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.

Castle Point local election Labour candidates

Joe Cooke

Joe Cooke

Some very familiar names here, some old friends too. Here are the Labour candidates for the Borough elections to be held in Castle Point on May 7th.

The Labour record in Castle Point has been very up-and-down in recent years. From 1997 to 2001 we had the MP, and the nineties also saw a Labour administration in the council chamber.

Since we have struggled somewhat, but I am confident that this Joe Cooke led team will begin the fight back this year.

Appleton Roy English
Boyce Tony Wright
Canvey Island Central Sonia Mutch
Canvey Island East Jackie Reilly
Canvey Island North Matt Reilly
Canvey Island South John Payne
Canvey Island West Bill Deal
Canvey Island Wintergardens Maggie Curtis
Cedar Hall Bernie Thorne
St George’s Joe Cooke
St James’ Dina Mehdi
St Mary’s Brian Wilson
St Peter’s Bill Emberson
Victoria Fred West

Nail that lie

Here follows an article from friend, comrade, and Parliamentary Candidate for Castle Point, Joe Cooke. It is in response to something that appeared in the Southend Echo.

Robert Baillie (Letters 29 October) does himself no justice by peddling the Tory/LibDem lie that the last Labour government ruined the UK economy. Labour supporters want this nailed once and for all.

In 1997, Labour inherited a debt of 41.9% of GDP and a huge debt in kind with the Tories having run down our schools and hospitals and the numbers and pay of public employees. By 2008, Labour had reduced UK debt to 36.6% while rebuilding our essential services.

The global financial crisis started in America and rippled round the World. The idea that it was a crisis with its origins in Britain is just not true and if the Labour Government had not acted with our partners in Governments around the world to make sure the banks didn’t implode, we would have had a depression rather than this long period of squeezed living standards.

The Tories want to claim that this all happened because of Labour’s spending on more nurses, doctors and police officers, hospitals and schools but that is nonsense. The financial crisis happened in countries with low levels of public spending as well as high. It wasn’t public spending that caused the crisis, it was failure in banks themselves and their regulation.

When the crisis hit, Labour’s action in reducing UK debt to lower than America, France, Germany and Japan enabled us to respond successfully and by 2010, we were back in growth, having prevented mass unemployment. We were not without fault as it happened on our watch but the Bank of England, the FSA and the Treasury all missed the signs. We should have been tougher on Regulation but the Tories and the City were urging us to be softer.

The Coalition has delayed our recovery, giving tax cuts to Hedge Funders while hurting those in need and UK debt has climbed towards 80% of GDP.

Labour’s plans for proper jobs, tough financial regulation, One Nation Working Together, is the vision I hope will earn the trust of the voters we serve.

Joe Cooke writes on the subject of the disastrous surface water flooding on Canvey Island

Here follows a letter by my successor Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Castle Point, Joe Cooke. It is on the subject of the disastrous surface water flooding on Canvey Island.

The public in the packed gallery for the 26th Aug. special scrutiny meeting about the recent flooding on Canvey and parts of the mainland were in an angry and distressed mood as they listened to Officers and Councillors.

They heard that the preventative work was split between multiple agencies and in many cases, was inadequate or simply not done.

The Chief Executive David Marchant stated that Castle Point had no-one employed to check whether the various agencies were doing what they should.

Armed with advice from the Shadow Communities Minister, I wrote to Mr Marchant eight days earlier with a list of five questions, some of which have now been answered by the Head of Environment. Trudy Bragg says that following the Pitt Review in 2007, the subsequent Flood and Water Management Act of 2010 created the role of Lead Local Flood Authorities. In Essex, this is the County Council and our local enforcement powers for dealing with obstructed water courses have been transferred to them. They are also the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) Approval Body, meant to ensure responsible planning approvals. County has the co-ordinating role and arranges meetings of the Essex Flood Partnership which includes all the flood risk management agencies in Essex, to “ensure a joined up approach”.

