To misquote my favorite football pundit, Jimmy Greaves, “politics is a funny old game”, and nowhere is this more apparent than here in Southend and with what is going on with and as a result of what the new kids on the block: UKIP (and its recently announced offshoot – Southend Independence Group) and the Green Party have been up to and may be planning for the future. This follows on from my recent Kippers and Greens post reflecting on the national picture.
I was interested in reading an article “What on earth happened in Leigh?” that my fellow local political blogger, Matt Dent, recently posted. The thrust of his post was that longstanding Leigh councilor Peter Wexham only lost his seat (to the Tories) because in the main the votes that he lost (compared with last time) went to the Green Party (who weren’t even contesting last time) and this let the Tories in. The irony, and with this I agree, was that the “self-styled only anti-Tory party” by throwing their hat into the ring managed to let in the Conservative candidate, just as what happened in Milton.
Where me and Matt might differ is whether the Greens should have contested those seats given that this was always going to be a possible scenario? Sometimes there is a case where two parties with a degree of commonality agreeing not to stand against each other in order to prevent the less desirable alternative if they had not done so. This is after all what happened in the FIFA presidential elections that have just taken place. The anti-Blatter, anti-corruption camp decided to put just one of those eyeing the top job forward as candidates in order to have the best chance in ousting the incumbent, although the strategy did fail. Having followed the Labour / Green debates on Facebook this past year, I can see enough clear space between the two parties for them to want to stand against each other. Whether they could / should have acted strategically, given our voting system, in order to at least get some of what they both wanted is of course another matter.
Putting the national picture aside, UKIP presents an interesting situation locally. In 2014, Southend Council gained five new UKIP councilors. As a result of a much reported local civil war, among other things, we now have four of those five councilors still on the Council plus one newly elected UKIP councilor, who are split. Now the dust has settled (or has it?) we now have two “UKIP” groupings: the official UKIP group (of two) and the Southend Independence Group (of three) consisting of three of the four original UKIP councilors (the fact that the three could not resolve differences with the other one has been well reported). Putting aside stuff I hear that is not in the public domain (and as a result I tend not to report this without permission) it appears the Southend Independence Group have now severed their links with UKIP (which may be as well since all three were expelled and one permanently so, as is helping to save the face of certain Labour and Lib Dem members who have said they would never work with UKIP), and have formed their own group which still adheres to some of the UKIP distinctives.
So as one of my good friends has often reminded me, we are where we are. So what next? Regarding the Kippers, I wish both groups well, and while it may not be possible to put the past behind them entirely, noting there are real differences, I would urge them to focus on being good ward councilors, working for the good of the town. With the exception of James Moyies and the newly elected councilor who has yet to prove himself one way or another, there is a widely held perception (to put it mildly) that the other three have not pulled their full weight as councilors. Civil wars and being new to the Council are no longer acceptable excuses, just do what you have been ****** well elected to do; nothing more should be reasonably expected. As for the Greens, and I am not one of them despite voting for them in the national elections, just continue being a pain in the **** to the establishment but do so constructively. As a non loony, lefty, tree hugger, I can concede you have taught me a lot and some of the stuff you are saying is spot on and needs to be said. So carry on saying it and more importantly doing what needs to be done!