The votes have been counted (or, in Martin Terry’s case, weighed) and there were a whole host of new councillors waking up this morning.
I was at the count myself live-tweeting — and live-blogging, when I could keep up — and I saw events as they unfolded. If you haven’t seen the results yet, you can take a look here. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Done?
So the big story is the one that the BBC are currently trailing; the surge of UKIP across the country. But it wasn’t just UKIP, so how did everyone else do?
If any party in Southend can lay claim to having the worst night, then the Tories are that party.
They lost seven seats, and control of the council. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but the loss of Tony Cox will be a blow. It did seem yesterday that the Tories had surrendered across the town centre, and Labour activists mostly assumed that they had diverted resources to try and hold West Shoebury. If so, then it was too little too late.
Elsewhere, I was somewhat disappointed at Roger Hadley losing in Shoeburyness, not because I’m a particular fan of Roger’s, but because I was so unimpressed by Independent candidate — now counsellor — Nick Ward. I fear that Shoeburyness residents have traded flawed representation for vacant representation.
It’s also notable that many of their target seats (Prittlewell, for example) went to UKIP.
The Tories may still find a way to cling onto power. But new leader John Lamb has already ruled out working with UKIP, and a Tory/Lib Dem coalition would still be two seats short of a majority.
The Liberal Democrats
If the Lib Dems had a better night than the Tories, it can only be down to the fact that they expected to be annihilated.
The most striking thing is that they lost three seats to UKIP, which I’m sure will be troubling their leader Graham Longley this morning. They held Leigh, but that will be small comfort, especially having lost Paul Collins in Westborough. Westborough was crawling with Lib Dem activists yesterday, so I think losing both seats to Labour will be a bit of a gut punch.
I think we’re seeing the slow retreat of the Lib Dems into obscurity in Southend. Long overdue, I would say, but that they seem to be giving way to UKIP is worrying.
The Indies had a good night, gaining for seats. They lost one in Westborough, but with Martin Terry fleeing into the embrace of Ron Woodley in Thorpe that was all but inevitable.
I am staggered that the Independents can consistently do so well, when promising so little. I don’t have a clue what Caroline Endersby in St Luke’s, for example, will do. When I asked what Nick Ward wanted for Shoeburyness, he was unable to think of anything.
One think I do expect, after overhearing a couple of conversations at the count, is a attempted Independent/UKIP alliance to control the council. The numbers arent there (13 + 5 = 18, short of the 26 needed), but never say never.
And here we are. UKIP, if we are honest, did better than they could ever have expected. James Moyies did work hard for West Shoebury, and I gather Tino Callaghan did a bit of work in Prittlewell. But on the whole, they picked up seats without doing much work. This is exemplified by one of the victorious candidates not even being present at the announcement of the result.
As with the Independents, I don’t know what their policies are. They campaigned on a very narrow, and often meaningless, set of pledges. And, as above, if they enter an alliance with the Indies, who knows what we’ll end up with.
And to us.
It was, paradoxically, a good night for Labour in Southend. We made three gains, and Councillors Nevin, Robinson and Royston will be excellent additions to the council, and firm champions of their residents, and the re-election of Margaret Borton in Victoria was great news. Not only that, but across the whole borough our vote largely held up.
I am disappointed about Kursaal. We had hoped to take it, and Chas would have been an excellent councillor. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the new UKIP councillor — he did no campaigning, and from what I hear he isn’t particularly disposed to working hard for his voters. But it was a national bubble there, the Nigel Farage vote. I am satisfied that Chas ran an excellent campaign, but it was tantalisingly close.
So too am I disappointed on behalf of Gray Sergeant in St Luke’s. He was an excellent candidate, against an absent and invisible Independent. I think St Luke’s residents have missed out, but I can find no fault at all with Gray.
So we’re moving forward. And I watch eagerly what will happen next, but am proud of every single one of our candidates.