I want a squirrel

At last night’s Milton hustings a resident interrupted Tammy Cooper (Independent) as she was saying how she would work for all residents; “yes, but what do you actually stand for? We want to see some leadership from those who represent us”.

That, folks, is as good a riposte to those who seek to be all things to all men as you will likely hear.

I am not picking on Ms Cooper, she was merely the one who attracted the resident’s comment – many who put themselves up see their roles as merely to mirror whoever they last spoke to.

I am grateful for the increased Green presence in the borough in one aspect. They are clearly a team, and are sticking to their script. For them, being in a party is important, and in that I can wholly concur. Where the Greens fall down is that their cheerleader-in-chief thinks it is part of his job description to take over a residents’ meeting.

Simon Cross appears in constant need of a soapbox; I pity the poor resident for whom he inflicted earache last night, said resident having the misfortune to have sat directly in front of Mr Cross. Simon claims he was presented to support his candidate. Fine, but that does not mean he must hijack the meeting.

As it was, Vida Mansfield acquit herself very well; she was not in need of a Sir Galahad. Her problem is that her party is attacking and attempting to attract Labour support. In Milton this will make the Tories’ job easier. What gain is that for centre-left and environmentally aware politics?

Gray Sergeant gave an assured and mature performance, and was prepared to be realistic about some of the tough choices that face councillors in the current economic climate.

Bob Howes, who arguably had the trickiest job of the lot as the Liberal Democrat representative, did at least make me laugh when he declared that the current Government is the best we have had since the war (1945). The trouble is that he was not joking.

Jonathan Garston was Jonathan Garston; as usual seemingly oblivious to the damage his party have done to Milton ward. He should be replaced by the clear winner in yesterday’s event in St Mark’s church hall, and that winner was Gray Sergeant. I hope Milton will give Labour its Milton hat-trick on May 7th.

On Wednesday evening I went to an altogether different hustings in Westborough. This was slightly better attended than its Milton counterpart (about fifty present). I do wonder why, for the second year running, it clashed with Chalkwell’s event.

Charles Willis won by a country mile, a result I expect to see mirrored at the ballot box. He will be a welcome addition to the council chamber.

The questioning began with a question on TTIP and ended with asking the candidates how they find out what was going on in the ward. In between were some searching inquiries, and to be frank some candidates come up short.

Unlike in Milton, there was no audience participation. This did not stop Simon Cross wildly applauding whatever Paul Mansfield said, even when he said he knew next to nothing about a particular subject!

David Webb persisted in describing the local council administration as an Independent one. Afterwards I asked him directly who ran the council, and he had to answer me honestly (it is the Independent Group, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Joint Administration); I then said that he had effectively lied several times to the audience. He mumbled something about it being how you chose to describe them – no, the description is taken from our agreement, of which I was one of the signatories.

Both hustings showed that there is some appetite for politics, and that people do care about what is going on in their area. Oh, how I wish for such an event in Blenheim Park.

Spot The Difference



westboroughGreenI am standing in because <XXXX INSERT WARD NAME HERE> because <XXXX INSERT GREEN PARTY WAFFLE HERE>

Are the Green Party cloning their candidates nowadays?

Identikit personal statements – as much nonsense as the rest of their leaflets.

The photographer’s finger

Me - Polly - finger

Me – Polly – finger

I am an all-weather activist, although rain usually finds me skulking about indoors. This weekend’s sunshine has been welcome though, I think sunny weather makes for sunnier conversations.

My day, yesterday, was split between South Ockendon and Westcliff-on-Sea. Both canvassing sessions were positive.

It is undoubtedly a gross generalisation, but whenever UKIP come up in conversation (a regular, but not dominant theme over a few hours) then it is clear that they rarely illicit indifference. There are those who are going to vote for them (and it is surprising how often their fans are our more senior citizens), outnumbered by those who, whilst not necessarily Labour, are determined to vote for anything but UKIP.

Bearing in mind the relatively small snapshot I am able to witness, it is also true that Liberal Democrats are thin on the ground (there may be reluctance to confess support for them), and the Conservatives are not found in large numbers either. Of course, where I am working does skew the results, and explains the regular blanks as regards to numbers of Green Party supporters unearthed.

What is important to stress to voters is that on May 7th every one of us will be choosing the Government for the next five years. Ballot papers will contain other parties, but ultimately it boils down to maintaining the current administration, or electing the alternative – it will either be Conservative or Labour that takes this country through to 2020.

