There are 79 days to go until the local elections in Southend-on-Sea, 79 days left for the candidates from the various parties to sell their pitches to the voters, and lay out their vision for the future of the town and the wards which it comprises.
The curious thing is, though there are only 11 weeks left, in Blenheim Park it is a two-horse race.
The only candidates so far declared are myself and sitting Conservative councillor James Courtenay. Other parties are giving every impression of not being bothered.
Despite the fact that Blenheim Park has also returned Lib Dem and UKIP councillors, there is absolutely no sign of either of those parties on the ground in Blenheim Park. And, being out in the ward, talking to residents, I would know.
The Lib Dems have fallen back so far from their heyday with Cleggmania, that they are now focused on keeping their only councillor seat up for re-election, in Leigh. Blenheim Park is all but forgotten, particularly by their leader and Blenheim Park councillor Graham Longley, who seems far more absorbed by his cabinet role as portfolio holder for
photo opportunities Culture, Tourism, and Enterprise.
UKIP, meanwhile, are busy tearing themselves apart. With their councillor in Blenheim Park, Floyd Waterworth, having been expelled from the UKIP group by his fellow kippers, and on the verge of losing his committee positions and any hint of influence over council policy, he is rapidly turning himself into an irrelevance. Of course, he hasn’t noticed, because as parliamentary candidate for Rochford & Southend East he sees his future in the Palace of Westminster, and voters of Blenheim Park are just a stepping stone along the way.
I wouldn’t expect to see a UKIP candidate very soon, much less one interested in what voters want from their representatives.
So the choice before residents is the Tories or Labour, either James Courtenay or me, Matt Dent.
The choice is clear. Voters in Blenheim Park ward can either go for the candidate who voted for closing Priory House care home because it’s “wasteful spending”; or the candidate whose party fought to save it as an investment in residential care.
We can either bury our heads and ignoring the housing crisis; or actually get stuck in to build the homes we need for the future.
We can either choose to scrap paid staff from libraries and close children’s centres; or we can save our cultural and social facilities for a better tomorrow.
Voters can go for the the tired, stagnating, out-of-ideas bunch who managed Southend’s decline for fourteen years; or the party whose ideas have driven the new administration towards building a better Southend to work and live in.
It’s your choice Blenheim Park: either “no we can’t” Tories, or “yes we can” Labour.