The overwhelming impression in the public gallery was that there was much buck passing, talk and meetings but not enough decisive action. I asked why Castle Point applied the punitive empty properties Council Tax to residents in disaster distress when this was originally designed to free up vacant properties. It seems that current policy is that this should be covered by insurance but I hope they can be persuaded to have a rethink.

Given the County Council’s record of “First do most harm” as with the Deanes School issue, street lighting, potholes, youth services cuts and elderly care etc, we will need to hold them to account in South Essex more than we did after the previous floods!

Joe Cooke

Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – Castle Point
141 Moreland Avenue
Thundersley, Benfleet, Essex SS7 4JJ U.K.
Home: +44 (0)1268 757816
Mob: +44 (0)7778 220002
E-mail joepcooke@mac.com

Crosshairs over Hadleigh

Castle Point, so it would appear, is now a UKIP target seat for next year’s General Election. Should this worry their Conservative MP, Rebecca Harris? I think it ought to concern her.

In 1997, the year of the Blair landslide, this seat was won for Labour by Christine Butler by a 1,143 majority. Four years later it was won back by the Conservatives with a 985 majority. Its short lived status as a marginal ended in 2005 when Bob Spink retained his seated with a vastly improved majority (8,201).

I was selected as Labour’s candidate in July 2007. Within a year the seat ceased to be a Conservative one – not through a by-election, but through Bob Spink’s falling out with his party. He opted to go independent. For a while he appeared to be UKIP’s debut Parliamentarian, although it was never entirely clear whether he was ever actually a UKIP member, despite clearly sharing many of their values.

Come the 2010 General Election and Rebecca Harris secured a comfortable win in the end, besting Bob Spink (who, without apparent irony, was standing under the banner of ‘Independent Save Our Green Belt’) by 7,632 votes.

So, factor in the turncoat antics of Dave Blackwell, whose Canvey Island Independent Party have morphed from a being broadly made-up of former Labour activists into now supporting a party to the right of the Conservatives, and the future looks true blue for this seat.

Yet, UKIP have become interested, and the European election votes in this constituency (borough) reveals why:

UKIP 11391 47.75%
Conservative 6159 25.82%
Labour 2994 12.55%
Green 1151 4.83%
An Independence from Europe 743 3.11%
Liberal Democrats 439 1.84%
English Democrats 413 1.73%
British National Party 346 1.45%
Christian Peoples Alliance 156 0.65%
NO2EU 61 0.26%

If you add the votes of the breakaway from UKIP (An Independence from Europe) to UKIP’s total you will see that the anti-EU party has over half the votes. The caveat is turnout, but you can see why UKIP HQ suddenly becomes very interested in this constituency.

The only surprise for me is that UKIP do not target all of the seats adjacent to the Thames in Essex, as they seemed to have done pretty well in all of them.

In Rochford and Southend East, for instance, the Conservatives did not win in any of the ten wards (eight in Southend-on-Sea, two in Rochford) in this year’s local elections. James Duddridge MP has a problem, something that Labour will be working hard to exploit. Ian Gilbert is the Labour candidate (see his website here).

So, my fingers will be crossed for Joe Cooke, who I hope can benefit from a split in the right-wing vote.

Castle Point Labour’s Local Election Manifesto

Joe Cooke

Joe Cooke

Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly

From Joe Cooke:

ONLY LABOUR CAN PROTECT OUR GREENBELT

Protecting our Greenbelt through an imaginative, long term and sustainable Local Plan, as we did in 1997.

Reversing damaging Car Park charges to support local shops and businesses.

Ending the dangerous Tory County Blackout policy.

Delivering with Less through Strategic Alliances and supporting Economic Growth

Providing secure rented housing for our local needs.

Assisting residents affected by Tory cuts, the Bedroom Tax and 30% min Council Tax.

Labour will fight for a Living Wage and National policies to tackle the cost of living and fairness in reducing the deficit.

