A few weeks back I blogged about one of UKIP’s five new councillors on Southend Borough Council. Lawrence Davies, representing Kursaal ward, had said in April that he would be moving back to Cambridge this August. This, as I said at the time, was a matter of concern because it would either leave Kursaal with an absentee councillor, or the Southend taxpayer a £14,000 bill for a by-election.
Cllr Davies has, now, responded by way of the local paper, to clarify that he isn’t, in fact, going to be leaving Southend. Which is fair enough. But he also seems to have taken offence at the question ever having been asked in the first place.
In Friday’s Southend Echo, Cllr Davies said:
“I can confirm I have never made plans to leave Southend. I can only assume this is part of the campaign to slander UKIP, and me in particular, though I’m not sure why.
“I have been offered a teaching job near Cambridge, but I made it clear that I would commute daily from my Kursaal ward, in Southend. I have told my friends, but the job offer is not public knowledge and I accepted it on the condition I would stay in Southend.
“So I can confirm there is no truth to this story, and I have taken it all with a pinch of salt so far, just like accusations of racism, often levelled at UKIP councillors.“
A few thoughts occur. Firstly, I made no accusations of racism against Cllr Davies, and I’m not sure why he has raised racism accusations at all.
Secondly, I’m not sure what about my original post was untrue. I noted that this had been posted on Cllr Davies’ Facebook page a month before the election, and that he may have changed his mind. But all I did was take the words which Cllr Davies himself had written — words which he seems to have forgotten all about now. He didn’t say that he was taking a new job in Cambridge, he said that he was moving to Cambridge.
Thirdly, this isn’t a campaign to slander anyone. This is scrutiny. Politics — local and national — revolves around the electors holding the elected to account. In my opinion, insufficient scrutiny was given to UKIP and its local candidates before the elections, and so yes I am making an effort to rectify that using this blog.
But UKIP are far from the only party that I scrutinise. I did detailed analysis of what each party was offering Southend residents at the elections just gone.
Cllr Davies is new to local politics, I can understand that. He doesn’t know everything about how local government works, and there is no reason that he should. But media scrutiny of elected officials is a mainstay of democracy, and a requirement for it to work properly.
I accept that Cllr Davies says he has changed his mind, that he will be staying and representing Kursaal residents — though I don’t envy him the 140-odd mile round commute. What I don’t accept, however, is that I should refrain from holding him and his party to account simply because they don’t like it. That is something I will resolutely and unapologetically continue doing.