Local Elections 2021 – The Results (1)
As I write, they are still counting across the country, but we knew Southend’s results in the early hours of the morning and this is what I want to focus on now. Regarding Southend’s 17 wards, you can find out each result on the Council website (see here). I am grateful to my friend Del Thomas for his running commentary during the night and coming up with the following summary of how the Council is now constituted, according to the parties that are represented:
(Aligned) Independent (6)
Liberal Democrat (5)
(Non-aligned) Independent (3)
As a result of yesterday’s election, the Conservatives gained three seats (Belfairs, Shoebury and St. Lukes) and Labour gained one seat (St. Lukes). All the gains were at the expense of Independent candidates. However, if you do the maths, it is clear that Conservatives while having the largest representation, are still three short of an overall majority. If they want to control the Council they will have to do deals with one or more of the remaining parties, although that is unlikely to be Labour. Labour, who up to yesterday, were in control of the Council because of pacts they made with the Liberal Democrats and Aligned Independents would have to do so again and as well as this get at least one non aligned Independent on their side. O to be a fly on the wall behind the deals being attempted right now by Conservatives and Labour to get power (and the brutal truth – that is what either side wants most, and based on similar situations in the past, the story will probably be an interesting one).
Undoubtedly, the biggest shock of the night was St. Lukes and is also a good example of why I should not be employed as a pundit of the pick the winner variety, and since his was one of the seats being contested because of his death last year, I wonder what Paul Van Looy (who could pick winners) might have made of it (btw, we miss you Paul). His absence was likely a big factor as to why this devastating Independent loss. I was sad for Brian Ayling though, who I have a lot of time for, as he has served the ward well these past eight years as Councillor. I also felt sympathy for Susan Badger, who I think would have made a good councillor. But I congratulate Martin Berry (Labour) who worked particularly hard in the lead up to the election and Brian Beggs (Conservative), who won. St Lukes now has an Independent, a Labour and a Conservative councillor!
The biggest beneficiary of the yesterday’s elections were the Conservatives, but they were merely following a national trend we became aware off when the Conservatives overturned a Labour majority to win the Hartlepool by-election. In Southend, Labour held on to their seats and actually won one more. The biggest losers were the aligned Independents. When they began to make gains ten years ago, they threatened to disrupt the dominance of the Conservatives in the Council and to a significant extent they succeeded. The main parties criticised them for not having clear policies but to counter that was the notion that what each ward needed are good representatives that put the needs of the residents before other considerations, and given this is the way the system works, by grouping they get more recognition. Of course, it is never that simple and, as for the Alliance Independents, they have been as much guilty of politicking as the three main parties. As far as St Lukes goes (with one exception), the Independent representatives have served the ward well, but there is no doubt they have suffered a bloody nose and one wonders if the bubble is about to burst for Southend’s Independent group. I for one hope not – I am too old in the tooth to stand but if I did it would likely be as an Independent.
In wrapping up, I congratulate the winners and commiserate with the losers. It is never easy to lose; more so if having served well previously, and especially when you have put a lot of effort into campaigning, as some have. I understand while turnout was low, it was still higher than when local elections were held two years ago. Among the winners, there are some old faces – not just those who retained their seats but also some who have been councillors before, who had earlier lost or stood down, and are now back, and some new faces – and that is always nice to see, especially when young. Among the losers are familiar faces, including those who I believe would have served well had they won. Elections are funny things and who can say why voters vote the way they did, and all too often voters have little to go on. I asked one seasoned campaigner why in St. Lukes the new, less experienced Tory was ahead of the one who had served before and had done a credible job – his answer was his name came first on the ballot paper – but we may never know.
But the Preacher, who wrote 3000 years ago, was correct: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all” Ecclesiastes 9:11.