It seems it’s been a bloody summer, for the Conservative Party in Rochford & Southend East.
Getting all their selections out of the way very early on for the May 2016 local elections has thrown up a bit of internal bloodletting. The exact nature of the labyrinthine internal politics of Southend Conservatives is not, I’ll admit, exactly clear to me (Case in point: I expected the Courtenay/Cox putsch to succeed in May -Ed), but I expect there are some personal grudges being played out here.
The list of candidates which my little birds tell me for the east of the borough throws up relatively few surprises, with the honourable exception of Southchurch.
Now, readers may well expect that sitting councillor David Garston would be with a good chance of retaining his seat next year, after his son’s surprising (Lucky -Ed) escape from defenestration in Milton ward this year and non-dom deputy leader Ann Holland’s victory in Southchurch. He won’t, though, as the 2016 Conservative candidate for Southchurch will in fact be Alex Bright, who Kursaal voters might recall recently rejecting in favour of Labour’s Judith McMahon.
There’s not necessarily any surprise in this. Cllr Garston Sr isn’t exactly a young man, and in his time on the council has served as mayor, and the Council website says he was first elected in 1970. There’s no shame in deciding that you’ve had enough.
Except that my little birds tell me that Cllr Garston Sr hadn’t had enough. Apparently he put himself forward for reselection, only to lose to young Mr Bright.
Not being a member of the Conservative Party, I cannot say for sure how they run their selections process. In Labour, the candidate is chosen by the members within that ward. I understand that, with the Conservatives, the decision is made by the local party’s executive committee — which in Rochford & Southend East is chaired by one Cllr Tony Cox.
I’ve heard competing reasonings behind the deselection. One rumour says that Cllr Garston Sr was a sub-par performer, who lost the confidence of his colleagues. Another, that Cllr Cox was out for a little revenge after his coup was put down and he was left sidelined from the shadow cabinet.
Your blogger offers no verdict on what the truth is, but whichever is the answer, there’s something odd going on with Southend Conservatives.