Conservative

Buying the election: the cost of votes in South East Essex


money

Some interesting numbers in yesterday’s Southend Echo, pertaining to the spending of each of the parliamentary candidates in the recent elections.

Given that all candidates have to file election expenses by law, it makes for quite an interesting look at how each campaign was financed. The accompanying article in the Echo highlighted concerns about the Conservatives buying the election, and having seen the eye-watering numbers they spent across the whole of south Essex, there’s some cause and justification I think.

So letting out my inner stats wonk, I decided to have a look at how each candidate’s expenditure stacked up compared to the votes they won, in the three south east Essex seats.

Read on…

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Friendly fire


mike assenheim and roger hadley

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.

Read on…

Sailing under false colours


beware james moyies

Look at the above leaflet. Lovely yellows and purples, don’t you think? Very distinctive. Very UKIP. And no surprise to anyone that UKIP leaflets should be going through letterboxes in West Shoebury.

Except…this isn’t a UKIP leaflet. It is, in fact, an anti-UKIP advert, attacking them and their candidate James Moyies. And its promoter? One Cllr Tony Cox, the Conservative incumbent in the West Shoebury ballot.

Read on…

Strange callers and turncoats


lib dem rosette

We at Castle Dent (n.b. not an actual castle) had an interesting caller yesterday afternoon. Whilst the sun beat down on Southend, the doorbell rang, and I was the one to open the door.

And it opened onto a strange gentlemen, with a clipboard in hand, and a look I knew well. He introduced himself as the Conservative candidate for Victoria Ward. When he asked about my own politics, I was honest — a simple Google search would have told him the truth any how. It was a little different to how I would have canvassed someone on the doorstep; a lecture on the follies of François Hollande and the Parti Socialiste.

His name was Denis Garne, and less than half an hour later I learnt that he was a former councillor on Southend Borough Council. Representing the, erm, Labour Party.

Read on…

Predictable election ends predictably


southend civic centre

On Thursday, the voters of a safe Conservative ward in Southend-on-Sea went to the polls in a by-election. When the ballots were counted, the Conservative candidate was returned as the new councillor representing the ward.

By the numbers, you might say.

Except, that bare bones overview doesn’t quite show the full picture of what happened in West Leigh ward this week.

Read on…

The Thames Valley Police Commissioner results (and what they mean)


So, it’s all over. The votes have been counted, collated, and are in the process of being picked over by those sad individuals with nothing better to do with their time (such as myself). But Anthony Stansfeld has been elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner, so congratulations are due to him.

Below I have assembled a breakdown of the results by candidate and first/second preference. I feel mine are more accurate than the BBC’s, as for reasons best known to themselves they have decided not to include the spoilt ballot figures. Personally, I think spoilt ballots making up over 3% of the total vote is worthy of mention, but anyway:

Name 1st pref 2nd pref Mandate
STANSFELD, Anthony (CON) 76,011 — 33.60% 94,238 — 54.76% 7.28%
STARKEY, Tim (LAB) 56,631 — 25.00% 70,403 — 40.91%
HOWARD, Geoff (IND) 31,716 — 14.00%
HOWSON, John (LD) 20,511 — 9.05%
COOPER, Barry (UKIP) 19,324 — 8.53%
AWE, Patience Tayo (IND) 14,878 — 6.57%
SPOILT 7,445 — 3.29% 7,445 — 4.33%
Total 226,516 172,086

So there you have it. The turnout was a mere (and embarrassing) 13.3%, which is the lowest turnout I’ve ever seen in an election. When I say that Commissioner Stansfeld has the support of only 7.28% of people in the Thames Valley, it’s not sour grapes, but an underscoring of the real winner of these elections: voter apathy.

Thames Valley voters simply did not turn out on Thursday, and from everything I’ve heard it’s simply because they do not believe that we should have an elected Police Commissioner.

I am, of course, disappointed that Tim Starkey did not win. I wasn’t in favour of the role, but I thought he was definitely the best candidate and would have made the best job of it (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It was always going to be a long shot, but still. Disappointed.

And more disappointment over the Liberal Democrat candidate only polling in fourth. Don’t get me wrong, normally hardship for Clegg’s party would be a cause for giggles (and many hearty giggles were had over their losing their deposit in Corby), but John Howson lost out to “Independent” Geoff Howard, a man who has formerly been a member of Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, and who offered absolutely nothing to voters. I am forced to conclude that he garnered many votes simply because he ran as an independent.

I’m a touched surprised that UKIP’s Barry Cooper didn’t do better than he did. Possibly it was his views on police armament which hurt him, or maybe all of the fringe-right eurosceptics stayed at hime. It’s hard to tell really.

But none of it changes the outcome. After what has frankly been a disaster of an election (and of policy execution) Anthony Stansfeld will head the Thames Valley Police until May 2016. I still have a great many concerns about him, and I worry that he will be a model of unaccountability in the role — which is ironic, really.

