UPDATE: Mark Flewitt has deleted the blog post in question. One could infer from that that Cllr Jones has reconsidered his retirement. Or it could be another instalment of the saga of Cllr Flewitt. Who can say?
That the Conservative Party in Southend is in decline is hardly a secret. In fact, decline is a bit of an understatement; in a few short years they have gone from the unassailably dominant party of local government to an opposition in complete disarray. It hasn’t stopped a few “leading figures” embarrassing themselves blatantly jockeying for position to take the leadership, but it’s not really fooling anyone.
Nor is it fooling their own councillors, apparently; leading the exodus, St Laurence councillor Adam Jones has announced that he won’t be standing for re-election next May.
His announcement comes via the blog of his ward colleague Mark Flewitt, which makes it the first actually substantive thing that Mark has blogged about in…well, a long time. It’s also one of his more comprehensible entries.
(On a side note: Mark has included a note that “NO COMMENTS ON THIS ITEM WILL BE RESPONDED TO”; I can only presume that this is aimed at me, and my nefarious habit of commenting on his blogs. It’s a bit pointless, given that he deletes any comments which disagree with him anyway. Here, on the other hand, any and all comments are welcome)
Of his decision, Adam says:
“…with Brera’s portfolio now including the likes of London Southend Airport, Visit Essex and the Southend BID, I feel it is appropriate for me to step aside after serving the full term of my office.“
Brera being the PR agency owned by him and his wife. I don’t know much about Cllr Jones — Julian Ware-Lane reports that he wanted a “giant blue cock” erected at Victoria gateway, and I’m not sure I want to know the precise meaning there. I have to admit, though, that quitting to spend more time with his money is slightly more original than to spend more time with his family. It feels a bit hollow though.
See, I think that there’s another reason behind Cllr Adam Jones’ decision to step down. I think it pays to have a look at the electoral maths.
In 2011, when Adam was first elected, he won with a majority of 98. Last year, however, Conservative candidate Jonathan Hodge finished in second place, 219 votes behind UKIP’s Lee Burling.
You can argue — and I’m sure Mark Flewitt would — that the circumstances are different this time, that the general election will tilt the turnout in the Conservatives’ favour, etc, etc. But this downwards trend matches the Conservatives’ backwards progress in the borough as a whole.
Maybe the Conservatives will hold St Laurence in May, and maybe they won’t. It would be a task made easier with a sitting councillor contesting the vote, and I can’t help but think Cllr Jones looked at the fate of Mr Hodge, and decided he would rather get out rather than fight and perhaps lose.