in Prittlewell. However, this could be his swansong as Labour have high hopes for Prittlewell.

Westborough – Marimuthu has chosen the route of total independence. This is a brave decision, in a ward that many are seeing as a certain Labour gain.

In, out, in, out, shake it all about – Aylen dumped (again)

Call me old fashioned, but I think that appointments should run their natural course, which is usually annually. In the case of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s appointments, these are made at the second Full Council of the Civic Year, normally in late May or early June.

No-one should be unaccountable, but unless extraordinary circumstances force otherwise, appointments should run for the year. Thus, in my humble opinion, no sackings or resignations.

Cllr Stephen Aylen (Independent, Belfairs) was appointed as Chair of the Public Transport and Buses Working Party this year. I would describe his chairing style as interesting. He is, though, passionate.

Anyone who goes canvassing will tell you that buses and public transport are a regular feature of doorstep conversations in Southend. The Council may be little more than a lobbying group in some ways, but it is dealing with a subject that is dear to many residents hearts. Buses matter, period.

When Cllr Aylen left the Independent Group he was dismissed as chair from this working party. At the time I thought it was heavy-handed, and so must others as he was re-instated pretty quickly. I am now told that he has been sacked again.

This is rapidly becoming a farce. Whoever is responsible (and I have my suspicions) really should understand just how daft this looks. It smacks of petty revenge from where I am sitting.

When you see close up how independents behave then you really appreciate the need for political parties.

Softly softly (Rochford by-election)

If Matt Softly ends up winning next week in the Rochford by-election you can blame me; he became an activist after I knocked on his door one day. Sure, my blame is only partial, but I was there, at the beginning.

The candidates for Thursday’s (26th November) by-election :-

UKIP – Nicholas Cooper
Liberal Democrats – Daniel Irlam
Conservative – Michael Lucas-Gill
Labour – Matthew Softly

The following table shows the vote share percentages for the four parties standing in Rochford, in local elections in this ward since 2002.

  UKIP Lib Dem Con Lab
2002     48.9 51.1
2003   7.7 38.6 35.0
2004     60.5 39.5
2006     52.9 47.1
2007     68.7 31.3
2008     48.6 20.3
2010     55.7 25.6
2011     59.6 43.7
2012     51.6 48.4
2014 26.2   31.4 34.5
2015 30.6   40.2 29.2

UKIP are johnny-come-latelys here, and the Liberal Democrats rarely trouble themselves to stand in this neck of the wood. It has been a two-horse race for many years, even when other candidates have stood. It is either the Conservatives or Labour who triumph here, and I would be surprised if anything other than this was the case this time around.

It will come down to turnout, I expect. In some quarters this will be seen as another test for the new Labour leader, although I have to wonder why some think that. UKIP’s presence introduces a test for their credibility after a poor General Election and a lot of in-fighting in Essex. The Conservatives will consider themselves favourites, if only because they are the most recent winners and their candidate is the widower of the recently deceased councillor who, tragically, is the cause of this by-election.

However, I am calling a narrow Labour win here, a gain that will double Labour’s presence in Rochford District.

Tory activist complains because Southend is no longer run by the Tories

Estimable blogger Matt Dent describes Cllr Jonathan Garston as a lonely figure in Milton ward. It is not a description I entirely agree with as Jonathan managed to find an impressive number of Tories in May to give him another four years. Of course, special thanks was doubtless also given to Vida Mansfield, whose idea of progressive politics must include hobbling Labour’s chances of defeating the Tories in this marginal ward.

Garsty includes at least one Milton resident as his friend. Gavin Chambers (Cllr Chambers to give him his formal title) is a man aghast at the temerity of the homeless to be homeless. So appalled is this Milton resident that he is tempted by the delights of Leigh.

Hang on though, is he a Milton resident? He shows Loughton as his address on the Epping Forest District Council website. Mind you, perhaps he is as confused about his home address as he is about his politics. After all, this one time Liberal Democrat went Indie before seeking comfort in the bosom of the Conservative Party.

Of course, Cllr Chambers might consider looking into the policies of a Government that has seen homelessness increase under its watch.

On Customs leaving Southend

My last schoolboy summer holiday saw a ladybird infestation, and my tackling Stranger In A Strange Land with amateur cricket as a backdrop at the Chalkwell Park I often visited. As summer gave way to autumn, my childhood ended as my career began.

I began my full-time working life in November 1976 at HM Customs and Excise. In one of those little ironies I started at Metropolitan House in Victoria Avenue (now called Victoria House), just a few floors above where I had been signing on during that summer.

In those days HM Customs and Excise employed something like 5000 people in Southend-on-Sea. Not only did they have a significant presence in Metropolitan House, but they could also claim offices in the following locations:

Alexander House, Portcullis House, Baryta House, Coleman House (subsequently C.E. Heath House), Carby House, the Prudential building, Maitland House, and an significant IT operations in Shoeburyness.

I may have missed an office or two out; this is just my memory after all. Added to this, Cupids Country Club was a Civil Service Sports ground.

It was the Thatcher government that saw the beginning of the decline. The job that Maggie’s minions started looks to be completed within the next five years, if reports are to be believed.

Of course times change, and progress marches on. But my generation had a substantial employer in the borough, offering a career and good money. In those days we also had Access/Mastercard, a large Inland Revenue presence, significant insurance companies (including C.E. Heath, or CUACO), and manufacturers like Amstrad, Hi-Tech, Lesney – all in addition to HM Customs and Excise.

Victoria Avenue was a buzzing, thriving office environment in those long ago days. Whether it will ever be thus again is debatable, even unlikely. Time marches on, but progress is not always welcome. When HM Revenue and Customs, as HMC&E is now known, finally bids adieu to Southend I think we will have lost something of value.

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.

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