In my first “Election results” blog, I reflected on the outcome of the national and local elections just fought and said I will next turn to looking at reasons, consequences, concerns, hopes etc. in my next blog, after having reflected further. While eyes will be mainly turned toward the national scene, there is still the important matter of what is happening locally and, before doing what I still intend to do, I would like to reflect on what is happening in Southend, still having in my mind the picture of what happened when the results of each of the seventeen wards were announced yesterday by the returning officer from around midday. The following is from Southend’s council’s own website, which gives details of how all the voting went.
Total Votes: 80,899 Turnout: 62.17%
|The Conservative Party||22||+3|
|The Labour Party||9||No change|
The new make up of the council stands as follows:
|The Conservative Party||22|
|The Labour Party||9|
|UKIP Local Group||3|
Before I turn to each of the seventeen wards and make specific ward related comments, I would first make some general comments. The Conservative net gain of three seats is in marked contrast to the same time last year when they did badly and as a result lost control of the council. How fortunes change so quickly, reminding me of the old wisdom: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all”. As it turned out, the rainbow alliance (Labour, Independent, Lib Dems), with 24 seats, still have 2 more seats than the Conservatives, with their 22 seats. However the three flavours of UKIP (as a result of the local civil war that has taken place in the town, subsequent to the 2014 election, and discussed in my Kipperwatch blogs) hold the balance of power, and it will be interesting to see how that converts to any political power broking agreement.
The gain in votes by the Green party (from very few and only some wards contested to significantly more with all wards contested) is the most significant change comparing this year’s and last year’s election. No doubt the call for electoral reform will gather momentum (something I support) since it is unfair that despite such support the Greens ended up with no representatives. Linked to this is that in many of the seats contested the winner did not receive an outright majority and one is left wondering how many of these results would be different if one of the second, third and fourth placed parties had not entered the contest. This is of course very much a national issue also and may well be a subject for a future blog. Members from all other parties, except for the Conservatives, may have cause to be disappointed, yet they should take heart that in the world of politics things do change, often quickly, and their time may well come if they keep hanging in.
The final point before returning to my reflections on the outcomes in each of the seventeen wards is that my reflections are personal and hit and miss, given I given I know a lot about some wards and some of the candidates and not a lot about other wards and other of the candidates and, besides which, my knowledge of the local political scene is still limited and fragmented. I also offer these thoughts respectfully and do not intend to betray confidences. As I told one councilor, I operate an equal opportunities policy – I try to give all parties an equally hard time but respecting and encouraging the work done by individuals for the community, irrespective of politics.
This is one of the wards where I have not much that is profoundly significant to say as I don’t know the personalities involved. Conservatives winning with a large majority, UKIP polling particularly well, Greens having a small number of votes but still a lot better than in the past, Lib Dems and Labour doing less well than in the past or as had been anticipated, all typifies what was happening across the town in a number of the other wards.
Again a strong UKIP presence which may well have skewed what might have been if they hadn’t stood, yet cannot be dismissed because, to use the old cliché, the voters were sending a strong message. In the light of national trends, I was not surprised that its sitting Conservative councilor, James Courtenay, won comfortably. James is imo one of the most able and brightest of the younger generation we would want to encourage into politics. However, having seen him in operation in Council webcasts, I wished he was less pompous and took up less council time trying to score points and instead focus on attending to the issues. I was disappointed that Matt Dent (Labour) did lose out, given how hard I know he has worked and my belief that he has something positive to contribute to local politics, not least a need for there to be thorough scrutiny.
This is another of the wards I know little about but given it encompasses some of the posher parts of the town it was not surprising the Conservatives did well. I was pleased the Greens had good support and to catch up with their candidate, Peter Walker, someone I have played chess with and who taught my son.
This is another ward where the Conservatives did particularly well and without UKIP to detract.
This is one ward I have a particular interest in, not least because three of the candidates I regarded as not only friends but will each make significant contributions to this needy area if elected. Simon Cross (Green) polled as well as might be expected and has worked hard and shown commitment to helping his community. I disagree with Labour activists who criticize Greens for taking away from Labour given that their appeal is to many of the same people. But Simon is his own man, whose political priorities do differ and he is quite right to join, indeed lead, Southend’s Green revolution. I felt for Verina Weaver (UKIP) who along with the Conservative candidate narrowly lost out. Knowing Verina and her past record, she would have made one helluva councilor. Her gracious tribute to the person who did win was one of the more touching moments of the afternoon. I was pleased Judith McMahon (Labour) was returned as councilor as she is one of the most honest, compassionate and hard working persons I know.
