Local Elections 2016 – More Reflections

In my previous “Local Elections 2016” blog, I reflected on the results, then just in, of yesterdays local elections. In this blog, I would like to consider further the results but first of all I should address the also significant Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections, given the outcome of these has just been made known.

In my earlier PCC blog, I considered why getting the right person for the job was important but also on the dearth of information as to who was that right person and what was the job. The number of spoilt papers (10,744 spoilt ballots first round, 20,554 second round), perhaps reflects the frustration of many who do not have an answer to those questions. In the end Roger Hirst (Conservative) won (convincingly), with Bob Spink (UKIP) in second place, something that many might have predicted. In total, Hirst received 135,948 votes and Spink received 103,792. votes. Hirst was elected with just under ten per cent of the vote from the estimated 1.4million eligible to vote. I was disappointed “my man”, Martin Terry, who mounted a decent campaign, did a lot less well than I hoped although one might have predicted this because of the nature of the Essex demographic.  Naturally, I wish Roger Hirst well in this important and demanding job and would want to pay some credit to his predecessor, Nick Alston, for some good work he has done.

While it is true, there are elections further afield to my own Essex patch, that are certainly significant and therefore blog worthy e.g. the election for London mayor (with Sadiq Khan having just been elected) and in Scotland and Wales, reflecting on these will have to wait, other than state that patterns could be discerned from the voting that impact us all. Instead I will focus on the Southend Local Council Elections, something I have been following closely, including being there when the results were announced. While there is much to reflect upon following my earlier blog, I can’t help thinking about why the difference in turnouts between the more and less affluent wards and the UKIP and to a lesser extent the Green factors, which also have a bearing on what is going through the minds of the electorate. Because I have found myself quite involved in the St. Lukes Ward elections, I will start there and then look further afield, with reference to the results list. There will be large gaps given that I know some candidates quite well, especially if these happen to be standing in those wards in the centre and just east of the centre of town and some I don’t know or know hardly at all, especially if in those wards in the east, west or north extremities.

In terms of winners and losers, the obvious loser was Lib Dems, who other than their strong Leigh win, managed not surprisingly to lose two of their four seats. While Conservatives were the beneficiaries, they don’t appear to have gained much in terms of popular support. But two seats is significant when it comes to determining the balance of power. The Independents more than held their own and were close to winning two seats that went to the Conservatives. As for Labour, besides their single gain, polling shows of  all the parties contending their improvement was best. UKIP were strong (a lot more than I had reckoned upon), yet without gaining seats, but they are in an unenviable position of holding the keys as to which group gets to run the next administration. Mention should be made of the Green Party. While still some way off from winning seats, they did improve their polling and appear to still be on the ascendancy.

St. Lukes: While my powers of punditry are limited, I did predict the result pecking order, except I did not think Brian Ayling would win so convincingly (838 votes), compared to his nearest rivals Donna Richardson (473) and Del Thomas (464).  Del was not far in front of David Stansfield (352), and while respecting his community work I felt this was a travesty as Donna and Del had so much more going for them, worked so hard and deserved so much better. Jason Pilley was a creditworthy fifth and exceeded many expectations with his 104 votes. Tomasz Lachowicz received 31 votes and even that was more than he deserved given his zero efforts. I rather liked Brian’s speech when the result was announced, when he paid tribute to the good and fair campaign his rivals had fought. I agreed, although I reckon it is easier to be magnanimous when you win.

Belfairs: This saw the return of Stephen Aylen (Independent) (1051 votes) closely followed by Alan Dear (Conservative) (990). I suspect that Stephen has not only upset his Independent group colleagues in withdrawing from the group but also his former Conservative ones of which he was a member, who probably worked hard to regain that seat for the party. At least Stephen (along with Sooty) will brighten up Council meetings and continue to contribute on matters like Belfairs Wood and public transport. Belfairs also had the largest of all the ward turnouts – 42%.

Blenheim: This saw a loss for the Lib Dems and a gain for the Conservatives. Given long standing veteran Lib Dem councilor, Graham Longley, was standing down, this would have been a hard act to follow. The winner was Helen Boyd (Conservative). I was sorry that my fellow blogger, Matt Dent, who had campaigned hard, could not quite muster enough votes to win, but he was not so far behind in second place. I also note my old friend Roger Weaver (UKIP) was not far behind, epitomizing yet again the UKIP appeal factor. I understand Roger will not be standing again and I for one wish him well, knowing how much he has given to the town.

Chalkwell:  Unsurprisingly, this was a comfortable victory in the end for David Burzotta (Conservative). I do not know David but if my spies are correct that in his campaigning he did little more that regurgitated the party line, then he should watch out. Second was Andy Crow, indicative that the Independent bubble is far from bursting. Credit should go to third place, 18 year old student from Westcliff High School for Boys, Taylor Barrall (Labour), who I had a nice chat to. I just hope he keeps humble and his head screwed on for his future is bright. Mention should be made of my fourth place troublesome priest friend, Mark Meatcher (Green). My spies tell me he impressed most from among all of the candidates.

