blogging

Southend politics needs more blogging, not less


southend civic centre

As I’ve already mentioned, I was at the full council meeting of Southend Borough Council on Thursday. I was in the public gallery for most of my time there, I’m at pains to point out, and not in the chamber beyond my starring role asking a question of the leader of the council.

Nonetheless, I somehow seemed to still be the centre of attention, with references to my blog being made under a number of items.

The prevailing view coming from the council chamber (And some outside of and subsequent to the meeting -Ed) is that those who are blogging about politics in the town are somehow doing something wrong, that opinions contrary to their own being expressed on the internet should not be permitted.

It will, I’m sure, not surprise readers that this blogger disagrees wholeheartedly.

(more…)

The Fox revealed…


fox

An artist’s impression of Southend Fox Del Thomas.

In the light of the recent announcement that has rocked the Southend political blogosphere (Err -Ed), I have a confession to make. I have known the truth for some time, that Southend Fox was in reality Del Thomas.

Despite our political differences, Del is a good friend of mine, and I think it is demonstrative of the very best character that he has chosen to reveal his identity, now that he is standing as Conservative candidate for St Luke’s ward in the May local elections.

Anonymity can, I believe, have its place in political blogging. I don’t, though, believe that is true when the blogger is standing in an election to public office. So I salute Del’s decision, signalling as it does both his own virtue and the start of the long campaign.

A Mad Man With a Blog: 2014 in numbers


2014 wordpress summary

Another year down, and it’s been another year full of blogging. So how did I do in 2014? Let’s have a peak behind the scenes…

Stats

Well, Cllr Floyd Waterworth may not be a fan, but clearly some people are. 2014 saw over 43,000 views on the various posts and pages of this blog, an increase of 138% on last year, and by some margin the best year since I started this blog.

Visitor-wise, the WordPress elves tell me that some 23,400 people visited this blog in 2014, which equates to an average 1.8 posts/pages viewed per person. I’m not sure how accurate it is discerning individual visitors, but by the individual metric it has nearly doubled on 2013.

Posts

This year I published 333 posts (334 including this one). Which is nice, I think.

The top five most viewed posts from this year (excluding the home page, the about page, and the peri-peri veggie burger recipe from nearly two years ago that everyone apparently still loves) were as follows:

  1. Full list of Southend Local Election Candidates 2014 (April)
  2. 02 “The Lion and the Rose” (Game of Thrones season 4) [SPOILERS] (April)
  3. The Southend Tory MP, the expenses claims, and £11k of taking the p*ss (September)
  4. James Duddridge, MP for…Halifax? (March)
  5. Kipperwatch! UKIP thugs trash Labour street stall in Corringham (November)

Internationalism

WordPress apparently tracks the locations from which visitors are viewing the site. Which is nice.

Here are the top five countries from which people viewed this blog in 2014:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. France
  4. Germany
  5. Australia

In news which will surprise nobody, the UK was in first place by a huge margin.

Conclusion

2014 was good. Hopefully, 2015 will be better.

And a happy new year to all my readers!

“The Dent Treatment”


floyd waterworth shrug

Amid the sales pitches from online viagra merchants and offers of money from Nigerian princes, I do occasionally get items of interest in my inbox. Today saw one such item: an email sent by UKIP’s Cllr Floyd Waterworth sent to all Southend councillors.

For your entertainment and elucidation, (and, yes, in the interests of transparency) I reproduce it here:

Dear All

At this time of year the political parties start to announce who will be standing for them in May and try to encourage fresh faces to get elected and join the Council.

What worries me is how many genuine people will be put off by the personal attacks made on councillors. I couldn’t encourage anyone to stand for Southend Council unless they have a very thick skin.

I would therefore call on all the parties to think twice before they encourage people in their ranks to make such personal attacks.

