Sorry, but the Liberal Democrats are a spent force in Southend

two horse race

So, one day after I blog about how the Liberal Democrats don’t have a hope — or even a candidate — in Blenheim Park ward, the only local Lib Dem activist who has mastered the use of internet has blogged a witheringly sarcastic response.

You might think I’ve struck a nerve.

Once upon a time, you see, the Lib Dems were the repository of anti-Tory vote in Southend West. Then they found themselves in government, and those flexible principles which had allowed them to be all things to all people in opposition became a major turnoff to the electorate, who had voted for them thinking that they might actually stand by what they had said they believed in.

Now, there are only five Lib Dem councillors left in Southend, and rather than looking to grow that number they are desperately worried that the sole seat they have up for re-election this year might slip through their fingers.

And if I wasn’t sure of that before, then Neil Monnery’s jittery blog today has confirmed it to me.

Neil is right, at least, that the nominations for the local elections haven’t even opened. But a candidate can — and, in my view, should — declare themselves before that point.

And as things stand, there are only two candidates declared for Blenheim Park. One is sitting councillor James Courtenay (Conservative), and the other is myself (Labour). Unless the Lib Dem candidate is too ashamed to declare themselves (as their candidate in Prittlewell apparently is).

Lib Dem strongholds have collapsed across the borough. Blenheim was once one of them. Prittlewell too, and St Laurence. They lost Westborough last year, to a solid Labour double-win — Lib Dems losing in Westborough presumably being something with which Neil is familiar, finishing sixth in 2012 in that ward.

Neil seems sure that their vote will hold up, that everyone will forget that Nick Clegg reneged on his pledge to vote against tuition fee increases, and he’ll walk into 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.

I’d suggest that’s probably unlikely.

I’ve noticed a distinct lack of activity from the yellow party on the ground. Their only declared candidate for the local elections is in Eastwood Park ward. Coincidentally, that candidate is the same person as their parliamentary candidate for Southend West, Paul Collins. Which seems, to be, a pretty clear admission that he won’t be doing a great deal of campaigning outside of Eastwood.

There’s also the little fact of the Lib Dem support on the ground in Blenheim Park. Some 90% of the ward has received at least one piece of Labour literature since I became candidate. I’m knocking on doors across the ward. I have yet to encounter anyone intending to vote for whoever the Lib Dems may or may not stand. But I’ve encountered more than a few disillusioned Lib Dems planning to vote Labour.


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