Last night and early this morning I attended the best show in town – the count for yesterday’s Local Election, which if nothing else was an opportunity to catch up with several of the candidates, activists and old friends in what was a mostly peaceful and congenial atmosphere. And credit goes to Southend Council for hosting this well run event!
The results reflected quite remarkably what was seen in the country as a whole. Labour did well but not quite as well as they might have hoped (and won two seats overall at the expense of UKIP, although in one case the UKipper now stood as Conservative and in the other he did not stand). The Conservatives just about held their own (although they did net gain one seat from the Independents). The Lib Dems made modest gains in the overall vote share and the Greens regressed a little. While the Independent bubble is yet to burst, they will feel disappointed that they lost three seats. This means that Labour now overtakes them having the most number of seats and significantly leads the opposition. UKIP seemed to be almost wiped out, with four of the five candidates who won four years ago all standing again and all losing their seats, although none now stood as UKIP and three now as Tories. As an aside, it is likely the Tory vote share was a lot to do with former UKIP supporters now siding with them, and if the Tories were to backtrack in Brexit negotiations, there will be consequences. While voter turn out was disappointingly low it was up slightly from two years ago.
As far as the Council goes, the Conservatives still have a majority but Labour will take heart at their showing, which might not be seen as very strong, was at least quite strong. The Independents will be pleased they are still a force in the Council despite set back. The Greens might feel disappointed that their meteoric rise in recent years has suffered a small reversal and UKIP are hardly anywhere to be seen, although ironically none of the five Kippers who won (for the first time) four years ago are now members of UKIP. Two of the UKIP heavyweights of yesteryear: Floyd Waterworth and James Moyies will feel disappointed they lost, and as for James he was in the centre of the only bit of acrimony I could see, that was between him and Martin Terry his opponent who won in Thorpe. It should be said that four years ago UKIP were at the height of their popularity and are now at the depth – but I sense that will change and once again show how national concerns relate to local voting intentions.
I was pleased that vigorous campaigner Matt Dent won it for Kursaal and in my own ward, St. Luke’s, that Trevor Harp won, although not by much, and commiserations to Ian Pope his Labour rival, who fought a good campaign. I couldn’t help reflect on the irony that Harry Mason, the St. Lukes Conservative candidate, got nearly as many votes as his Conservative predecessor from two years ago and, while the latter made extraordinary efforts in campaigning, Harry as far as I could make out did very little – leaving one to wonder what if and with the more depressing thought – why bother to make the effort? Well done Jason Pilley and James Vessey-Miller, both having made a good contribution and with a future in local politics! I was pleased a number of worthy candidates held onto their seats, e.g. Margaret Borton, Kevin Robinson and Cheryl Nevin.
So it is commiserations to the losers and congratulations to the winners and welcoming in new blood to serve on the Council. For those who lost their seat having served well and to them who campaigned hard with good intent, I would say thank you. The work of councilors while limited in what they can do is nevertheless significant and each deserve our support and prayers so that the town Southend-on-Sea that we love can flourish.