This particularly applies to the Labour group. I have reproduced below a letter I have sent to the press in this regard and I would call on long-standing councillors such as Cllr Norman (the blogger concerned describes you as ‘principled, hard-working and dedicated’) to attempt to reign-in some of the comments made. This should also be of concern to Cllr Gilbert, who I understand is the Labour group Leader.

I have no examples of these personal attacks coming from Independents or Liberals.

Nor are there many from the Conservatives, with the exception of Cllr Courtenay, who deals in fiction rather than fact. I have written to Cllr Lamb privately in this regard.

Surely at this time of year – ‘goodwill to all men’ – we should all be looking forward to fierce debate over policy and what is best for Southend, rather than making personal attacks, which may discourage a lot of very good people from standing in May.

The letter below may well not be published, due to the number of asterisks!

Seasons greetings and best regards,

Cllr Floyd Waterworth

—-

Sir,

Labour have selected Matthew Dent to stand in Blenheim Park next May. One wonders if he’ll be in the same election as everyone else, as he thinks it’s on May 8.

Rejected decisively by the people of West Shoebury last May (13.33% compared with UKIPs 46%), Mr Dent arrives with a street map and some choice vocabulary.

Here are some of his offerings from the internet: David Amess MP is described as ‘bat s**t crazy’, whilst political opponents have ‘f****ng stupid ideas’. Oh yes, young Dent has a way with words.

And he likes to specialise in personal attacks, often without having even met the people he comments on.

It will be no worry to James Duddridge MP that Dent describes him as a ‘puppet’ of the Conservative Party Chairman.

More worrying is that people new to politics, who have bothered to put themselves up for election, also come in for the ‘Dent treatment’. Cllr Nick Ward, elected last May as an Independent for Shoebury , is described as ‘a competence-vacuum in the shape of a man’.

Unhappy about comments written in a leaflet by Cllr Mark Flewitt (Conservative, St Laurence), Dent asks: ‘Was he drunk? Has he gone mad?’

What use will Dent be to constructive debate, if he ever made it to Southend Council chamber? He did turn up in the public gallery at the last main Council but was gone within five minutes. One of his favourite films must have been on – ‘Blessed are the Damned’ and ‘American Horror Story’ are the subject of his latest reviews. The latter is also ‘bat sh** crazy’ by the way – you will see that his ideas are limited.

What I find interesting is that Labour supporters, who claim to care about people, are happy to go for the man rather than the ball.

So if Matthew Dent comes knocking at your door, my advice would be to give him a few choice words of your own!

Cllr Floyd Waterworth

Ukip, Blenheim Park

Impressive, eh? I have to say, I’m pretty damn flattered.

Read on…

Comment is (not) free?


mark flewitt

Anyone who reads the blog of Southend Tory councillor Mark Flewitt (just me then?) may have noticed that he has started adding the following legend to his blogs:

NO COMMENTS WILL BE ANSWERED AS TO THIS ITEM*

Now, there are many things that can (and will) be said of it, but suffice it to say that I think this is a bizarre statement to make, belying Mark’s commitment to a fully democractic politics and speaking to an over-sensitive nature on the part of someone who aspires to be one of the major political actors of a British town.

Read on…

Breakfasting with Bloggers


This morning the Young Fabians held a “Bloggers’ Breakfast” discussion panel

So despite promising myself that I wasn’t going to go to any eye-wateringly early fringe meetings, 8:30 this morning found me at Manchester Town Hall for a “Bloggers’ Breakfast” discussion held by the Young Fabians.

The breakfast element was a touch disappointing (the coffee was gone by the time I arrived at quarter past eight — disgraceful!), though probably anything would be after the RSPCA curry last night.

Thankfully, the discussion didn’t disappoint.

The panel was chaired by Matt Zarb-Cousin, who may be known to some readers for a comment he made about the Queen a while back on Twitter. The panel featured Ellie O’Hagan, Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, Emma Burnell and Anthony Painter (the listing in the conference magazine said that Mark Ferguson, of LabourList fame, would be there, but that seems to have been an error).

