You’ve come this far. Maybe you’re willing to come a little further...
Yes, the end of 2015 is truly upon us, and so as promised, I must offer the second part of my rundown of my 10 maddest moments in Southend politics.
Honestly, distilling it down to 10 was hard work. Deciding what got the top spot was harder still. It’s been a fun year, but looking back over it is more a cavalcade of the weird and wonderful. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, here is the first part, running through numbers 10 to 6.
Here is my top five, of the maddest moments in Southend local politics in 2015.
5. UKIP sack whole Southend council group
Ah UKIP, the gift that keep giving. Theoretically Southend is the sort of area where they should be doing quite well, and it’s entirely possible that they would be, were it not for their somewhat alarming inability to get on. The spectacle of the Southend UKIP civil war has been going on since last year, but one of my personal highlights was when the national party took the radical step of suspending four out of the five UKIP councillors elected in May 2014 fromthe party.
The precipitating event for this was the decision of those four councillors to expel Cllr Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park) from their council group, for reasons which remain shadowy and a little scary even to this well-connected blogger. The two of these coupled together combined to mean that there was no UKIP group on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council for a while.
Presently there is, though, with the election of Cllr David McGlone (UKIP – St Laurence) this May, Cllr Waterworth was able to form his own group of, errr, two. So that’s five councillors to two councillors, via no councillors. Sterling work, lads.
4. Dispatches from Dazzling Daryl’s Dystopia
I love election leaflets, me. There’s always something utterly barking on offer, and this year it was the turn of Daryl Peagram, once-and-future Conservative candidate for Westborough ward.
His leaflets were a delight of pure madness, reading like they’d fallen through from a parallel universe where the Soviets won the Cold War. Tales of nationalised high streets and roofs, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” hysteria, it was hard to remember that it wasn’t satire.
But the best part? Daryl’s standing again. And his leaflets are taking the same dystopian flavour this time around, meaning we’ve got much more entertaining stuff to look forward to.
3. Brian Ayling’s money-grubbing and bad maths
Surprising as it may be, I am not always beloved by Southend politicians. Cllr Brian Ayling (IND – St Luke’s) is one of those less fond of me.
Part of that is down to him being, basically, a comedy councillor. This year, though, his main contribution was a desperately spirited attempt to prevent cuts to his own council allowances. As chair of an appeals committee, a committee which met four times in the last year, he effectively received over £1,000 per meeting. The Council felt this was excessive. Brian did not.
Now, the thing that annoyed me most about this was just how much harder Brian was willing to fight for his own paycheck than the services his residents rely on. And when I castigated him for this, he came back with the mathematical nonsense that my figure of £1,000 per meeting was somehow wrong, because he is paid his allowances monthly.
Cllr Ayling is up for re-election in May 2016, and I sincerely hope that St Luke’s voters will kick him out on his ear.
2. Sir David Amess hits the campaign trail, with his horse drawn carriage
Ah, Sir David. Sadly, his knighthood was announced in the dying days of 2014, so doesn’t qualify for this list. But his antics at the general election certainly do.
I’m not sure of the mindset that, as a Tory candidate, decides to promote your man of the people credentials by driving around Westcliff in a horse-drawn carriage, with Ann Widdecombe and a megaphone. But clearly it seemed like a good idea to Southend West’s re-elected MP.
To be honest, I’m not even mad. I find much of his politics repellent, but he has a taste for the dramatic — and the absurd, turning up to a showing of a DVD of his investiture on horseback, dressed as a medieval night.
Never dull, in Southend.
1. Enter Cllr Sooty
Well it had to be, didn’t it?
The above screencap shows Cllr Stephen Aylen (IND – Belfairs) in a full council meeting, holding a Sooty puppet with which to ask a question. I think there was some sort of point Steve was making, but I can’t recall it.
But I can think of no better image to sum up 2015 in Southend politics. Mad as a box of hand puppets.