The most significant thing to happen was its longstanding councilor, Peter Wexham (Lib Dem), losing his seat to the Conservative candidate. Many will rightly pay tribute to Peter for his past service.
This is another ward I have a particular interest in. Given that Labour had wrested power from the Conservatives in the past two elections, they had hopes that they would do so again, particularly given its candidate, Gray Sergeant, was particularly strong and so was the campaigning. But the Conservatives were able to hang in, but only just, helped by an impressive Green candidate (Vida Mansfield). I see Gray and Vida, both youthful (at least compared with this grumpy, old blogger) as being the future face of local and wider politics. I would want to encourage such and suggest for the now they get a life in the real world and then use that experience.
This is another ward whose candidates I don’t know all that well, although it wasn’t that long ago I worked in the ward at the Growing Together gardens and got to know and regard two of its former councilors who were both leaders of the council. Meg Davidson (Conservative) won it convincingly. I met Meg for the first time at the count but had heard about her prior to that due to our common church links. I know Meg shares many of my values and I am confident will serve the ward well as a first time Southend councilor.
Another Conservative victory, but only just, and against the experienced sitting Independent councilor.
This was another Conservative hold, with longstanding councilor, Ann Holland, being the victor. Labour, Independent and UKIP polled well and may have helped make the way for Ann’s victory by splitting the vote. However, I for one was pleased Ann managed to win having known her since my earliest days as a community worker and being appreciative of her support in the past, and that she is a nice lady. Funnily enough, we have never had a political discussion and I don’t know how good she is as a councilor, but like many who serve in this way her interest likely lies more with helping the community than with politics – which is a good thing!
This along with West Shoebury was one ward where two seats were up for grabs (here because the serving UKIP councilor stood down). The result was particularly interesting because it returned a Conservative councilor and a UKIP one (narrowly beating the other Conservative councilor).
This of course is my own ward and where the personalities and their prospects were considered at length in my earlier blog on the subject. The result was much as expected with the electorate returning sitting councilor, Paul Van Looy, by a substantial margin (although the three way: Labour, Conservative and UKIP split worked much in Paul’s favour). As Paul knows, I have scrutinized and criticized him when I felt I needed to but fair’s fair, he campaigned probably better than his opponents and is well thought of by many residents. I was pleased to congratulate him and express my wish to work with him for the betterment of St. Lukes.
The main thing to note here was that sitting Independent, Ron Woodley, regained his seat with a whooping majority and in a ward that would normally be regarded as typically Conservative. If this shows anything to the Conservatives, when they get back in power in Southend, is that if they do not listen to what the people they wish to represent are saying, it will be to their detriment.
Politics aside, I for one was pleased that veteran, David Norman (Labour), was returned, as much for his wisdom and moderating influence in council as anything else, but it should be noted that like with many who won, the number of those who voted for the other candidates were more than who voted for him, and one wonders what might be the outcome if we had an alternative voting system.
Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives won convincingly, given it was in a ward deemed as one of their strong holds. I was pleased Sarah Yapp gained votes for Greens. She is a thoughtful and compassionate lady and who has carried the Green banner with distinction.
In the end the two Conservative candidates won convincingly, although I wonder what might have happened if UKIP hadn’t had their civil war (seen here by an Independent who might otherwise have stood as UKIP and UKIP fighting each other). In a sense, I was pleased that the two victors, Tony Cox and Derek Jarvis, who are both formidable players in workings of the Council, did win. They have still, I believe, much to give and I look forward to learning of their contribution to the flood protection and regeneration debates.
This is one ward to be watched with interest given the voters tend to buck the trend and have in the recent past returned candidates from a number of different parties. But Labour managed to win it this time, just as they did last time, but going by votes cast there was significant opposition from most of the other parties. I note that Paul Mansfield (Green), and showing a neat mohican hair do and a refreshingly non-conformist approach, did well. He is one of the many from the younger generation that I would want to encourage to get further involved with community affairs.