If anyone wants indisputable proof that I am indeed mad, then may I present as exhibit 1, the fact that I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings out knocking on doors and talking to strangers.
(There is an argument, and a compelling one I think, that by doing just such I am in fact the one who is stranger)
We are still some eight months away from the next round of elections, so most political parties in Southend are conspicuous by their absence on the campaign trail, and I suspect will remain so until January at the earliest, but I am glad to say that Southend Labour are out campaigning almost all year round.
Saturday morning saw me out and about in St Luke’s ward, with Labour’s candidate for Rochford & Southend East Cllr Ian Gilbert and Cllr Anne Jones (pictured above), along with Gray Sergeant (taking the photo).
St Luke’s was an area where Labour came second in May, and I was glad to find a good reception on the doorstep. Someone knocking on your door to ask what you think of the local community and local services and amenities isn’t always the most welcome thing, but I do find that people are almost always polite to your face.
There is clearly some concern at the speed of traffic on Eastern avenue, as pretty much every resident I spoke to felt it was unsafe, and had anecdotes of dangerous driving. Speed cameras are often met with ire by drivers, but if speeding is endemic and causing frequent accidents then I do think that cameras are something which should seriously be considered.
Other complaints were around GP surgeries; David Cameron’s NHS cuts are biting hard, and people are increasingly struggling to get appointments at oversubscribed and underfunded surgeries. It’s worth pointing out that in stark contrast to real-terms Tory cuts, Labour have pledged to guarantee a maximum waiting time of 48 hours for an appointment with a GP.
Sunday morning was spent in Milton ward, down on Clifftown Parade with Cllrs Julian Ware-Lane (Milton – and Labour candidate for Southend West constituency) and Kevin Robinson (Westborough).
Aside from the fact that Cllr Ware-Lane seems to know every other person in his ward, a lot of people seemed to have found better things to do with their Sunday mornings. All power to them, I say. But those who I spoke to encompassed a wide range of issues, from Scottish independence to putting a heliport at the head of Southend pier.
In terms of local issues, parking was the biggest concern by a long, long way. This is hardly unexpected, parking is a big issue throughout the town centre — the burden of a tourist town with limited space, really. A few ideas for potential ways to ease the pressure were mooted, but as with most things in local government nothing will be achieved quickly.
The response here wasn’t as resoundingly pro-Labour as St Luke’s had been on Saturday. But this was an area of Milton was one in which the Conservatives usually do particularly well, and what was obvious was the disaffection towards the blue party. And, again, this is coupled with the fact that Labour were the only party who most had heard from in a long while.