The Tories at Castle Point provide no publicity on the inadequate hardship fund, leaving many suffering residents to fall through the safety net. They have replaced secure tenancies with 5 year fixed terms for non-pensioners, introducing more insecurity. Labour will tackle insecurity in the Workplace and homes and strengthen our Communities, regenerating and repairing our localities. We will support the Environment and assist locally in tackling Climate Change.

CASTLE POINT NEEDS THE RETURN OF A STRONG LABOUR VOICE ON OUR LOCAL COUNCIL

(Brian Wilson in St. Mary’s ward is fighting to retain the valuable Greenbelt at Jotman’s Farm and Joe Cooke in St. George’s is fighting the Tory betrayal undermining the Glebelands Greenbelt victory. Matt Reilly (Lab North Ward C. Island) is leading the Labour fight on the Island.)

Labour and Co-operative Party candidates in Castle Point #1

Here is a press release on the Castle Point candidates in next month’s Essex County Council elections:

Membership of the Co-operative Party is open to Labour Party members and those who do not belong to another political party. All our Labour Party candidates this year are also Co-operative Party members and proud to stand under the joint banner.

Below is an extract from the Co-operative Party National web site – http://www.party.coop

The Co-operative Party is the political arm of the co-operative movement. We have more than 9,000 members.

Our party was established in 1917 and has been a sister party of the Labour Party since 1927.

We believe that people achieve more by working together than they can by working alone. We support the efforts of those who seek success through that co-operative endeavour.

We believe that the only way to create a just and fair society is through power being spread evenly throughout society, and not arbitrarily based on wealth, class, gender or race.

We work to promote co-operatives and all forms of mutual organisation.

We work in partnership with the Labour Party as its sister party to achieve these ends. That means we stand candidates jointly with the Labour Party at all levels of government. There are currently 32 Labour and Co-operative MPs in the House of Commons, 17 Members of the House of Lords, 5 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 9 Members of the Welsh Assembly and hundreds of councillors around the country.

For more information on Castle Point Labour Party and the candidates, use this link – http://www.castlepointlabour.org

Select County Elections and click on each candidate name for more information.

For the National Labour Party, the link is – http://www.labour.org.uk/home

Joe Cooke
Press Officer – Castle Point Constituency Labour Party
Secretary – Castle Point Co-operative Party

The new and unlikely to be implemented boundary changes – a Southend perspective

The Boundary Commission have produced the final version of what the constituencies in England will look like if the equalisation bill becomes law. That this is the remotest of possibilities now that Nick Clegg has ordered his party to vote it down does not stop the Commission’s work, although it could reasonably be argued that their continued pursuance of this is a colossal waste of time and money.

Their findings for the East of England can be found at http://assets.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2012_10_11_Constituency_Annex_Eastern_Region.xls?9d7bd4

It is, therefore, somewhat academic to discuss the proposals. However, a boundary review will have to take place at some point, regardless as to whether we reduce the number of MPs; population growth and movement means that changes are necessary. The next election is now likely to be fought on the same boundaries as were is use in 2010, but I expect a 2020 contest to have some significant changes.

I support the concept of equalisation, but I would hope some sense will prevail in what data is to be used. Since MPs represent everyone, not just those who have a vote, it makes sense to include everyone in the calculations when working out a new constituency map. I would go for census data, which is a more accurate picture of the numbers involved. To use the electoral role only is to take no account of children, those not eligible for the vote, and those who fail to register.

Anyway, as for the revised proposals; Tory whingeing has paid off, certainly as far as Southend is concerned anyway.

Castle Point now has Pitsea South East added. My near three-year Parliamentary campaign made me intimate with this constituency and so I think I can state with some authority that Hadleigh has far more connections with Leigh-on-Sea than New Thundersley does with Pitsea. The boundary between Castle Point and Southend often bisects roads, whereas Castle Point’s western boundary is a combination of dual carriageway and fields. The new suggestion will not bother Rebecca Harris (Dave Blackwell has guaranteed comfortable Tory wins here for the foreseeable future), and will relieve David Amess (who was clearly perturbed with the thought of losing two Leigh wards and gaining a couple of Labour held ones.)

