When the leader of the Independent Party Group, Martin Terry, decided not to stay in Westborough for a hopeless stand, but rather to flee across Southend to the electoral safety of Thorpe, I genuinely wondered whether the Independent
Party Group would field a candidate.
I mean, Martin has salted the ground for any candidate pretty thoroughly, and has surely tainted the official Independent banner in Westcliff. He essentially declared that his ego was more important than the voters he was supposed to be representing. Then he threw a slightly inept smoke bomb, and tried to sneak out the back.
However. For every thankless task there is a taker. Cometh the hour, cometh Independent Party Group candidate for Westborough: Alan Hart.
Finding information about Mr Hart isn’t easy. I never understand why so many local election candidates have zero online presence. It’s not hard to put up a one-page wordpress site saying who you are and why you’re standing for election. Or a twitter account. But if I Google your name and nothing comes up, then you are an unknown, a risk, and why would anyone vote for you.
Mr Hart doesn’t have exactly zero presence though. Googling his name brings up (once one narrows it down a little, he isn’t even the most famous Alan Hart) this comes up: a letter (to the Echo?) posted on an anti-airport site complaining about Sainsburys in the town centre. From 2011.
But for some reason, the Echo seem to be trying to fix that. For reasons best known to themselves they have taken it upon themselves to promote Mr Hart’s campaign without mention of the eight other candidates in Westborough. Under the title “Independent candidate holds surgeries for residents”, this non-story appeared on the Echo website:
“THE INDEPENDENT candidate for Westborough ward will be hold surgeries for residents over the next three Saturdays.
“Alan Hart, 62, from Randolph Close, Leigh, is hopes to meet potential voters to discuss the issues that matter to them at the Nook coffee house opposite Chalkwell Park in London Road, Leigh, from 1pm tomorrow.
“Mr Hart is replacing Southend Independent group leader Martin Terry who resigned from the ward to contest the Thorpe ward at this month’s elections.“
A few things about this. Firstly, he isn’t replacing Martin Terry. Not yet, at least. That is why we are having an election, and as I said Mr Hart is far from certain of winning after Martin sulked off to Thorpe. Secondly, this is a very odd way of campaigning. Traditionally, candidates go to the voters whose votes they are trying to win. The “I’m going to sit here and you can come let me sell to you” isn’t something I’ve encountered before, and I’m not sure it makes a great deal of sense.
And finally, why is this getting a plug in the Echo? I’ll be out canvassing voters over the bank holiday weekend. Can I have a puff piece on the local paper? I’m mystified as to what the point of this is. It’s not even saying anything about Mr Hart’s election platform. Answers on a postcard, I guess.
And with that, I think I’ve just about doubled Mr Hart’s online profile.