Last march of the doomed – Southend Tories select for 2015


tory tree on fire

So the Conservative party in Rochford & Southend East have selected their council candidates for the local elections in 2015. It’s not especially surprising, Southend Labour will be doing the same shortly. The list, too, is not terribly surprising.

This year, the Conservative Party won a grand total of zero seats in the nine wards up for election across  the constituency. This time there are ten wards up for election, which surely gives them an opportunity to not win an extra one. It has become increasingly clear that Conservative fortunes in Southend, particularly in the east, are in full-scale retreat.

What is somewhat surprising is the content of the candidate list.

Rochford District

  • Barling & Sutton – Cllr Mike Steptoe
  • Foulness & Great Wakering – Cllr Colin Seagers
  • Rochford – Cllr Keith Gordon

Southend Borough

  • Kursaal – Alex Bright
  • Milton – Cllr Jonathan Garston
  • Shoeburyness – Roger Hadley
  • Southchurch – Cllr Ann Holland
  • St Luke’s – James Cottis
  • Thorpe – Jon Bacon
  • West Shoebury – Cllr Derek Jarvis
  • Victoria – Denis Garne

For the three Rochford District wards, the sitting councillors are all standing for re-election. Of these wards this year only Rochford and Great Wakering & Foulness were up for election, and of those the former was won by Labour and the latter by UKIP. I don’t think it is over-egging the pudding to state that the sitting Conservatives in all three this year are somewhat vulnerable.

Likewise, in the Southend wards, all of the sitting councillors are standing for election. I had heard rumours of Derek Jarvis’ standing down, but they were only ever rumour. UKIP will definitely be gunning for him, after Moyies’ victory in May I’m a little surprised at Jonathan Garston; given his general absence from the ward, I had half expected he would excuse himself from the ignominy of being the third consecutive Milton councillor to lose to Labour. Ann Holland is the deputy leader of the Conservative group, and probably safe, but it wouldn’t take a great deal for the Indies to unseat her. Derek Kenyon (the victorious Independent Party Group candidate last time) wasn’t a particularly inspirational candidate.

And the others? Well, those who were paying attention last time around may remember that Denis Garne is a one-time Labour councillor defected to the Conservatives after losing his Kursaal seat. I made my thoughts about that clear on this blog, whilst the voters of Victoria ward made theirs clear at the ballot box. Despite his third place finish in May, Denis is back again. I don’t anticipate any better performance this time around.

Thorpe is become an Independent Party Group stronghold, as ably demonstrated by Martin Terry’s chicken run in May. They practically weighed his votes then, and I expect the same with Ron Woodley this time around. So for Jon Bacon (owner of Ocean Beach restaurant, and a previous candidate for the, err, Independent Party Group UPDATE: Apparently it’s a different Jon Bacon.) this probably won’t end well.

Roger Hadley is, arguably, in with one of the best shouts of the bunch. He lost in May to the empty vessel that is Nick Ward, standing for the Independent Party Group. But this year he is standing against Anne Chalk. Anne has had quite a public falling out with ward colleague Mike Assenheim, and so isn’t going to be getting a whole lot (…any -Ed) support from the rest of her party group. Perhaps Roger can reverse his fortunes from this year? He’s the only Tory I’d actually put any money on…

I’ve already blogged about James Cottis in St Luke’s, and I still think it’s a sad indictment of the local Conservatives that they can’t find sufficient candidates within Southend itself. The folly of putting up a non-dom candidate against Independent Party Group bigwig Paul van Looy is also remarkable.

Finally, we have Alex Bright in Kursaal ward. Alex isn’t someone I was familiar with, but a quick search turns him up as a third year student at Nottingham University, president of the university Conservative Association, as well as chairman of the Rochford & Southend East Conservative Future (the youth wing of the party). A third year student, at a university halfway across the country, is not going to be able to devote much campaigning time to the ultra-marginal Kursaal ward. Also: his Nottingham University Conservative Association held on Friday a “port and policy” event. Which is about the least Kursaal thing I can conceive of.

The final thing which is worth noting is an absence from this list: former West Shoebury councillor Tony Cox. Tony lost his seat to lead kipper James Moyies last year, but I am nonetheless surprised not to see him on this list; he outshines all of its other names.

After the bruising battle in May, perhaps he wants a bit of a break (which I wouldn’t begrudge him), but without their general in the field, this tattered army does seem to be shambling its way to an inevitable defeat.


tony cox tweet family

A worthy reason, to be sure. Not of particular help to those candidates under the Conservative banner, though.

One comment

  1. You, I and Gray have all fought decent (not outstanding) campaigns whilst studying away from home. We all would have gone on to make more than competent councillors and campaigners. Whilst they would have been better if we had been living their permanently our bids were still better than the anonymity seen from many councillors in Southend.

    I never thought I would defence Alex Bright but I feel compelled to. He is rubbish because his campaign is also anonymous, not because he is at university.

    Ideally we need more people from the campus in Southend getting involved in local politics that would really spice up Milton ward.


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