Earlier this morning , at a press conference, it was announced that a deal has been reached between the Independent, Labour and Lib Dem groups to form a coalition administration on Southend Borough Council, under the leadership of Ron Woodley.
News this may well be, but to anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention it won’t come as a surprise.
For one thing, the numbers were there. Thirteen Independent councillors, nine Labour councillors, and five Lib Dem councillors, adds up to 27 — a majority of two. Neil Monnery is right, it is slim. But it is also patently the only majority which exists on the council.
Whether it will hold together remains to be seen. I have a feeling that Ron will find the realities of leadership a lot more difficult than his fantasies, and I doubt that holding the Independents together will be any easier than herding cats. But then I’m a horrible pessimist, so what do I know.
I haven’t seen the details of the agreement yet, but I have faith in Ian Gilbert and the rest of the Labour group. Labour were the only party to go into the elections with a manifesto, and so can have been the only party at the negotiating table with a plan for Southend.
And here’s the nub of the matter: every vote for Labour on May 22nd was a vote for that manifesto. All 8,336 of them. And we as a party owe it to those who voted for us to grasp with both hands any opportunity we have to put any of that manifesto into practice.
There is also the fact that any administration with Labour as a part of it is, I believe, preferable to one without Labour.
As I say, I don’t know how this will work out. But people voted for a change from Conservative stagnation, and that is what they are getting. Good luck to the new administration, and especially to Ian Gilbert and the other two Labour councillors who will take seats at the cabinet table.
O brave new world, that has such people in’t!