The Rumour Mill

RUMOUR MILL: Which Indie Councillor has been paying for UKIP’s leaflets?

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Well now, this is interesting.

Word reaches me from my little birds of an interesting funding arrangement apparently going on in the lead up to the local elections in May. If rumour is to be believed (And the source seems sound -Ed), then Dr Vel (IND – Westborough), the deputy mayor, has been funding a good chunk of UKIP’s leaflet costs in the borough.

Now, when Dr Vel quit the Independents to sit independently as an independent councillor (Again -Ed), I voiced the rumour of his potential defection to UKIP–a rumour he didn’t exactly squash. Whilst I still expect the ultimate decision on that front to rest on which banner he believes is more likely to deliver him re-election. But this development indicates that he’s certainly keeping his options open.

The Rumour Mill: Anne Chalk WILL stand in Shoeburyness in 2016

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File this one under “unconfirmed” and “liable to change”, but my little birds sing to me songs of a former Independent Party Group councillor for Shoeburyness, who plans to stand for election next May against sitting Independent Party Group councillor Mike Assenheim.

It doesn’t take a great deal of sleuthing to realise that this is none other than Anne Chalk, who lost to Tory Roger Hadley in May. Finding strife in the Independent Party Group these days is no great achievement, but Anne was never that keen on the leadership of Cllrs Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) and Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe), not indeed her ward colleague Cllr Assenheim.

I don’t know what banner she will stand under, but I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be under that of the Independent Party Group. If she does indeed follow through her threat, I foresee more squabbles about who is the “official” Independent candidate for Shoeburyness.

Rumour Mill: Southend Greens disrupt residents meeting

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Interesting songs from my little birds, last night.

At a residents’ meeting to discuss the proposed expansion of HARP’s Bradbury Centre, there was a gatecrasher in the form of the erstwhile Green candidate for Rochford & Southend East at the last election, Cross Simon.

The HARP proposals are to extend the site, a homeless centre, and the meeting to discuss the impact on the local area. Once HARP had finished their presentation, Cross Simon strode to the front and loudly treated the attendees to a lecture on how to raise any objection against the proposals would be immoral.

The lecture did not go down to rapturous applause, to say the least. My little birds report that he nearly caused a riot, with residents shocked that he would turn up to hector  a residents’ meeting, despite living nowhere near the development.

And anyone who saw Cross Simon’s performances at the various hustings in the run up to the elections will know his style: turn up, loudly announce his opinion as gospel, and shout down anyone who disagrees. There was a point at the Milton ward hustings where I wish I told him, given that he was neither a Milton voter nor a candidate, to sit down and shut up.

Now, the merits of the Bradbury Centre expansion aside — and my gut instinct, without having seen the plans, would be to support HARP — residents have a right to air their views on planning proposals impacting them and their neighbourhood. That’s how the system works. In fact, most of our democratic and governance systems exist with the aim that all voices be heard without one loud voice drowning them out.

And in that light, I can completely see why Cross Simon is continually contemptuous of due process.

Rumour Mill: Which Southend Tory registered as a Labour supporter?

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I am no fan of the Registered Supporters scheme, which let’s anyone have a vote in the Labour leadership election for a fee of £3. I’m all for opening up democracy, but it seems to me that it manages to both devalue membership and open the gates far and wide for people who have no intention of backing the party to have a say in who leads it.

There are stories everywhere of Derek Hatton trying to rejoin, and the “Tories for Corbyn” campaign. Some are bound to get through. But there are one or two who will get caught, simply because CLP membership secretaries tend to be familiar with some of the other side.

So which once and future candidate for Southend Conservatives has paid his £3 and tried to sneak in under the radar? All the more perplexing given that the person in question was, at one time, a Labour councillor, no less.

My little birds bring me the name of this particular infiltrator (George Smiley, they ain’t -Ed), but where’s the fun in that? Feel free to have your guess in the comments.