In less than twelve hours time polling stations will be open for voting for who to serve on Southend Council, as they will be in many places throughout the land. Given recent political turmoil on the national stage it will give us all an opportunity to find out how the wind is blowing. My take, locally at least, is it has been a lack luster affair and apathy is rife, with people feeling voter weary and it won’t make a difference. Several have complained they know very little about those who are standing. Some candidates though have campaigned hard, trying to convince voters that voting for them will make a difference but with disillusioned voters not buying into the idea. I still reckon voting matters, for while it doesn’t always appear that way getting good people elected does have a bearing on the welfare of the town and when we don’t attend to this democracy becomes meaningless. I expect a low turnout and will be pleasantly surprised if it is higher than two years ago at the last local election. I am still bemused on what basis people will make up their minds and if I hadn’t been able to hear for myself what 4 of the 6 candidates standing in my ward (St. Lukes) think, at a hustings, I would be hard pressed making an intelligent decision, for the party as far as I am concerned has only little bearing when it comes to who I vote for.
I am taking no part in proceedings other than voting and attending the count, that and some lively exchanges on Facebook relating to the Election. Having thought it through, I am pretty clear now who I will be voting for. As far as St. Lukes is concerned, we are currently served by three Independents, two of who do a more than passable job taking up the concerns of ward residents (an important factor). The other, who is standing down, has been a disappointment on those scores. The absence at the hustings and hardly no show in the lead up to polling day automatically rules out the Lib Dem and Conservative candidates, whose inactivity I see as a lack of respect for the electorate. The two youngsters who did show at the hustings (Green and Psychedelic Future) did well and I believe have a future to play in local politics, with lots of energy and some good ideas, but are probably too progressively radical for my liking and showed not enough grasp of town issues. As for the Labour guy – if only he had put aside the Party and focused on local (I mean ward) issues he would have been in with a shot, as I have no doubt he means well and would work hard for the ward. And this leaves the Independent guy, who I now see as the one who would best represent local interests, like the health centre. I better not say more as the outcome is in the lap of the … electorate (assuming they are awake) and any endorsement on my part is generally the kiss of death.
I have booked my ticket for the count, which I reckon is the best show in town and besides the drama of anticipating outcomes it is a chance to meet with old friends. I don’t expect too many upsets but there could be some close run things. I know too little about the oddities of local politics to pontificate with style but, besides St. Lukes, there will be some results I will be particularly looking out for because of the personalities and dynamics that are involved (although I better not say which). Although the Tories had to bribe two UKippers two years back to support them in forming an administration, those same councilors have now joined the Tories, along with another ex-Kipper (all standing for re-election this time around) plus one Labour defector. There would have to be major upset if Conservatives were to lose control of the Council, an unlikely event. I am not convinced Conservatives are better or worse than the Rainbow administration before them but am unconvinced the hypothetical possibility of Conservatives being ousted will make a great deal of difference (although I would love to be proved wrong). But I do feel some councilors are complacent and in the Conservative case put too much store on the fact that Southend is a Conservative town rather than working at grass roots level earning the respect of those they claim to represent, which is why I believe voting does matter and people should vote. Finally, it takes courage to stand for election with a mindset to serve, and I salute all who do. As for who I want to be elected – it is the best candidate in all cases.