Take independent nonsense out of Southend local politics


southend civic centre

The Southend Echo finally published my letter about the Shoebury hustings yesterday. It’s a touch truncated, but I’m going to presume that is down to space-saving rather than any sort of censorship. If you want to read the entire letter, including the part where I ponder on whether I was deliberately cut out of the debate, then luckily you can read it here.

What did catch my eye, however, was a letter from Cllr Anne Chalk (who organised the farcical hustings in question) entitled “Take party politics out of locals”.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows just how little I think of the Independent Party Group and that I have pointed out many, many times that if it looks like a party, acts like a party, quacks like a party, it’s probably a party — no matter how many times it calls itself “independent”.

So maybe this is just rehashing the same old round, but call me the patron saint of pointless exercises, because I’m going in.

Okay, to begin with Anne takes a shot at:

Paper candidates…who merely sign up to stand in a particular ward in local elections and have no intention whatsoever of getting into the seat, in order to work for the residents of that ward and of Southend.

I find it interesting that she includes Southend there. Because as I’ve been trying to scrutinise the policy platforms of other parties and definitely-not-(but-probably-are)-parties that’s one thing I’ve found lacking. Some candidates have bits and pieces of ideas for wards or parts of wards (in varying flavours of stupid), but nobody has any plans for Southend as a town or a borough. Well, apart from the eighteen Labour candidates, of course.

Often they do not even put out a leaflet, let alone canvas or attend a husting.

For some reason, I sense that this is aimed at myself, and Labour’s Shoeburyness candidate Maggie Kelly.

Which is interesting, because neither of us are paper candidates. I have been blogging until my fingers bleed about Southend and Shoebury local politics, and Maggie’s leaflets have been going out throughout Shoeburyness. And as for hustings, Maggie would have attended if she hadn’t had to work or had had more notice, and I was going to stand in for her until a certain letter-writing Independent councillor for Shoeburyness changed the rules.

Actually, Anne expounds this point on her blog (her first entry of 2014 — just saying…) accusing Maggie of being a “virtual candidate”. And of myself, apparently “nobody would deny he had every opportunity to speak along with everyone else at this meeting” — despite the fact that by her own agreement I was to be on the panel, up until 10 minutes before the start.

But on with the letter:

Political groups should stop this practice as it is merely shameful propaganda for their parties and misleads the electorate.

I honestly don’t know what the propaganda point means. Party candidates asking for votes is…promotion of their parties? Well…yeah. And?

As for misleading the electorate, I’ll debate this point with Anne when she admits that she changed the terms of the hustings at the last moment, to cut Labour out and prevent any coherent challenge to her sponge of a candidate.

Votes are wasted in this way and the hardworking candidates lose support they deserve.

Deserve? I don’t think that’s up to Anne, I think that’s up to the voters. And if they prefer a party-backed candidate to an Independent Party Group-backed one, then that is on them. And maybe it’s because they value solid, enactable policies for the good of Southend, over the fluff and nonsense of the independents.

And as far as hardworking goes, I take that personally. Today I was working at home, so when the alarm went off at 6 I pulled on some clothes and did some leafleting. And then, when I finished work at 6, I went out to do some more leafleting before dinner. And I know that my fellow Labour candidates and activists are out every day working hard all day.

Its time to take party politics out of local government.

Poor grammar aside, party politics is actually, as I have already said, the only offer of a prosperous future Southend voters have.

To lay it out clearly, the advantage to voters of me as a Labour candidate is that they know what they are voting for. I have pledges for West Shoebury, promises for the area, and at the same time Labour have a vision for the borough. Whereas the Independents are offering nothing for the future at all, Labour have a thought out plan for a better one.

Anne Chalk might want to take notes.

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