On Monday night, there was a hustings for the local elections in Shoeburyness. I wasn’t able to make it, more out of work commitments than any greater urge, though I had debated on Twitter whether it was worth attending.
Those few regular readers who I’ve managed not to annoy away may recall that I was meant to be taking part in a very similar hustings last year. The Labour candidate for Shoeburyness couldn’t make the date, so it was agreed that I, as West Shoebury candidate, would stand in for her. Agreed until about ten minutes before the event, when Independent
Party Group councillor Anne Chalk decided that I would outshine her chosen candidate the now-Cllr Nick Ward, and excluded me.
What grated the most, though, was the way that it was presented that Labour hadn’t bothered to turn up.
This year Maggie is our candidate again, against Anne Chalk herself. This year she made it to the hustings, and although I wasn’t there, she demonstrated that she is the only alternative to the Conservatives for the people of Shoeburyness.
I can say this despite not having been there. I can say this because I know how the event panned out. The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats did miss it, and I wonder if they mightn’t have had the better idea of it.
Last time the chair had been Tim Gillett, who is a figure of respect and even if I felt the event was stage managed, I cannot fault the impartiality of his chairing. This year the chair was one Louise Wilcox, a personal friend and ally of Anne’s.
The questions, in contravention of the practice of about every hustings I’ve ever seen, questions were not offered to all candidates. Most, my little birds report, were offered to Anne, on the basis that “you’re the sitting councillor, so best placed to answer” it. Conservative candidate Roger Hadley got all of the questions along the “Why are Tories such bastards?” lines. And Maggie got to sit there being asked almost nothing.
This, I suspect, is because the fight that Anne wants the election to be about is her and Roger; Independent
Party Group vs the Conservatives. The people of Shoeburyness, are rightly sick of the Conservatives and Anne wants to be the only alternative available.
Except that’s not true. Anne isn’t even an alternative.
Just under a year ago I blogged a rumour about Cllr Chalk, that she had offered to support Conservative leader John Lamb as leader of the council, in exchange for a seat at the cabinet table. Now, Anne has been blisteringly critical of her Independent
Party Group ward colleague Cllr Mike Assenheim for working with Conservatives in his cabinet role. But Anne was quite willing to sell her soul to the Tories for a sniff of personal power. How can anyone trust that she wouldn’t do it again?
Anne Chalk’s anti-Tory posturing is a sham. If the residents of Shoebury want to keep the Tories out, then the only reliable choice is Labour and Maggie Kelly on May 7th.