As some will remember from my blog a little while back, Denis Garne is the Conservative Party candidate for Victoria ward this year. His history in Southend politics was interesting to say the least, as I discovered.
Now, I am standing for election in West Shoebury (an area of Southend to which I do have links — my fiancée’s entire family living in the ward) but I live in Victoria. So unsurprisingly, last week a blue-and-white glossy leaflet for Mr Garne’s campaign dropped through our letterbox.
It makes for interesting reading. For the most part it is exactly what you would expect from any party political literature at election-time. But given Denis’ political past, there are some…shall we say interesting statements contained.
The first, and most obvious, thing which occurs looking at Mr Garne’s leaflet is the headline on it: “Re-elect Denis Garne”. It’s an accurate statement, and he goes on to make a big point of it.
“As a former local councillor, I have a proven record of delivering on my promises and helping local residents.“
“Denis…has previously represented Kursaal ward for many years on the Council.“
Both of these statements are entirely true, and though his tenure pre-dated my arrival at Southend, from what I hear from friends in the local Labour Party, I understand he was indeed an excellent and dedicated councillor. I wouldn’t want to disrespect Mr Garne’s legacy. However, he doesn’t seem to be of the same opinion:
“Do you remember what it was like when the Lib Dems and Labour controlled Southend? Southend was in the dolldrums suffering from neglect.“
Now, I would disagree most strongly that neglect is something Southend suffered under Labour and has been alleviated under the Conservatives. And I’m sure Mr Garne would have done too, when he was Labour councillor for Kursaal.
There are, I’m sure, many good reasons to switch parties. And if Mr Garne’s are noble, then so be it. But I am a little disturbed that he seems to be glorying in his past achievements, whilst both campaigning to undo them and at the same time disguising his former allegiances. Why not share the reasons for this defection with the people whose votes he is asking for?
On top of that, the claims within the leaflet are fanciful:
“Denis sights [sic] ill health, poor housing and unemployment, amongst other things, that require higher investment than is necessary in some other parts of the town.“
He’s absolutely right. These are, however, problems which have been rampant under the Conservative administration, exacerbated by cuts, and which his current party have no ideas to deal with. In the past 30 years, only a single council house has been built. How is that solving the housing crisis? Labour are, as I have said before, the only party with a plan for prosperity in Southend’s future.
He even says that he will oppose proposals for new much-needed homes and developments.
And the final thing I would point out is the use of the world local. It is scattered across the page like glitter. “The local candidate for Victoria“. “Denis Garne: Local campaigner, local action“. “About Denis Garne – your local Conservative candidate in Victoria.”
I don’t believe that you have to live within a ward in order to represent it (obviously…), but the over-use of the word “local” seems designed to create a certain impression in the mind of voters. An impression which isn’t of a candidate who lives across the other side of the borough, in Shoeburyness. He isn’t alone in this. Over in Eastwood Park, Tory councillor seeking re-election Andrew Moring is branding himself as the candidate of the “local conservatives”. Despite living in Thorpe Bay. Perhaps it’s catching?
But it seems that there’s a lot of misleading impressions and half-truths here.