In Blenheim Park, and about Blenheim Park

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

Campaigning is a year-round activity in Southend-on-Sea for the local Labour Party, and whilst the weather remains reasonably good we have had teams out and about in a number of wards. This weekend I opted to join the crew in Blenheim Park ward where Matt Dent is making his presence felt.

This ward is currently represented by three different parties, and Matt aims, in May, to keep that up by replacing the Liberal Democrat councillor with a Labour voice. Judging by the positive reactions I have witnessed it is a real possibility.

Earlier this week I attended the Southend Ethnic Minority Forum annual general meeting which featured an interesting talk on Southend Airport given by Hannah Lo Bao, Head of Customer Services. The airport is a wonderful facility, I have used it twice, and am not surprised it wins awards. It does attract some criticism, especially from those within its flight path. Those in Blenheim Park ward, though, were largely concerned about early morning and late night flights, and accepted that in the main it is an asset to the town.

What is going on in the park that gives the ward its name? It appears that drainage work has created new water features – and there are concerns over just how safe these are.

Blenheim Park Voice summer 2015


Carrying on conversing

Such delighful company, young and eager Matt and Gray in Blenheim Park ward yesterday

Such delighful company, young and eager Matt and Gray in Blenheim Park ward yesterday

“So” says I to a resident, “why did Labour lose the election?” “I have no idea” responds the resident, “I have always voted Labour”. As the conversation developed it became clear that this particular voter could not understand why anyone would not want to vote Labour. It is not always like that. Whilst the prevailing opinion appears to be that either an unlikeable leader or poor economic performance when last in led to our downfall, there are those who venture alternate views.

One person was convinced that Tony Blair’s involvement, albeit limited, caused our failure. Some thought we were too left wing, others say we are not left enough. A number of voices did not want the SNP and believed, despite the denials, that a Labour Government would end up in coalition with Nicola Sturgeon’s party. Welfare is mentioned, and immigration in some quarters is seen as primary; the forthcoming EU referendum is also mentioned.

Is there anything more frustrating than being told that they wanted a Labour Government, and then following it up with either “but I didn’t vote” or “I voted for XXXXXX instead”. How anyone expects a Labour Government to materialise unless they vote for it baffles me.

And one must not forget the abstainers. These, despite an increase in turnout, still amounts to one in three voters. The “they are all the same” argument is widespread, as is the view that all politicians are liars/cheats/in it for themselves (delete as applicable). However, you do get the occasional “oh I forgot” and “I was too busy”. And you would be surprised at the number of those who admit that they just do not understand politics or what the parties stood for.

In amongst conversations about Labour’s woes I did have several people tell me about crime and anti-social behaviour issues. I do not believe that the prospect of more policing cuts is going to be welcomed everywhere. For some reason crime has come up quite a few times recently, in one guise or another. I am not suggesting that general fearfulness has risen, but whilst I promise to speak with the local policing teams about whatever is troubling said resident, I am mindful that increasingly scarce police resources are bound to mean a devaluing of the response.

Oh, and whilst my re-election campaign swings into action (yes, I could be an ex-councillor in eleven months time) I am also helping out elsewhere when I can – this weekend in Blenheim Park ward. Now, if it would stop raining I might get more done …..

A sunny afternoon in Blenheim Park

Chris, Kevin, Matt, Ashleigh - out delivering the Labour message

Chris, Kevin, Matt, Ashleigh – out delivering the Labour message

A beautiful warm and sunny afternoon in Westcliff-on-Sea, and what better way to spend it than in the charming company of four Labour friends.

Our pledges, Labour’s pledges:

Balance the books and cut the deficit every year while securing the future of the NHS. None of our manifesto commitments require additional borrowing.
Freeze energy bills until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter, ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8 and provide 25 hours free childcare a week.
20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs. We will join up services from home to hospital, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
People who come here won’t be able to claim benefits for at least two years and we will introduce fair rules making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.
Tuition fees reduced to £6,000, an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and smaller class sizes for 5, 6 & 7 year-olds.
Biggest house building programme for a generation with priority for first-time buyers and their stamp duty cut to zero. Secure three-year rents capped by inflation.

Labour candidate Julian Ware-Lane promises to fight for better roads in South Essex if elected

The Labour Party candidates in the west of Southend, both local and national, have called for greater investment in the roads to and within the town.

Matt Dent, candidate for Blenheim Park ward, said, “As part of my campaign, I’ve been speaking to people across the borough, and time and again the subject of the roads has been raised. Transport infrastructure across south east Essex is strained to breaking point, and for those who need to travel to work it has become an almost daily headache. The A127, in particular, as the pulmonary artery of south Essex, needs investment to ensure that it is fit for purpose, for those commuters who rely upon it.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Southend West, a commuter who uses the A127, A130 and A12, wants to see a much better transport network.

Julian says: “I have been a commuter since 1989, when I left the my post in HM Customs and Excise to seek adventure far and wide. Unfortunately, such adventure as there was to be had was often delayed by traffic jams.

