Kipperwatch! U-splits in Essex UKIP


It’s a universal truth that all political parties are coalitions. The Labour Party, for example, is a coalition of old Labour traditional socialists to modernist “Blairite” factions and everything in between. The Conservatives have (a declining faction of) one-nation-type Tories, ideological Thatcherites, and further right almost-nationalist types.

The Liberal Democrats are still broadly divisible into the Liberals and the SDP, with a mix of those who joined when they were a left-of-Labour party, and have since pretty much melted away. And the Greens are an alliance between the middle-class, tree-hugging liberals of old, and old socialist elements floating around since Kinnock declared war on Militant Tendency.

But UKIP — UKIP have perfect the mongrel art of the political party. Farage is a sometime-Thatcherite, with a taste for the little Englander world-view, whilst UKIP’s first, and at time of print sole, MP is more of a classic liberal. And in elections in the north of England, they have been manoeuvring to be an Old Labour replacement.

So with such a varied composition, it can be no surprise that there are ideological fault-lines all over UKIP’s topography. And they seem to be coming to a particular head in South Essex.

Read on…

Kipperwatch! Has UKIP already reached its peak in Thurrock?


Thurrock is just down the road from Southend. About fifteen miles or so from my door, as the crow flies. And to go there, to listen to UKIP it’s already theirs. They did indeed do well in the local elections in May, but then they did well in Southend without much of an idea of what they were standing for.

Tim Aker, the UKIP MEP for the East of England and candidate for Thurrock, is even going on Newsnight and describing Thurrock as “his seat”. Which is presumptious, given that it’s a three way marginal which he hasn’t won yet.

But it illustrates a point: they think they’ve got this sewn up. So in a by-election in a Labour council seat, a week after coming within six hundred and twenty votes of winning a safe Labour parliamentary seat, they’d look to storm it and win in a landslide.

Funny that they lost, and by a considerable margin.

Read on…

Debating debatable debates

leaders debates

I’ll lay my cards out straight off here; I’m not much of a fan of party leaders debates in the run up to general elections. We have a parliamentary, not a presidential, system in which we do not elect our heads of government. We elect our representatives to parliament.

What would, in my opinion, be more helpful would be 650 individual debates, one in each constituency in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That way people can see the candidates that they can actually vote for going head to head, and make the best choice for their local area.

Time was, these were called hustings.

That, however, isn’t going to happen. Unless David Cameron feels he can somehow chicken out of the debates completely, some variation upon the head-to-head party leaders’ debates of 2010 will be happening.

So what would be the best arrangement?

Read on…

The deafening messages from Clacton and Heywood & Middleton

carswell and farage

What a mess.

The results of the two by-elections this week were pretty decisive. And, in my opinion, very bad news for British politics.

We are riding a crest of UKIP popularity at the moment, and the two results are indicative of this in profoundly different ways. It is troubling for the mainstream parties, but I don’t see that it is a particular indication of overwhelming confidence in anything more than the idea of UKIP.

The reason I say this is not out of some tribally political exercise of burying my head in the sand, but that I don’t think that this is as simple as  an insurgent party. Farage has taken advantage of a mood, but his is an opportunistic approach. It is that mood which represents the biggest problem for the political system.

Read on…

Kipperwatch! UKIP select for Southend East — and it ain’t Moyies

kipperwatch local

Late last night, some strange rumours found their way to me in the pub. A little unlikely, to my mind, but this morning apparently confirmed by the Echo. UKIP have selected their candidate for Rochford & Southend East in the general election next year.

They have selected one of Southend’s ‘invisible kippers': Floyd Waterworth, the recently elected councillor for Blenheim Park ward.

If I’m honest, this is pretty surprising. Not just because UKIP have selected an unknown in a seat where they have previously indicated that they fancy their chances. It is more because I, and most of the local political scene, had expected that this particular nomination would go to UKIP’s group leader on Southend Borough Council, James Moyies.

Read on…

A letter to Southend MP James Duddridge, regarding his expenses

The below letter was sent to Mr Duddridge on Monday 22nd September 2014, via Royal Mail first class postage. For the background to the sending of this letter, see the original article in the Southend Echo here, and my response to the issues raised here.

Dear Mr Duddridge,

I am writing to you, as your constituent, to express my concern over the recent local news reports around your claims for parliamentary expenses. In particular, I refer to the front-page report carried by the Southend Echo on Monday 15th September 2014, entitled “MP IN ROW OVER HOTEL EXPENSES”.

In the intervening week since this report was published, I have attempted to contact you on Twitter in order to ask your response to the allegations made, that:

  • You claimed in excess of £11,000 of expenses for accommodation in London for the 2013/2014 year.

  • You did this despite:

    • Owning two properties in London, and;

    • Living less than an hour’s train journey from London.

I am concerned that, if this is indeed true, it demonstrates that you have learnt none of the pertinent lessons of the 2009 expenses scandal.

We are fortunate to live in a town in which a commute to London is not only possible but convenient, and like many others living in Southend it is a commute which I make daily to work in central London. I frequently work late, but have not yet encountered a situation where I have needed to stay overnight in a hotel in place of the return journey.

Your claims may be within the letter of the rules, but I cannot see that they are within the spirit. The last train from Fenchurch Street departs at 11.50 p.m., and with the legislative agenda being particularly light at this stage of the present Parliament it would surely be a rarity that even the last train would be required.

