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.
Rubbish. That’s what Independent Party Group leader Martin Terry branded my revelations of infighting amongst the Shoeburyness independents.
I trust he will be describing Anne Chalk’s latest leaflet doing the rounds in the same terms, given she roundly turns on her former colleagues now that she has been relieved of the burden of being on the council.
With the election done, and the joint administration secured (Just about -Ed) back in control of the council, we’re starting to settle back into normality in the weird world of Southend politics. Which means, as ever, my little birds have begun again to sing.
One particularly interesting take regards the odd politics of Shoeburyness. Apparently, a certain former Independent Party Group councillor, licking their wounds, is eyeing up the possibility of a comeback next year. Except, as eagle-eyed readers will already be aware, the councillor up for re-election in Shoeburyness next year is Mike Assenheim of the, err, Independent Party Group.
The bad blood between Anne Chalk and Mike Assenheim is not exactly news, and their divisions may well have helped Roger Hadley back onto the council this time around. But one Independent running against another, especially when there can be no ambiguity in whether they were part of the same grouping, would be a definite escalation.
The 2016 elections are still a way off yet, but these whispers surely serve as reassurance that Southend local politics will continue on in the same bizarre vein as usual.
I was entirely unsurprised to hear from attendees that the Shoeburyness ward local election debate organised by Cllr Anne Chalk was a stage-managed farce. Those readers with long memories may recall that at the one she organised last year I was supposed to be representing the Labour Party, until she cut me out last minute and tried to claim Labour had not turned up.
This time Cllr Chalk managed surpass herself, employing one of her friends and allies as a thoroughly biased chair. Almost all of the questions were offered to Cllr Chalk, who, apparently was best placed to answer as sitting councillor. Aside from the bias this shows to the incumbent, I have seen no other debate where questions were not answered by all candidates at the debate, in favour of one obviously preferred contender.
The result was the Conservative candidate Roger Hadley being asked a lot of questions about how awful his party is, and Labour’s Maggie Kelly being cut out of the debate almost entirely. The Green and Liberal Democrat candidates did not make an appearance. It says something that Cllr Chalk is so worried about being found wanting, that she has to stack the deck against her opponents.
I think Cllr Chalk should apologise for this abuse of democracy, and assure us that it will not be repeated.
On Monday night, there was a hustings for the local elections in Shoeburyness. I wasn’t able to make it, more out of work commitments than any greater urge, though I had debated on Twitter whether it was worth attending.
Those few regular readers who I’ve managed not to annoy away may recall that I was meant to be taking part in a very similar hustings last year. The Labour candidate for Shoeburyness couldn’t make the date, so it was agreed that I, as West Shoebury candidate, would stand in for her. Agreed until about ten minutes before the event, when Independent Party Group councillor Anne Chalk decided that I would outshine her chosen candidate the now-Cllr Nick Ward, and excluded me.
What grated the most, though, was the way that it was presented that Labour hadn’t bothered to turn up.
This year Maggie is our candidate again, against Anne Chalk herself. This year she made it to the hustings, and although I wasn’t there, she demonstrated that she is the only alternative to the Conservatives for the people of Shoeburyness.
Whilst everyone — myself included — have been focused on the extraordinary implosion of UKIP in Southend, the Independent Party Group on the council have quietly been undergoing their own woes.
It’s easy to forget that the switch from cabinet to committee system was the pet issue of the Indies as well/before UKIP. And yet they scarcely did any better when the vote came up at the last council meeting. The Independent councillors in the cabinet either voted for it or abstained (Turkeys? Christmas? -Ed).
And now, the already loose alliance of cliques seems to be fracturing itself.
The above photo depicts Mike Assenheim, councillor for Shoeburyness and portfolio holder for Regulatory Service, outside Shoeburyness High School alongside former councillor for Shoeburyness Roger Hadley. Nothing innately interesting there, but Mike sits with the Independent Party Group and Roger Hadley a Conservative. And this picture seems to be causing a little trouble.
In the May elections, Roger was beaten rather decisively by Independent Party Group candidate Nick Ward. This was a bit of a shame, not because Roger was a brilliant councillor — he wasn’t — but because his replacement is a competence-vacuum in the shape of a man. Still, Roger was punished by the voters for slavishly following his party line and not listening to Shoeburyness residents. You can’t really argue with that.
But what is interesting here is the reaction of the third Shoeburyness councillor Anne Chalk (Independent) — who seems so embittered of her defeated foe that she is laying into Mike, ostensibly her friend.
With the new administration officially in place as of last night, reactions are trickling in from Southend’s political blogosphere. On the left, Julian Ware-Lane has said his piece, whilst on the right Nigel Holdcroft, Mark Flewitt and Tony Cox have weighed in. For myself, I have blogged a twice now on the joint administration arrangement; once before last night’s vote and once after.
Shoeburyness Independent councillor, Anne Chalk, has yet to blog about the deal. That isn’t altogether surprising. Her blogging is a spasmodic affair, going months at times without a post and then a flood of updates at once. A cynic might note that her most recent blogging surge coincided quite neatly with the local elections.
The Southend Echofinally published my letter about the Shoebury hustings yesterday. It’s a touch truncated, but I’m going to presume that is down to space-saving rather than any sort of censorship. If you want to read the entire letter, including the part where I ponder on whether I was deliberately cut out of the debate, then luckily you can read it here.
What did catch my eye, however, was a letter from Cllr Anne Chalk (who organised the farcical hustings in question) entitled “Take party politics out of locals”.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows just how little I think of the Independent Party Group and that I have pointed out many, many times that if it looks like a party, acts like a party, quacks like a party, it’s probably a party — no matter how many times it calls itself “independent”.
So maybe this is just rehashing the same old round, but call me the patron saint of pointless exercises, because I’m going in.
When I blogged about Monday’s Shoebury hustings, back on Tuesday, I focused on the questions (question?) asked, and the answers given (or not) given by the two candidates. In short, I focused on the debate that actually happened.
What I didn’t dwell on, and perhaps I should have done, was the debate which didn’t happen.