To those who do not want to see David Cameron remain as Prime Minister have to be reminded that it is only Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that can stop him. Every cross marked for anything but Labour makes Cameron’s task of hanging that bit easier.

In Thurrock I feel that it is a three-horse race. It should be a shoe-in for Polly Billington, clearly the front-runner in terms of ability. The Conservative MP is not popular, but her task is being aided by those who are usually Labour but who are feeling inclined to protest by voting UKIP. Aside from the fact that UKIP is a more right-wing version of Conservatism, a UKIP vote from someone who will only benefit from a Labour Government is going to help the Conservative Party hang on to power.

Protest may seem an attractive proposition, until you realise that you are left with the outcome until 2020.


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.

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.

Two selections

Two more ward Labour parties have selected their candidates for this May’s elections; Gray Sergeant will be contesting Milton and Charles Willis will be contesting Westborough. Both are experienced campaigners who will make fine additions to the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council chamber.

Martin: will he, won’t he?

As I write this Cllr Martin Terry has yet to resign from his Westborough seat. Martin, it will be remembered, has declared that he intends to stand in Thorpe this year – in spite of having a year left on his tenure in Westborough.

This highlights an anachronism – a sitting councillor can contest elections. Only on victory will he or she be forced to resign from their previous seat. Cllr Terry could hedge his bets – remaining a Westborough councillor whilst contesting Thorpe allows him to continue in post. It also ensures that he remains a councillor should he lose the Thorpe contest. Resignation will mean he ceases to be a councillor, albeit only until May 22nd (if successful in Thorpe).

I think it inconceivable that Martin Terry will not win in Thorpe. Whatever his personal attributes, his victory is almost guaranteed owing to the opprobrium Cllr Alex Kaye attracted when switching sides last year.

So, we are left with the following possibilities.

1, Martin remains a Westborough councillor whilst contesting Thorpe. This would mean that the first full council, when the Leader and post holders are appointed, will be a fifty-member council. This could be crucial if the votes are close. The mayor has a casting vote, and the mayor for the next civic year will be Eastwood Park Conservative Chris Walker.

This scenario also subjects council tax payers to the expense of an extra, probably June, by-election.

You could even envisage the Tories holding on in a drawn chamber, only to become a minority administration after the by-election.

2, Martin resigns, but too late for a by-election to be called. See above for what this means.

3, Martin resigns in a timely manner, allowing for the by-election to be called. This saves money, allows for Westborough to have three councillors in the chamber for the first full council of the civic year, and means one more non-Tory come those crucial votes.

I expect Martin will resign, but leaving it to the last possible moment could be a case of foot-shooting if two electors are not given enough time to call that by-election. Oh, what an irony if Martin is the cause of his group failing to seize power!

An awesome octet

008This marvellous eight are some of the Southend Labour team for next month’s elections.

From left to right
David Carrington (Prittlewell), Mike Royston (Westborough), Gray Sergeant (St Luke’s), Reg Copley (St Laurence), Margaret Borton (Victoria), Jess Phillips (Eastwood Park), Kevin Robinson (Westborough), Ian Pope (Thorpe)

Good luck to them, and to all eighteen in the team this year.

Confused Tories #3

In today’s (February 25th) letters page of the Southend Echo is a missive from David Burzotta, (Conservative) Candidate Westborough ward. He criticises Cllr Martin Terry for his decision to stand down this year in Westborough in order to stand in Thorpe ward.

I, too, find fault in Martin’s decision.

However. Mr Burzotta asks: “Why is he creating extra cost for the taxpayer …”

I am intrigued. Perhaps the Southend Echo could inquire of Mr Burzotta how and what this extra cost will be? Aside from a few extra sheets of paper required for nominations, the by-election runs alongside the other May local elections, and therefore there is no real extra cost at all.

I would suggest that Cllr Kaye incurred more cost by switching sides mid-term – which necessitated not just extra paperwork but also councillor and officer time.

Mike’s no 29 bus campaign

Mike Royston (on the right) with residents

Mike Royston (on the right) with residents

The number 29 is the only bus service that runs along Fairfax Drive, yet it stops running by about 7pm, which makes it impossible for Westborough residents (and other local bus users) to go to Southend and back after this time in the evening.

Mike Royston (Labour’s candidate in Westborough) feels this is totally unacceptable. He has a petition calling for the Council to work with Arriva to find a way to extend this bus service later into the evening. The petition can be signed online here.