In the first blog posting of this series, I focused on the national picture ahead of the forthcoming General Election and, following that, my reflections having attended a hustings featuring all the parliamentary candidates for my own constituency (Rochford and Southend East – R&SE). Yesterday was the deadline for submitting nominations. Now we know who will be standing. Unsurprisingly, the five who attended that hustings (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Greens and UKIP) are the sum total of all those standing.
But yesterday was also the deadline for submitting nominations for local council elections, where there were surprises, and I wish to turn my attention to my local scene, in particular my own ward – St. Lukes. Recapping from the results of a year ago, the party that gained most was UKIP (5 seats, having had none prior to that). The Independents (of the Alliance variety) performed about as well as expected and Labour made modest gains. The net losers were the Conservatives and Lib Dems. With the caveat that my achievements as a political pundit are modest, I do not expect the Conservatives or Lib Dems to do that much better this time and can see Labour winning seats. I suspect the Independents will just about hold their own despite there being more focus this time on the main parties. Neither the Greens nor UKIP are fielding a full set of candidates, unsurprising given they are the new kids on the block and still building their support base in the town, but I do anticipate both getting a decent share of the vote. I sense that of all the parties Greens have come on the most but whether they can muster enough support to win seats remains to be seen. If it were not for the local civil war that has beset UKIP in the past year, I might expect them to do even better. With two experienced politicians standing, Roger and Verina Weaver, I have no doubt they will give the rest a run for their money. I understand that there are some Independent candidates that would have stood as UKIP but for that fracas.
I turn to the St. Lukes scene. As a neutral and the impartial chair of the local residents association, I am not prepared at this stage to support one over another and genuinely believe the result will be a hard one to call and practically a four horse race. Not that long ago, St. Lukes was a Labour stronghold but then the Conservatives got their foot in the door. Now there are no Labour councilors but they generally poll well and could even nudge it this time. Since that initial gain we have had four Conservative councilors but none currently serving. After Paul Van Looy managed to win for the Independents four years ago, we have had two more independents. Paul is standing again and is the man to beat and is popular among many. Me and Paul don’t always see eye to eye and I think politically he is somewhat lightweight. Contrary to what some think, he has done a number of positive things for residents even if not well publicized and has been supportive of local events and initiatives.
So what about the rest? Let me begin with the no hopers and I mean no disrespect. I note that Nora Goodman is standing for the Lib Dems. She is quite old and I would question if she would be up for the rigorous demands on a councilor. I suspect she is put up as a paper candidate and has no expectation of winning. What should go on record is that she has served the town in the past with distinction and what happens from now on can never take this away. ABC is the true independent and while when he stood last year he came up with some good ideas and intentions, I would be surprised if he will improve much on last year’s performance despite having that as something to build on. I do not know Stephen Jordan, the Green candidate, and I would be surprised if many residents do. Despite Greens being seen these days as serious contenders, I doubt whether he will take much of the vote. Regarding Val Jarvis, the Conservative candidate, reading the list of candidates standing for the first time two hours ago was the first time I was aware of this lady. Her newness to and minimal input thus far into the ward and the dwindling Conservative support generally leads me to believe she will not seriously threaten Paul Van Looy’s aim to be re-elected.
This brings me to two candidates that could be a threat. Firstly, there is Roger Weaver, the UKIP candidate. Roger is one of the few local politicians I put in the serious / heavyweight class and I have no doubt he has the nous and experience to punch above his weight. He is like marmite – either love or hate it. Some are understandably skeptical, believing he has chameleon tendencies, given his political affiliation reads SDP (now Lib Dem), Conservative, Independent, Conservative, UKIP. He has served as deputy leader of the Council and cabinet member and he was mayor when I met him. I will always be indebted to him for the support he gave to the mental health project, Growing Together, I helped to establish. While not endorsing his candidature, I suspect in Roger there is experience that we discard at our cost. At the other end of the experience spectrum is Jes Phillips, the Labour candidate, a young mum thrust into the limelight. In my recent dealings with Jes, I have gone away impressed and feel if she were to be elected she would serve the residents of St. Lukes well and would be a breath of fresh air.
Having got that of my chest, there will be some who will like it and some who won’t. As always, I try to say things as I see them and will endeavour to operate the “True, Necessary and Kind” principle that is often overlooked but I would like to see adopted by those standing for election. Whoever does get elected for St. Lukes, I wish well and will serve the ward with its many needs, and that we will be able to work together to improve the local community and this town.