I was somewhat taken aback when a little earlier I came across a report under this title in today’s (27/04) Echo. It is referring to the no-confidence vote that took place in last Thursday’s main Southend Council meeting (discussed here) and last Friday’s St. Lukes hustings (discussed here) and specifically certain responses to the question that was asked: “Last night’s Council meeting ended in a vote of no confidence in the Leader of the Council. How would you have voted; would it have been on party lines; please give your reasons?” I should state that I have already given my opinion, which I included in my blog relating to the Council meeting.
It quotes from two of the candidates who responded to that question. Del Thomas (Conservative), while believing the Leader of the Council, Ron Woodley, was wrong NOT to apologise for certain letters, which could benefit the current administration, going out (by mistake) in the Purdah period, also felt the Conservative action was wrong when it forced a no confidence motion in the Council leader. Brian Ayling (Independent) made mention of his differences with the Leader and explained his reasons for voting against the no confidence motion. The report also quotes the mayor, Andrew Moring, who despite being a Conservative, had used his casting vote to defeat the motion. He expressed his disappointment in Cllr Woodley along with his cabinet, who even if letters managed to go out before the Purdah period could be seen as promoting himself so near to election time, and also for not apologizing for the error.
Rather than go into a prolonged discussion, I thought I would give some background and offer opinions:
- I was mainly responsible for organising the hustings and drafted this particular question, the twelfth and last of the questions which were asked on the night.
- I was surprised that of all the many good points that came out of the hustings that the Echo chose to dwell on this particular one.
- On the hand, I was not surprised, as the statements made by these two candidates are the ones likely to cause the greatest ripples and the Echo was opportunistic in the matter.
- I suspect both Brian and Del will now receive some flak from their political colleagues.
- Brian and Del have acted entirely honourably and out of principle on this matter.
- I applaud Brian and Del for being so open and I support the stands each have made.
- I believe the mayor acted entirely appropriately and chaired a difficult meeting well.
- I am disappointed despite sending them three press releases the only mention made by the Echo concerning what was a very good hustings was concerning this very small part of went on.
- I share the mayor’s and Del’s disappointment that Cllr Woodley did not apologise but while arguably the administration should not have sent those letters so close to the election, I don’t see it as a big deal and it was no worse than the government’s ridiculous recent action of sending out its EU referendum booklet.
- While Purdahgate tells us a lot (and is why I am glad the question got asked), I would much rather if all parties were to focus on the many other issues that are facing our town.