Eastwood Park: This was won, convincingly, by sitting councilor, last year’s mayor, Chris Walker. I was quite pleased despite my anti-Conservatism, having been impressed seeing him in action as an effective mayor. Second place went to an old friend, Verina Weaver (UKIP). I wish Verina well, who in her prime was a formidable Cabinet member, who along with husband Roger, steps down from active politicking. It was nice to see from afar Chris and Verina who going back were close colleagues getting on so well. Mention should be made of third place Paul Collins, who I knew from the past as a decent councilor and caring human being.

Kursaal: This was won on a paltry 21% turnout, convincingly, by newcomer Helen McDonald (Labour) who I suspect will be a formidable addition to the council. Kursaal is a bit wild for despite its deprivation is not these days default Labour. Once again UKIP in second place polled well just ahead of newcomer Simon Gittus (Conservative), who I’m told ran a good campaign. Even the Greens managed a decent score.

Leigh: Having lost his seat last year to the Conservatives, many neutrals would have been pleased to see Peter Wexham (Lib Dem) return back to the Council, and with a large majority. He was taking over from his colleague Alan Crystal who had decided to step down after many years of sterling service. While a long way from winning it was good to see Jon Mallet (Green) poll well, knowing how hard he has worked for the community.

Milton: There was talk of sitting councilor, Julian Ware-Lane (Labour), being unseated by the Conservatives, who in the light of last years success would have targeted this seat. In the end Julian won by a big majority. There is no doubt that Julian is a passionate political activist and one I often find myself going from passionately agreeing to disagreeing. We wish him well as he recovers from recent health set backs. Surprisingly, I can’t quite place the other candidates so won’t comment further.

Prittlewell: While a “Conservative” ward, in recent years their monopoly has been overturned and I have no doubt rival parties would have targeted this ward. In the end, veteran councilor, David Garston (Conservative), who if I am not mistaken switched wards in the process, won, but not by much from an impressive Labour candidate, Mike Fieldhouse, bringing in unlikely Labour support, whose time will no doubt come. Not far behind was Bob Gage (UKIP), who wrote a graceful letter to the Echo. Some thought should be given to fourth place, Mary Betson (Lib Dem) who lost her seat – the electorate that votes you in can just as readily vote you out and with little sentiment (as is the case here), for such is democracy.

Shoeburyness: In the end Mike Assenheim (Independent), the widely respected sitting councilor, won it, with Conservatives taking second place. The margin would have been greater if another Independent, Anne Chalk, who I understand has a feud going on with Mike, had not been also standing. Edward McNally (UKIP) polled well and ahead of Maggie Kelly (Labour) who I reckon would make a good councilor, should she get the chance as I hope she will.

Southchurch: New kid on the block, Alex Bright (Conservative) won and we wish him well in this new venture. He wasn’t far ahead of Keith Sharman (Independent) and once again UKIP did well.

St. Laurence: I was pleased an old friend, Mark Flewitt (Conservative) won and quite convincingly. Viv White (UKIP) managed second place reaffirming the UKIP threat (or challenge). It is always nice to see the old warrior Reg Copely (Labour) on the ballot paper. His was third place, although he should be allowed to retire with honour (he has more than earned it) rather than being put up as  a paper candidate, for he has served the town well.

Thorpe: The most convincing win of the night and a large turnout (40%). Mike Stafford (Independent) was way ahead of Jon Bacon (Conservative) and this may be to the credit of the voters reacting against Conservative arrogance, in what was once a staunch Conservative ward, as one might have expected.  It was nice to see homeless activist friend, Jo Bates (Green) standing in the ward.

Victoria: It was nice to see Ian Gilbert (Labour) returned once again and with a resounding majority. Less pleasing was the turnout (25%) and seeing Peter Breuer (UKIP) in second place. It seems Ian and co have made this ward safe for Labour, so it is a pity when a trier like Denis Garne (Conservative) polled a mere modest third.

West Leigh: Unsurprisingly given the demographic of the area, sitting Conservative Councillor, John Lamb, was returned with a big majority (and a 39% turn out). Chris Bailey (Lib Dem) was second and with a creditable number of votes. It was nice to meet Gabriella Terry (Independent) making her debut at a young age and all credit to her. It was also nice to see Sarah Yapp, who despite finishing last, continues to cry out with passion regarding Green issues.

West Shoebury: Sitting councilor Derek Jarvis (Conservative) was able to defend his seat but only by a small majority. Close on his heels was Peter Lovett (Independent) showing again nothing can be taken for granted and Independents remain a force to be reckoned with. Once again, UKIP polled well, as in most wards in the town.

Westborough:  It was nice to see Anne Jones (Labour), ex of Kursaal, winning this ward, who did so comfortably, since she is a very good councilor, who I believe will serve the ward well. I was sorry though to note that sitting councilor Dr Vel (Independent) has been unseated, for I was rather relishing the prospect of Dr. Vel as mayor. Of the remaining five candidate, all of which I listened to at the recent hustings, three I know and two I don’t. Of the three I know, I feel certain they would have each made worthwhile, albeit different, contributions if they had been elected.

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