Politics in Southend is, to be honest, a joy. You never know what’s going to come along next.
I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but politics seems to be particularly…weird around here. So in the spirit of the end-of-year listicle, I decided what better way to round off the year than with a rundown of my personal favourites of the lot (And split it over two posts to boost traffic -Ed).
Here it is then. Numbers 10 to 6 in my top 10 rundown of the maddest things that happened in 2015 in Southend local politics.
10. James Duddridge blocks everyone.
Back in the halcyon days of the general election, the Tory MP for Rochford & Southend East James Duddridge went a little off message when it came to the EU, claiming that the UK should leave the European Union, and then renegotiate terms for re-entry, an argument that literally nobody is making.
Naturally, a few constituents were curious about this, and took to Twitter to ask him what exactly he meant. Sadly, he wasn’t really in an answering mood and, err, blocked anyone who asked about it. Well that’s one way of dealing with difficult questions, I suppose.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but this blogger remains blocked.
9. The Green Party “trade unionist” who doesn’t need to join a trade union.
The antics of the Green Party in Southend kept this blogger particularly entertained this year, and owe particular thanks to their Rochford & Southend East candidate Simon Cross (Who won’t be entertaining Southenders as much this year, having moved to Wakering -Ed). I’m almost spoilt for choice as to what to include on this list.
My personal highlight, though, has to go to Simon’s insistence that he was the real voice of the trade unions and working people being a little undermined by the fact that, err, he wasn’t a member of one. Worse still, his reasoning was that he wasn’t a member because in his job he didn’t need to be. I’ll defer to the words of Cllr Ian Gilbert (LAB – Victoria) to respond:
“I’m astonished. I cannot think of any argument that misses the point of Trade Unionism so completely as ‘I don’t need to join a union because I’m alright.‘”
8. David Garston deselected.
Internal party politics can, in this blogger’s opinion, be more vicious and more bruising than the battles political opponents fight. This, it seems, Cllr David Garston (CON – Southchurch) discovered as he was deselected ahead of the 2016 local elections.
Now, there are competing theories as to what was behind this. The official line is that Cllr Garston sr has moved to be the candidate at Prittlewell, and there’s nothing more untoward than this. Almost nobody believes this. The unofficial story coming out of the local Tory Party is that he was a pretty useless campaigner, and was removed for that reason. The other whispers that have reached me are that a failed coup attempt in the Tory Group led to Cllr Garston’s deselection.
Whatever the reason, the results are a bit of backlash; Southchurch residents are a little put out at the summary removal of a longstanding councillor to be replaced as candidate by Alex Bright, and the Tories are in a spot of bother as a result.
7. UKIP to New-KIP.
With the ills that afflicted Southend UKIP (More on those later -Ed) since their 2014 breakout, it was scarcely surprising that the split between the Moyies and Waterworth factions became permanent.
What was a little absurd was that the three councillors who left the purple banner formed a group of their own “Southend Independence Group“, and were welcomed into the joint administration. What their aims are are unclear — one presumes a unilateral declaration of independence for the borough of Southend-on-Sea — but the town is now in the bizarre situation of having two (Or more? -Ed) groupings of independents, outnumbering the UKIP rump of now…two councillors…
There’s your UKIP surge, then.
6. Martin Terry’s failed sacking.
This one is, in part, my fault. Sorry
Cllr Terry’s (IND – Thorpe) record as portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste & Transport has been…interesting. As a political blogger it’s been great, given his tendency to try and dig his way out of holes and, well, to start fights in scrutiny meetings. As a result, Council leader Cllr Woodley (IND – Thorpe) intended to sack him. A scheme which might have gone better had they not told everyone about it.
This news found its way to me as a fait acompli, when in fact it had yet to happen. Hence Ron Woodley denied all knowledge of it, and the worst planned coup in local political history went absolutely nowhere. Going into 2016, then, Cllr Terry owes the continuation of his job to, err, me.
In light of that, I’m a bit miffed not to have gotten a Christmas card.
Look out for the second part of my rundown, leading up to the single maddest moment in Southend local politics in 2015, coming on New Year’s Eve.