Southend Local Elections – 06 May 2021
And they are now only a month away and few people are aware!
I want to focus on my own town – Southend, and especially my own Ward – St. Lukes, but before I do – some general points…
I am a great believer in hustings, where one gathers candidates in the same room, get them to introduce themselves, and their intentions if they were to be elected, and to answer questions from the floor. I was reminded of this fact when Facebook reminded me of when I helped organise a number of these in the past. Sadly, it is unlikely I will do so again because of voter apathy, health issues and a lack of buy in from the candidates, and Covid doesn’t help. Sadly, our local MP, James Duddridge, lied about him being unable to attend the last two elections, without which hustings lose much of their value. I have no doubt, even more so because of Covid-19, the only thing we have to go by in deciding who to vote for is their leaflet, and our opinions of the Party they represent.
I confess, my interest in local politics have diminished in the past year or so. Having to skip elections in 2020 because of Covid was one factor and sometimes it is time for one to move on. Yet I believe these are important and those that put themselves forward for the right reason and then serve their constituency if elected are to be applauded. While the truth is local councillors can’t do that much, they can do something and if fired up enough that something can be significant. There was a change in administration last election, held in 2019, and some in the know think the same will happen this time – assuming of course people can be bothered to vote. The political shenanigans that went on in 2019 was imho disgraceful. The story as I understand was that no party gained overall control of the Council and because the Independents abstained the Tories got in as a minority administration to take over from the “Rainbows” that had preceded them. Then a month later there was a coup, orchestrated by the Independents, who joined Labour, with LibDem support to become the new administration – and that is where we are now.
Before the Tories get on their moral high horses, their shenanigans a couple of years before was just as disgraceful when they tried to kick out our Ron over an incident I titled at the time – “Purdahgate”. And Ron Woodley, who still leads the Independent Party (an oxymoron – I know), is not a man to easily forgive and forget. The Indies may well be king makers this time around – but what do I know other than the fat lady has yet to sing. Recent disgraceful behavior has been by Councillors Martin Terry and Matt Dent (both part of the present administration) sadly showing their true colours by trying to get rid of deputy mayor, Mark Flewitt, over something quite ridiculous – racism that never was (see here for the story)!
For the record, for those who haven’t heard it many times before, is that I am a floating voter – especially when it comes to local elections, and I generally vote for the person rather than the man (or woman). Not that I have any say in the matter of course, but local elections are being held across the land. One that particularly fascinates me is in London when the utterly hopeless Sadiq Khan (Labour, but does it matter given how bad he is) is up against, according to my Google search, an assorted bunch of 19 candidates hoping to dethrone him (my hope is Brian Rose will win it) – but I digress – and it is back to Southend and my own ward – St. Lukes, not that the matter of which administration runs (within the limits allowed) my beloved town of Southend, isn’t important.
Five years ago, I organised my last hustings and it was a lovely occasion as the photo indicates. We were then spoiled for choice. I liked Del Thomas (Conservative) and Donna Richardson (Labour) and felt either would be good councillors. I also liked the sitting councillor (Brian Ayling) who won (comfortably as it turned out). But I voted for the then (before his spate) Green guy, Jason Pilling! Other than LibDem and BNP, I have voted for representatives from every party over the years, using my who is the best candidate criteria (although it is often difficult to decide who that is). So, Brian stands again and he gets my vote. I am still not sure what are his political views, but I will be voting for him as he has been a good local councillor, serving St. Lukes ward, these past nine years.
But who else to vote for (we get two votes this time around because of the death of another sitting councillor – Paul Van Looy). I don’t even know who the Conservative candidates are and, while in the past we were served well by Conservative St. Lukes councillors, St. Lukes (I suspect) is no longer seen as a winnable Tory seat and there is an understandable tendency to field paper candidates. The Independent lady, Susan Badger, I do not recall having had dealings with, so all I have to go on is a few words in the Independent leaflet. While it is not fair to compare, I recall a similar situation with the last Independent lady who won. I still recall her words “your concerns are my concerns” but unlike Brian Ayling, (the late) Paul Van Looy and other current councillor, Trevor Harp, did very little to back this up. I am sticking with the devil I know – Martin Berry (Labour), a passionate political activist and servant of the community over many years – unless I can be convinced otherwise!
But I would counsel Brian or Martin not to get carried away with my “endorsement” as my record shows whenever I indicate support for a particular candidate – they then lose. I would encourage my fellow Southenders to vote as intelligently as they can – because it does matter. Finally, I wish to pay tribute to the late Paul Van Looy, who was (few would disagree) a character and imho served well as councillor. One of the things I miss is the bets I used to place with Paul on election outcomes. He always won, but then donated his winnings to some homeless charity and matched funded it.