Julian added: “If I am elected as MP for Southend West one thing that I am keen to address is the road infrastructure locally. I want to see significant improvements. I believe there is a strong argument for a motorway traversing the south of Essex, one that would link the M25 with the east of the borough. I accept that this is easier to say than do, and there will be many arguments over route, and whether it should be an entirely new road or a major overhaul of existing routes.

This debate has been carrying on since at least the 1970s,when a motorway was suggested to link the proposed Maplin Airport with London. It really does appear that whilst jams have multiplied there has been little will amongst the local MPs to really get their teeth into this issue.

Julian Ware-Lane is also an advocate for public transport and will explore the possibility of a park-and-ride scheme for Southend. He also thinks that recent rail fare increases have been excessive.

The road infrastructure in South Essex has seen piecemeal improvements in recent decades that have barely kept up with increasing traffic volumes. Traffic jams are a regular feature, and it does not take much to create gridlock. There are two main arteries into Southend, as well as the road north from Rochford. The A13 and A127 cope manfully with their workload, although it does goes disastrously wrong from time to time.

Blenheim Park ward Labour Voice Election Special


The excitement builds in Blenheim Park ward …

… as voters realise that in just under eleven weeks they will be able to vote for Matt Dent to be their new councillor.018

It is a simple choice in Blenheim Park – either the failed Tory policies as represented by Cllr James Courtenay, or changing Southend for the better with Matt Dent.


If Matt Dent was to do a Monnery, and reduce the Labour vote to a third of what it was in Blenheim Park last year, then Neil may be right, he might be talking absolute bollocks. You see, magnificent Monnery as he is known in Westborough ward obviously followed his own advice in 2012, because his derisory vote must have been the result of doing nothing until the very last moment.

Neil’s yellow-tinted take on things really is blind to the reality in Southend-on-Sea of a Liberal Democrat party very much in retreat. Whilst a turnaround is possible at some point, it is very unlikely that a late Lib Dem surge will be seen on May 7th.

One of the by-products of being a regular pavement pounder is that you get a sense of what is going on. I admit we are not everywhere all of the time, and our political noses are not perfect. But you get a sense.

We know that Labour has been working all year. We know that UKIP started last summer, and stuttered very quickly. We know the Greens are out leafleting. We know the Tories are getting into gear. We also know that the Lib Dems have done nothing.

Please correct me, Neil, if I am wrong. Send me the leaflets your party has been putting out. Show me the press articles, give me a flavour of what you are doing on the ground.

The reality is that in terms of actually doing any work with residents it is a two-horse race. The Tories are well organised, and I hope we go some way in matching them.

I am humble enough to admit I am wrong when I am wrong. Show me some evidence, Neil, show me that Matt Dent is writing absolute bollocks.

Blenheim Park Voice winter 2015


Solid Gold Blenheim Park Action

006I was out again this morning, delivering leaflets. This time it was in Blenheim Park ward, and our team included Matt Dent. Whilst it was certainly fresh, it was dry and the sun was out.

If I make a list of wards where we have been delivering recently I get to a healthy seven: Belfairs, Blenheim Park, Milton, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, St. Luke’s, Westborough. Since I know that there is further campaigning going on this week I know this list will grow. You could get the impression that it is only Labour that is taking the impending elections seriously in Southend-on-Sea. I accept that my information will not perfect, but I believe that the Conservatives have done a bit in Blenheim Park and Milton, and UKIP have been out in Prittlewell and Milton. I have seen no evidence of recent activity from either the Liberal Democrats or the Independent Group.

Milton is shaping up to be a real bun fight in May. We are hopeful of completing a Labour hat-trick, but the Tories will be desperate to retain the seat and UKIP (and possibly an independent) will certainly make the contest a close call. I do not expect much of a Lib Dem presence.

Blenheim Park has a history of marginality, and I sense that despite a low profile here UKIP will be hoping to double their presence in the ward. This is being defended by Conservative Cllr James Courtenay, who cannot be sitting comfortably. It could go any one of four ways, and I know that the Labour candidate, the aforementioned Matt Dent, is determined to make a big impact.

Prittlewell ward is another where the result could go any number of ways. Cllr Ric Morgan was elected as a Liberal Democrat in 2011, and if he defends his seat he will do so as a member of the Independent Group.

It was mentioned to me the story of canvassing a while back when a colleague was discussing the local elections with a Milton resident who said that they had always been Labour until they had had a conversation with me. I recall this because it does illustrate that you cannot please everyone. Politicians inevitably fail their residents at some point; this is not to say that you should not try to accommodate all views – and seek compromise. What has frustrated me over the years is that whilst I try to be honest, I am aware that there are those who will say whatever they think the resident wants to hear. I mention this because as the elections draw ever nearer we will seeing a lot of politicians engaging in doorstep conversations, some of which will be designed to seduce a promise to vote for them. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this per se, I do have concerns about what is being said. This is one of the reasons I commit my thoughts to this blog – no-one can accuse me of saying one thing and doing another.

Blenheim Park’s Labour Candidate is also an assiduous blogger, and Blenheim Park voters will have at least on candidate whose views will not change from door-to-door.