The Green Party in Southend are, to be honest, a bit of an odd bunch.
I know, pots and kettles. But this is a blog which I’ve spent a good long time trying to get right. See, there’s an election coming up (You may have heard something about it… -Ed), and as I have repeatedly stated, my aim with the political wing of this blog is to shine a light on what those who will be on the ballot paper are actually offering.
This is because there are some groups who actively benefit from a lack of awareness of what they want. UKIP, for instance. Their gains in May came, I would say, from a general lack of awareness of their policies, beyond the obvious, and of their people. Since then I like to think I have shed a light on who the purple-and-yellow band in Southend actually are. I leave readers to make their own judgements based on that information.
The same general ignorance is true, I would say, of the Green Party. They are fielding candidates in both Southend constituencies: Simon Cross in Rochford & Southend East, and Jon Fuller in Southend West. I will turn my beacon of scrutiny on Simon in good time (for now, this provides an interesting view), but I want first to focus on Mr Fuller.
Jon Fuller is chiefly an environmental campaigner, so far as I can tell. He is heavily involved with South East Essex Friends of the Earth, and a vocal voice against Southend Airport. That seems, though, only tangentially related to his standing for election.
Let me quote to you from Mr Fuller’s announcement of his candidacy:
“For me Julian [Ware-Lane, Labour candidate for Southend West] represents everything that is wrong in the Labour Party. I could never vote for him. Not only does he support the climate busting expansion of Southend Airport but he has campaigned against speed bumps in our incredibly densely populated town.“
Two things stick out there: firstly, he doesn’t like Julian. Secondly, he is very passionate about speed bumps.
Well, the second is not an issue decided by Westminster. Road safety of this sort is a local council issue, so surely Jon should be standing in the local, rather than national, elections.
But bizarrely, his reason for standing is less to do with that than the fact that he doesn’t like Julian. Which is…odd. There are politicians of whom I am not a fan, but I’ve never stood for election for any reason other than what I can offer to the electorate and a belief that I can do good and make the constituency in question a better place.
Putting yourself forward for election as part of a personal grudge is, in my opinion, a complete misuse of democracy.
In another comment, Jon Fuller has said:
“Perhaps Labour could apologise for Julian’s crass campaign against speed bumps around the schools and assure the public that the party will ditch any candidate who fails to campaign to protect children from the greatest threat they face?“
The greatest threat? What, greater than poverty? Greater than homelessness? Hunger? I don’t see anything crass about Julian’s record on road safety — indeed, he has stood beside me in criticism in the disastrously unsafe Victoria Gateway mess. Concerns about speed bumps as a road safety mechanism does not equate, as Mr Fuller seems to believe, to a lack of interest in road safety.
What really gets me is that it is the Green Party who complain of other parties being “petty” and vitriolic. Yet here Julian is being effectively accused of being a child murderer, on the basis that he supports road safety measures other than speed bumps. Am I the only one to whom that seems extreme, incongruous, and somewhat offensive?
I am an environmentalist. I believe climate change is a huge problem, which needs to be addressed. So does Julian. But I also live in the real world, and I know that Southend Airport brings many benefits to the town, not least employment . This is the problem with trying to take your politics seriously; you cannot focus on one or two narrow issues to the exclusion of the bigger picture.
For example, Mr Fuller’s views on housing policy. He wants to protect green spaces (not something I disagree with), and wants to do so with a massive expansion of high-rise apartment blocks in the town centre. That’s tower blocks, to you and me. Unsurprisingly, this is something I oppose. I do not think that the tower blocks Southend has at present have proved themselves a success, and I will oppose plans to build new ones. But if you want more tower blocks, then it seems Jon Fuller and the Green Party are for you.
I am sure that Mr Fuller (and Mr Cross joining in with him) will tell me I’m wrong and offensive for daring to disagree with him. But there you go.
I believe in a vigorous political debate, open to all. I am not shy about putting my opinion forth, and am absolutely happy for people to put forward opposing viewpoints (and will even promote and respond to them). I have never, and will never, want to shut down that debate. It’s what makes the system work.
But you can’t make public comment, and put yourself forward for election, and expect not to be scrutinised, examined and disagreed with. And, in this blogger’s humble submission, if you’re not prepared to take that disagreement, then perhaps you shouldn’t be putting yourself up for election.