So the news is, apparently, out. The Joint Administration seems to have the numbers to enter its second year in charge of the council, with the addition of the Southend Independence Group joining its ranks. That this has been cobbled together from the available numbers.
This may be a “bastard” administration, but it is a completely legitimate one.
The new arrangement has caused a little upset in some quarters. Understandably — I do not hold with the policies of UKIP, or indeed many of the people under their banner. This has been discussed internally to death by Southend Labour Party, and whilst we are not overjoyed to welcome the former Kippers into the administration, the near-unanimous decision has been that, for the time being, it is the best option on the table.
There are a few points underlying this.
First is that the three councillors who now make up the Southend Independence Group have left UKIP.
This is more than just a case of convenience, on their part. Having spoken to all three of the Southend
Liberation Front Independence Group, I am confident that this is not simply a case of “UKIP won’t have them.” With everything that has happened, they feel that UKIP has betrayed them, locally and nationally, and no longer want to be any part of it.
Secondly, the council’s agenda is unchanged.
The joint administration will still be pursuing housebuilding. It will still be protecting libraries, protecting care homes, making sure that the needs of Southend are addressed and its residents listened to.
People’s Front of Southend Southend Independence Group have not, to my knowledge, made any demands inconsistent with the Joint Administration’s agenda — which for the last year has been driven by Labour.
Thirdly, in the absence of an alternative, our promises to the people of Southend require it.
This was an election fought against the Conservatives by Southend Labour. We fought against Tory cuts, and Tory priorities, promising a fairer, more equal administration for the people of the town.
We can’t do that unless we have a hand on the tiller.
In fact, if the Conservatives regain administration, the very opposite will happen. The council house building will cease. Priory House will close. Library staff will go. Once again we’ll have a council which feels it doesn’t need to listen to its residents.
And bearing in mind the level of cuts which will again be hitting Southend from a majority Tory government, Southend needs whatever small protection it can get. Whatever we can do to minimise the hit on the most vulnerable, those who can least bear the strain. Southend has been pummelled by cuts the past five years, and faces a gruelling further five years of the same. And it’s noticeable that not once have Southend Conservatives spoken out against their national counterparts’ decision to inflict pain. Indeed, some of them seem positively gleeful.
In short, we owe it to every one of the people who voted for us at the elections to take any measure we can to keep the Conservatives out.
Former Tory leader Nigel Holdcroft has said:
“We must now wait with interest to see whether Cllr Ron Woodley manages to cobble together a continuation of his rainbow alliance. If he does, thereby preventing the Tories from taking power, how will such an administration be able to claim any semblance of legitimacy?“
The intimation being that anything other than a Conservative administration is illegitimate. Which begs the question of why the present Tory leader John Lamb cannot command a majority in the chamber.
Yes, the joint administration is a hodgepodge. A bastard child of groups who disagree on a great many things — and, actually, there are members of the Independent Party Group whose views I find far more distasteful than Cllr Moyies — but who do agree that the 14 years of Tory rule we escaped cannot be allowed to return.
It was John Major who described his own party members as “bastards”. It is, I would suggest, better for Southend to have a bastard administration, than an administration run by “the bastards”.