In this post, I return to the local elections taking place in my own ward of St. Lukes, Southend. In my earlier post on the subject, I considered each of the candidates standing, recognizing I needed to know a lot more before coming to a more definitive view. A lot has happened in the short time that has elapsed, including having spoken to some of the candidates, reviewing their literature, and just simply observing what is going on. While not coming yet to a view regarding my own voting intentions, I am closer to reaching one, which I expect to do before the big day. Given local elections will be taking place at that same time as national elections, this does have a bearing, as much because most people (unlike me, sadly) will vote for the same party, locally and nationally (which doesn’t help the Independents, who only feature locally), as well as the turn out expected to be a lot higher than when only local elections take place.
Four years ago, St. Lukes ward, Southend, elected its first Independent councilor, Paul Van Looy. Two more Independents followed: Brian Ayling and Caroline Endersby, meaning it now has a full complement of (only) Independent (of the Alliance variety) councilors. Not often realized was the person Paul unseated was Anna Waite (Conservative) who in my opinion was a formidable councilor and one that worked hard for the ward. Another candidate standing in that election was Anne Jones (Labour). Anne later went on to become a councilor for the Kursaal ward and, in the opinion of many, including me, is a good and effective one. Neither Labour nor Conservative have had a look in since, but it could change this time.
While me and Paul don’t always see eye to eye, I like him as a person and he makes me laugh. He is popular in some quarters, especially around Cluny Square, where he seems to have set up base. Without wanting to be disrespectful, I see him as a cross between Del Boy (from Only Fools and Horses) and the Godfather and he seems to relish being a ward councilor. None of these are good reasons for voting for him of course, but given him having done good things for the ward those reasons do exist. As chair of Cluny Residents Association, I know Paul has worked well with us on a number of issues to do with the ward. I also credit him with delivering whenever he has said that he will do something. How tirelessly he has addressed individual concerns is for others to judge and I hear different stories. My main gripe is that I still don’t know where he stands politically and his voice in Council, especially in the committees he doesn’t attend, seems largely silent. The other gripe is his weak leaflet. His attack on his rivals fell well short of the true, necessary and kind criteria by which I judge these things. Even though I expect the Independents to lose ground generally, I would still expect Paul to pip it, helped by what could turn out to be a three way split among his main rivals, which I will come to shortly.
Regarding the three “no hopers”, my view remains. I have seen nothing of Nora Goodman (Lib Dem) nor read any of her literature, suspecting such does not exist. Given she is a paper candidate meant to appeal to stalwart Lib Dem voters, of which there are not many in the ward, and I am definitely not one, I do not expect her to get many votes and I most certainly won’t be voting for her. However, her record of public service speaks for itself and for this she deserves to be honoured. I suspect if one were to quiz Stephen Jordan, the term “paper candidate” will also apply and his appeal will be mainly to Green supporters. But I have met with Stephen since I last wrote and agree with those who told me beforehand he was a nice chap with good ideas who would likely serve well if he were to be elected. As for ABC (Independent), he remains a bit of a mystery. Besides offering some wacky ideas instead of addressing those issues I feel many care about, he appears to be offering himself up as a candidate that people who wanted to see Paul Van Looy ousted can tactically vote for, which seemed to me to be a rather sad reason for voting.
Regarding the front runners I identified earlier, besides Paul who I still see as the favourite, all three have their strengths and weaknesses, but with none of them I would feel bad if they were to win. The recent Conservative replacement, Val Jarvis, was the agent to Sally Carr, who lost her seat last year. Her knowledge of the ward gained then and her trying to find out about the ward now, partly makes up for her late arrival on the scene. Her leaflet was moderately good and showed ideas of what the ward needed and what she would do if elected. While not going far enough, she was prepared to challenge the Independents on their record serving the ward and contribution to the Council. I got the impression that she would give being a councilor her best shot but somehow I sense the Conservatives in Southend, at least locally, are destined for more time in the wilderness, which I don’t see as such a bad thing.
Regarding Roger Weaver (UKIP), he is like marmite – you love it or hate it. At least, that is the impression I get talking to people who know Roger and the local political scene. I don’t like marmite but do like Roger and remember with gratitude the lead and support he gave to people with mental health issues and to me personally, when he was mayor. While some will question his motives for standing, I would like to think the caring message which led him to support the SDP and later the Conservatives remains important to him. He has a great deal of experience and it would be a shame if this was lost. His ideas around bringing inward investment into the town merit consideration. Given his political stature and the rise in UKIP, Roger cannot be discounted as a serious candidate, but whether he will be deemed right for St. Lukes remains an open question.
This brings me to Jes Phillips (Labour). While I am still drawn to Jes, not least by her community spirit and involvement, and linking this to making a difference in Council if she were to be elected, I did not find her leaflet that impressive. It was nice but didn’t include much about her own ideas, and I found this irksome. Unlike Gray, the Labour candidate who stood last year, she does not seem to have put herself about much in the ward. Yet given the rising tide for Labour in Southend, it would not surprise me if she regains a seat in what was not that long ago a Labour stronghold. If she were to turn out like Anne Jones, who has made her mark as a councilor, I would welcome Jes as my next ward councilor. For now, I am undecided.