As a somewhat keen blogger myself, both here and with Political Scrapbook, I was very interested to hear perspectives on political blogging — and as I say I wasn’t disappointed.

The treatment that female bloggers and writers receive has been somewhat well documented as late, and I am honestly lucky that as a man the worst I have to contend with is called an idiot — which I am, on occasion.

One of the things that the female members of the panel focused on was how to deal with the abuse that blogging can provoke. It’s probably one of the reasons why there aren’t nearly enough female political bloggers.

I’m of a similar school of thought as Ellie, who said she simply blocked people who tweeted abuse at her, and suggested treating it like a dinner party: if someone came up in the middle of a dinner party and said “F**k you” you wouldn’t accept it, so why should you online?

Another point discussed was dissent. It was highlighted that there isn’t much blogging on the trade union side of politics, for the simple reason that any dissent would be taken by opponents on the right and used as a stick to beat them with. Guido Fawkes is strong evidence that this is true.

But dissent is a key part of the discussion that keeps political organisations alive. I consider myself a loyal member of the Labour Party, but I don’t always agree with the positions it takes and the decisions it makes. And when I do disagree, I don’t have any problem with expressing it.

That’s part of the debate. It’s how politics works, and it’s the only way to keep policies vibrant and invigorated. It’s why people like Dan Hodges are as essential to the Party as more loyalist figures, and whatever the problems it creates that freedom and difference of opinion must be at the centre of the debate.

The Whys and Wherefores of Blogging


Last week I was lucky enough to be at a London pub for goodbye drinks for Alex Hern, departing Left Foot Forward for pastures new- quite literally, at the New Statesman. It was a veritable who’s-who of UK left wing political blogging. Daniel Elton, Alex’s boss, led the toasts, and whilst I can’t remember all of what he said, it included something to the gist of:

“…we don’t do it for money, we don’t do it for fame, we don’t do it for glory, we do it for love and because we have something to say…”

(Apologies to Dan- that is almost certainly a horrific mangling of what was genuinely a good toast)

As an explanation for political bloggers, of the more professional strain such as Left Foot Forward and Political Scrapbook, it works perfectly, but it’s gotten me to thinking why it is that I pour so much time, effort and typing into this blog.

When I started it, nearly two years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I started it because I liked writing, because I thought I might have something to say, and (if I’m honest) because everyone else was doing it. At the time I was starting out writing seriously, submitting and hoping to hit the jackpot and get published. The blog was as much a record as that and my life as anything terribly profound.

It’s changed quite a bit since then. For one thing, I had my first publication. And, as the 2010 general election came around, I had something of a political awakening. My views crystalised, and I joined the Labour party and started spouting off political views. Since then, I’ve been walking the tightrope between politics, writing and general life in my posts. I’m not sure if it’s been good, bad or what, but I’ve kept it going, which I’m reasonably proud of.

But what of now? Anyone reading through my recent posts would notice a clear theme: local politics in Wokingham. A large motivation of this has been coming home after university and getting stuck into politics. Also my standing for the local council. As well as this, though, I’ve been trying to provoke more of a debate. Coming from rowdy Brighton to quieter Berkshire was something of a culture shock, and the lack of political discussion did alarm me.

Since the new year, and my increasing focus on local issues, the views of my blog have leapt skyward, showing that there is clearly an interest in the borough. Bins, libraries, council tax and public loos might seem awfully humdrum, but they’re issues which affect people on a day to day basis.

So here’s to the future- both Alex’s and this blog’s. I’ll be going on as I’ve started, and I aim to hold the council to account as best I can. As long as I’m active in Wokinham’s political sphere, I’ll be blogging about it and calling the council out on their nonsense. And, naturally, I will still be knocking out short stories when the urge takes me.

Here’s to more bins, more libraries, maybe not more council tax, but an upsurge of public toilets! (And, fingers crossed, a few more short story publications).