I am, as I have been throughout the past week, eager to hear your response to this. As you are no doubt aware, there is a growing sense of apathy and of disconnect between voters and politics, and it is stories like these which are the cause. I am particularly concerned that despite approach by myself and others – including a letter printed on the letters page of the Echo – you have not yet seen fit to make a response or answer questions.

I hope that this letter will evoke exactly such a response. In the interest of transparency and openness, I will be displaying this letter on my website, and will do likewise with any response you choose to send.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew S. Dent

Fairness for England – Thoughts on constitutional resettlement

britain england scotland

I am, I should start by saying, very pleased that Scotland chose to stay as part of the United Kingdom. I said very little during the referendum itself — though that was still too much for some of the Yes supporters — but I was sincerely and desperately hoping for a No vote. Less out of sentimentality reasons — though I don’t deny they were a factor — than of a very real fear of the consequences for the Scottish people.

But now, after the no vote, the flavour of the moment is devolution for England. Constitutionalism has never been so sexy!

I studied public law as part of my degree, so I’m not unfamiliar with the topics involved. And there is a democratic deficit in that England lacks the same level of devolution which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy. This has come sharply to the attention of many people, but most notably Conservative backbencher and right-wing figurehead John Redwood.

Mr Redwood thinks that England needs its own parliament. He thinks that this parliament should be the present Westminster parliament, without the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs. Unfortunately, there he is wrong.

Read on…

Southend Labour candidate won’t claim accommodation expenses

ian gilbert southend

Earlier this week the news broke, that Rochford & Southend East’s MP James Duddridge claimed £11,000 in the last year on accomodation costs. This was, apparently, split between renting a flat and hotel bills. Except, James Duddridge not only lives within an hour’s train journey of London, but he owns two flats in the capital, which he rents out.

Since then I’ve been trying in vain to get a response out of Mr Duddridge. He is happy to tweet insipid lines-to-take straight from CCHQ. But answering constituents’ questions? Not so much.

Fortunately Ian Gilbert, the Labour candidate for Rochford & Southend East, has had the fortitude to actually say something on this matter: Ian has promised that, if elected as the constituency’s new MP, he won’t claim accommodation expenses.

Read on…

The Southend Tory MP, the expenses claims, and £11k of taking the p*ss

james duddridge

Yesterday’s Echo carried a story about Conservative MP for Rochford & Southend East claiming over £11,000 in accommodation expenses for 2013/14. I don’t usually quote wholesale large chunks of news stories, but here it feels appropriate:

A TORY MP has come under fire after for claiming £11,348 of taxpayers’ money, mostly on London hotels – despite having two homes in the capital.

In the latest round of MPs expenses for 2013/14, Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge claimed the bulk of the cash on overnight accommodation in the city, from April to December.

The rest of his claims were made up from renting a property in the city until March 2014.

According to his financial declarations, the MP owns two properties in London, which he rents out.

Interesting, no? He owns two homes in London, rents out another, and still manages to stay in hotels. Meanwhile he lives and represents a constituency which is less than an hour from London away by train. I know this because I make that same journey. Every day. To work. As James Duddridge apparently doesn’t.

Bear in mind that this all dates from before he was made a junior minister at the Foreign Office. I fully expect that the amount of expenses he claims will have, similarly to his salary, risen since his promotion.

In light of this, I’m not going to add a whole lot of ranting, because I do think it’s unnecessary. What I am going to do is leave these facts here, without comment, for you to contemplate.

  • James Duddridge has voted “moderately for” the bedroom tax, according the The Public Whip — including voting against an exemption for disabled persons or in cases where there is no alternative smaller accommodation available.
  • James Duddridge has voted “strongly for” reducing spending on welfare — including voting for the benefit cap to limit the amount that those on lower incomes can claim for, er, accomodation.
  • An annual season ticket from Thorpe Bay (James Duddridge’s local train station) to London Fenchurch Street, including travel card, costs £4,640.00. The journey from Thorpe Bay station to Westminster takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • The salary of a Member of Parliament is £66,060. The salary of a junior minister (such as, for example, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) is £68,710.
  • The average salary in the UK is £26,000. A full-time job on the minumum wage amounts to £13,124.
  • James Duddridge is up for re-election on 7th May 2015. His majority in 2010 was 11,050

N.B I make a great effort not to swear very often on this blog, and during the writing of this particular post that has been f**king difficult . I have plainly not succeeded, and for that I can only apologise.

Julian Ware-Lane selected as Labour candidate for Southend West


I am absolutely delighted to be able to report that yesterday the members of Southend West Constituency Labour Party chose my good friend (and fellow local politics blogger) Julian Ware-Lane as their candidate for next year’s general election.

For the past two years Julian has been representing Milton ward on Southend Borough Council, and has been one of the loudest cheerleaders for making Southend a better place to live, as well as one of the hardest working campaigners in the borough.

I think he’s a fantastic choice to take on David Amess, the sitting Tory MP. Like myself, Julian is a proponent of grassroots politics, and most weekends (and more than a few weekday evenings) will see him knocking on doors somewhere in the borough and discussing local (or national) issues with residents.

And unlike David Amess, he has never claimed thousands of pounds of public money to live the high life (and, equally, has never hidden from the local press in a hairdresser’s).

Southend desperately needs the change which Labour is offering in 2015; the rot of 14 years of Tory rule locally has already been stopped by Labour on the Council, but for Southend to truly prosper we need change in Westminster too. Julian Ware-Lane, along with Ian Gilbert as Labour candidate for Rochford & Southend East is the man to deliver that change.

I look forward to hitting the campaign trail with him in the months to come.