This coming Thursday there will be a number different elections taking place, but in this blog I will focus on the Southend Local Council elections, which this year takes on extra significance as it could result in a change in power from an Independent / Labour / Lib Dem led administration to a Conservative led one.
I have already given my thoughts concerning my own ward, St. Lukes (see here) and little has changed in my thinking. My cards still remain close to my chest regarding voting intentions and I would not be unhappy if any one of the Conservative, Labour or Independent candidates or even the Green guy were to be my local representative when the votes have been counted. I should add though, that I will be “telling” on the day, but I won’t say for who – yet! Telling may be seen by some as an anachronism and intrusion but I still see it as part of the British tradition and democratic process. I will also be attending the best show in town, the “Count”, when all will be revealed when it comes to winners and losers, and along with it a good deal of drama. I’m told I have a free hand not to scrutinize (which I imagine is routine when the winner emerges early but a lot more exciting when a close run thing, when spoilt ballot papers are argued over). Instead I will be wandering the floor, meeting up with old friends and offering a free counseling service!
The question is begged – who would I want to lead the next administration for the Borough of Southend-on-Sea. My answer is simple – Labour! When it comes to which party I support, I don’t have strong preferences either way, although looking at the national picture I have been more than disappointed with the Conservative led government, especially on social justice grounds, and at least a little disappointed with the Labour led opposition for not getting its act together. Locally, the Conservatives have not convinced me it is their “God given” right to lead the town and last weeks no confidence debacle (see here) was the final straw. But when it comes to the Rainbow administration, I think they have done enough to be given a further term in office, but I have no illusions that it is going to be tough given that further cutbacks are in the offing. I would rather it be Labour than Independent led because I have little idea what the Independents would do if in power but a better idea it were Labour. I was impressed when I attended the launch of the Labour manifesto (see here) and while it is propaganda the edited highlights of what took place at the launch (see here) is impressive. Besides, a little bird / my spies tell me (sorry Matt to hijack your phrase – ed) there is dissension in the Independent ranks (on top of the two who have already left), with some members just as likely to join the Conservatives as to remain with Labour, in the power stakes, when one imagines lots of behind the scene deals may be taking place.
As I write, I also ponder why I am so clear in my preference to Labour given that I believe both Labour and Conservative ideologies are flawed and there are people I respect and like and see as friends among both Labour and Conservative ranks. One reason is as I have argued: Labour, who I suspect have driven the agenda more that the Independents, have done a creditable job while in power. I also seem to have more friends among the Labour cohort that the Conservatives. I suspect there are a number of reasons for this – to start with – chemistry! Labour is strongest near to where I live and operate, and we often find ourselves interacting to good effect. While humility is not a trait one normally associates with politicians, I sense it is stronger among Labour ranks, along with justice – two qualities that I attach particular attention to, although the jury is out on another one – competence. To be fair – there are exceptions! Also, Labour is fielding a good crop of candidates and existing councilors, many I know, who I would feel happy representing mine and the town’s interests, who I can work with. Being psycho-analytical, I suspect that given I have been a lifelong outsider, Labour may be more in the comfort zone of outsiders of my ilk.
One year ago, the Conservatives were on the ascendancy nationally and this was reflected locally, and I was surprised. Unless the trend is reversed, which given the performance of this government it should be, the likelihood is they will also regain power in Southend. I confess I find the prospect daunting and lament the electorate do not see things my way, but then that is democracy and, besides, my hope is in a higher power. I hope also that those who care to read this diatribe will take time to vote, and do so intelligently, having appraised themselves concerning the various factors, even if it is not for Labour, because our democracy will only work if you do! I am sure there are good people of all political colours working hard and vying for our votes. I wish them well, especially in the few days left they try to convince people that they are the ones they should be voting for, and will want to work with whoever is elected, mindful of the scriptural injunction to pray for all those in authority.