On May 2nd Southend will be holding local elections for councillors to represent each of its 17 wards. If I were to hazard a guess, I would imagine most residents of the borough don’t know that, which is a pity. There is also a possibility this time round for there to be a change in administration, always an interesting prospect.
Local politics does interest me and I have waded in with my thoughts over the years and engaged with the key players during that time, believing then as I do now, those elected to office can and do make a difference. I like to think I am friends with politicians from all parties and I admire any who seek to serve. My own politics bucks the trend insofar I vote for the person rather than the party, and that is especially so locally. While Brexit may be the issue that is upmost now in the minds of many, there are many issues locally upon which one ought to take an interest and come to a view. My own voting record is rather erratic for, in recent years, I have voted for both extremes (UKIP and Greens) and did so more because the candidate had good ideas and I felt will do a good job (neither won incidentally). I have also been involved in organising hustings, believing this is a great opportunity to size up the candidates and hear what they have to say on issues that matter, because how else other than engaging with each of the individuals can one decide? Sadly, this is unlikely to happen this year due to insufficient interest.
While there are a few days left for people to put themselves forward as candidates (deadline is 3rd April), the three I am aware of as far as St. Lukes goes are James Vessey-Miller (Green), Ian Pope (Labour) and Paul Van Looy (Independent). I have no doubt that other candidates will come forward, notably for the Conservatives. But because they have left it late and shown little activity in the ward, I doubt whether they are in it to win it, just like last year. Even so, Conservatives have done well in recent years, just as before that Labour was the party to do so. But most recently it has been the Independents that have been the party in power, starting eight years ago when Paul Van Looy, as an “Independent”, won St. Lukes. What I would like to do is give my take on the three candidates and because I have no desire to fall out with any or be seen as unfair will do so circumspectly. While the health centre was possibly the main ward issue of contention last year, I would be hard pressed to identify one this year, and look forward to hearing what each candidate thinks and can offer St. Lukes residents if elected.
If I were a betting man, James Vessey-Miller would have to go down as a rank outsider in terms of winning St. Lukes. He is the youngster in the pack and has already shown his enthusiasm by being active politically. While I am not a natural Green (which as I say is less relevant locally) having looked through the Green Manifesto for South East Essex, I see many good ideas others don’t mention, although some is more idealism than pragmatism, and I would be interested to see how he will relate this to St. Lukes.
I get the impression that Ian Pope has worked hard over the years seeking election, often in wards where Labour would not be expected to do well, and failing. Something in me wants to see him given a chance. But my early impression he is a “Corbyn Lapdog” needs to be dispelled if I were to support his candidature this time around, and I would like to learn more concerning his own ideas.
Paul Van Looy has become like an unlikely elder statesman and establishment figure given his strong association with St. Lukes ward residents these past eight years. It is difficult to see him not regaining his seat. While we have not always seen eye to eye on some matters over that time, I am aware he has worked hard for the residents in a way many councilors, especially in safe seats, have not. Given any endorsement I have given in the past usually meant the kiss of death for the one being endorsed, I dare not do so here.
I can’t speak for the other (to be announced) election candidates but I would be surprised if they were to make a serious impact on the election outcome. While I get it that some “no hopers” will take the view why waste effort in a lost cause, I hope they will also see that if they can’t show they have something to offer the people they put themselves forward to represent, they can’t expect to win their vote. But as I said at the beginning, things are still quiet with just a month to go, which is ominous and a sad omen for local democracy.