Trying to judge how the local elections will go in Southend-on-Sea is to employ the tea-leaves, crystal ball, and a lot of guesswork. There are trends that give an indication of how things should go, but throw into the mix the backdrop of a General Election and all sorts of possibilities emerge. National politics is in flux, and change seems to be the order of things by the seaside.
One could speculate that the Independent Group will find this a tough year. Already one down, Cllr Morgan having decided to call it a day in Prittlewell, they are defending in three other seats. The Leader of the Council is amongst those defending, and whilst it would be some coup for the Tories if they could unseat him I doubt this is at all likely – and I suspect the Tories also think this. As for Indie prospects in St Luke’s and Shoeburyness, I think ‘interesting’ is the best description. It will be a test of personality versus the bigger picture.
Independent candidates have popped up in elections over the years, but it has only been in the last decade and a half where they have begun to make an impact.
Independent candidates in Southend-on-Sea:
1999 – 1 (0 elected)
2000 – 0
2001 – 2 (0)
2002 – 9 (0)
2003 – 2 (1)
2004 – 1 (1)
2006 – 8 (1)
2007 – 6 (2)
2008 – 7 (4)
2010 – 12 (1)
2011 – 9 (5)
2012 – 10 (5)
2014 – 9 (4)
The numbers in brackets show their successes, and the last General Election year shows a noticeable dip.
I have not included Mum’s Army (a single candidate in 2006 and 2007), but these numbers do include both the ‘official’ Independent Group candidates (and their one-off incarnation as Alliance Southend), and the truly independent.
Recent trends suggest there will be nine or ten candidates, and whether 2010 is an indicator of how successful they will be remains to be seen.
I have not seen much evidence of campaigning by those calling themselves independent, excepting David Webb in Westborough. To be honest, though, it is only Labour and the Conservatives who have been really active in recent months, reflecting the real choice that lies ahead come May. Given the rejection of the Tories by Southend’s voters in recent year I reckon 2015 could be a good year for roses.