Southend West stays as it is with the addition of Victoria ward. Using the numbers from this May’s local elections this gives the following percentages:

34.3% Conservative
21.6% Liberal Democrat
19.7% Labour
24.5% Others

The usual caveats apply as regards to using local election data for Parliamentary elections, but it still allows for some interesting thoughts. However, we can dream on as these proposals, as expensively produced as they are, are destined for the dustbin.

Southend East and Rochford shows the following result using the new boundaries and this year’s elections:

21.6% Conservative
13.3% Labour
2.2% Liberal Democrat
33.7% Others

Again, highly speculative, but I can imagine slightly worrying for James Duddridge.

Noble motives give way to self-interest in south-east Essex

Tories ‘row’ over boundary changes is a headline in my local newspaper. My initial reaction was that the Tories have brought this upon themselves. After all, it is their government who have insisted on reducing the number of MPs and forcing the redrawing most constituency boundaries.

Noble motives have given way to self-interest in south-east Essex. No longer is it solely an issue of creating equal-sized, and fairer, constituencies. This boundary review must not allow a hint of a chance for Labour. Not only do the Tories want to alter boundaries, they want to fix them so that a Labour victory is the remotest of possibilities.

Quite why the Tories are so nervous is bemusing. The government hold all eighteen Essex constituencies at the moment with only Thurrock looking at all marginal. Do they envisage a complete reversal of support after Essex has endured five years of this awful regime? Perhaps.

I am trying to be impartial on the boundary review locally. This is easier when your chances vary between impossible to slim. Labour in Southend is not contesting the Boundary Commissions proposals. We favour a central Southend seat, and although this has not been given to us we do see that what has been proposed makes some sense.

In 1997 Labour won Castle Point. In 2001 it was William Hague’s only gain, and then by less than a thousand votes. 2005 and 2010 saw good majorities for the Tories, as much to do with the duplicitous actions of Dave Blackwell’s lot as the vigour of the Tory campaign and the unpopularity of Labour.

Adding Pitsea to Castle Point may not make sense geographically, but if Labour could reverse recent fortunes on Canvey Island it does make a repeat of 1997 slightly more likely. Not that I expect this in the near future, but I do expect that Castle Point Labour comrades would prefer Pitsea over Leigh.

Southend West would still have to gain a ward, and this would either be Milton or Victoria. This would make the constituency marginally more favourable, although comrades in Rochford and Southend East would have it tougher.

What this does demonstrate is that the re-write of constituency boundaries sounded a great idea to Tories when they thought they saw a glaring injustice in a system that seemed to give an advantage to Labour (although they were surprisingly quiet in previous decades when the reverse was true). Now that they see this rushed idea in action many are getting cold feet. I have no sympathy for what is transparently an attempt to rig the next election.

Castle Point’s empty properties

A couple of months back I reported on the shrinking electorate in the Castle Point constituency and borough. 3127 less voters were registered there in 2011 when compared to 2010.

This raises many questions, not least of which is where did these voters go? I have seen correspondence that suggests that the 2011 canvass was more rigorous and that this year’s figure is all the more accurate.

I have also seen a report (produced by the redoubtable former councillor Brian Wilson) which indicates that the electoral decline means that there are 2441 more homes with no voter therein. Although possible that these homes are peopled by the young and ineligible to vote, I find this highly unlikely for all but a tiny percentage.

The empty homes statistics for 2010 show 906 vacant dwellings in Castle Point.

Followers of the local news in Castle Point for any reasonable period of time will be aware that development, especially on the precious green belt, is a big issue here. I campaigned on this issue myself whilst Parliamentary candidate there, drawing residents’ attention to local authority plans that would have spoilt many fine areas.

This issue is still a hot potato in this corner of Essex, and I think that indications of large numbers of empty homes cast a doubt as to whether more home are needed here. Certainly before destroying any green spaces a full investigation is required.