I blogged a little while back on the shenanigans going on down Southchurch way, and regular readers may recall that Rochford & Southend East Conservative Association deselected longstanding Southchurch ward councillor and former mayor David Garston.
Not that they’re admitting that’s what happened, mind.
Tony Cox (Con – West Shoebury) makes a valiant effort toeing the party line on his blog, saying:
“On the contary to what has been published on the local blogssphere, David has moved to Leigh and decided to fight a seat in the West of the town.“
I’m absolutely not suggesting that Tony is telling porkies; I am sure that David has moved to Leigh, and has decided to fight Prittlewell. But the fact remains that he has done so on account of his having been deselected in Southchurch.
And my little birds report that Southchurch residents are less than impressed.
Now, I know neither Cllr Garston sr nor Alex Bright, the wielder of the knife at this deselection (Though not, seemingly, the orchestrator of this Ides of March -Ed), so everything that I am going to say about them is second hand. But it is safe to say that Southchurch residents are not thrilled that their veteran councillor has been turfed out in favour of a comparative novice.
Mr Bright, of course, contested Kursaal ward at the last election where despite a fairly innovative approach to viral campaigning he finished a distant (But respectable -Ed) second place. I think it’s fair that such a performance would qualify Mr Bright for a more likely seat, if he did not wish to continue to campaign in Kursaal. There’s a question over whether that should be Southchurch, though.
Because, after all, Southchurch is something of a marginal ward. True, the Tories won it in May, returning Anne Holland with a majority of nearly 800 votes over the Independent
Party Group candidate. But 2015 was a general election year, which always boosts party candidates to the detriment of independents. And in 2014 the Independent Party Group won Southchurch from the Tories.
As I keep saying, Cllr Garston sr was deselected by his Conservative Association, and one of the reasons that was given was that he was not an active campaigner, or even much of a participant (There is very likely some truth in that, though the real reason is still seems to be internal Tory Party politicking -Ed), and installing Mr Bright gave them a better chance of holding the seat.
Residents, though, seem to disagree, with a large number of them upset that Cllr Garston who has represented them since God-knows-when has been removed in a way that perceived as manifestly unjust. Your blogger, naturally, has no idea whether it was or was not unjust. Being a seasoned campaigner himself, he understands the need for politicians to go out and talk to people, and put in the legwork themselves.
But the fact remains that with a backlash brewing amongst residents, the Tories might well be in danger of losing Southchurch next May.