Hopefully he won’t now be refusing interviews with the media and refusing to answer questions put to him, but I have my doubts. At any rate, with the support of only 7.28 of his constituents, and offering no concrete policies in his campaign to boot, I am adamant that he has no mandate at all for radical changes to policing. And you can be sure I will call him out if he attempts any.

I suspect that, regardless, he has just been made a patsy for police cuts to come and rising crime as a result. But his success would benefit all of us, and is in all our interests. So I wish him the very best of luck. I reckon he’ll need it.

The Man Who Would Be Police Commissioner


Today is the last day before the polling stations open for the election of Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, and in the Thames Valley there are still serious issues surrounding the Conservative Party candidate Anthony Stansfeld.

I’ve written much already about the West Berkshire councillor, who seems to think that the post is his by right, and voiced my concern about him on a number of fronts. Those concerns have only multiplied during the election campaign. Having declared who I intend to vote for, I said of Cllr Stansfeld earlier this week that he has a cavalier attitude to transparency”.

Other bloggers have done the hard work on this matter, so I really can’t take the credit. In fact, most of it is due to Jon Harvey — a man who Cllr Stansfeld accused me of being briefed by, but who I have unfortunately not spoken to since the Labour hustings. Jon presents two questions in particular about disparities in Cllr Stansfeld’s interest declarations (the background to which can be read here):

Why did Cllr Stansfeld declare ‘ELS’ on his Thames Valley Police Authority register of interests but an entirely different company (FIDAS) on his West Berkshire Council declaration?

Why has mention of him being “Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry” now slipped off later CVs and his campaign newspaper?

These questions remain unanswered, and were brusquely and rather rudely shrugged off when I confronted him with them at the hustings in Finchampstead last month.

Additionally, this is a man who claims the primary reason for introducing PCCs is because the Police Authorities were not fit for purpose. Cllr Stansfeld is a member of…erm…Thames Valley Police Authority. Indeed, a prominent claim made in his campaign literature has been that he “introduced neighbourhood policing”. As an interesting point, this is what former Thames Valley Chief Constable Peter Neyroud had to say about it:

I introduced Neighbourhood Policing into Thames Valley, with the full support of the Police Authority. Mr Stansfield was never a member of the Police Authority when I was Chief… the Tories ran a consistent knocking campaign against Neighbourhood Policing until it became clear that NP and the PCSO’s, who were introduced to support them, was a winning idea with voters

Very interesting.

Finally, for anyone still wondering about my claims of Cllr Stansfeld’s attitude to transparency, it’s worth noting these tweets from Channel 4 News’ political correspondent Michael Crick yesterday:

The end result of Mr Crick’s investigation is rather alarming, considering that this man wants to control the police after Thursday. I’d suggest watching the whole thing:

That’s the fifteenth attempt we’ve made in the last two days to contact Mr Stansfeld or one of his campaign team. I did briefly manage to speak to him at home this morning, and he said he’d ring back and tell me what he was doing today. He didn’t.

What is it that Anthony Stansfeld has to hide? Why doesn’t he want to speak to a reporter from a major news organisation, mere days before the election? Is it his financial interests? His dubious claims? Or maybe his utter lack of policies (apart, of course, from a car and chauffeur for the new Commissioner)?

There is something deeply suspicious going on here. In a matter of days, the winner of this election will be in control of the Thames Valley Police, and its budget of some £380 million. As John F. Kennedy asked voters in 1960 about Richard Nixon, “Would you buy a used car from this man?

Campaigning in the Rain


The Newalls Rise street party was a welcome break from pavement politics, and a fantastic day.

It’s been a few days now, since I’ve updated my blog, but they’ve been a busy few days.

Pavement politics has been in full swing, and I’ve now door-knocked most of Wargrave, and a good part of Ruscombe, and leafleted a lot more. Some areas of Wargrave, and of Remenham, won’t have had a leaflet through their door yet. I’m working to remedy that in the next few days, but if you haven’t had one yet and want to give it a read, you can do so here.

Thanks is owed to a few people, starting with Brian Scott, who has twice run leaflets around to me on weekday evenings so that I can get them out through letterboxes. Also, to Roy Mantel, Nigel Smith, and Spike Humphreys (especially Spike, who joined me for a morning door-knocking in Ruscombe in the pouring rain). Also to my gorgeous Ashleigh, who helped me leaflet all across Ruscombe today.

There’s been a fair amount of walking through the rain, but it hasn’t all been so arduous. Saturday saw the Newalls Rise street party! It started off looking questionable in the rain, but thanks to 1st Twyford Scouts, we got hold of a marquee, and a day of barbequed food and karaoke ensued. A great time was unquestionably had by all, and I can only apologise to neighbouring streets for our loud, often-questionable quality singing until midnight.

But back to the campaign, having spoken to an awful lot of people about an awful lot of things, I’ve been staggered at the positive reception I’ve been getting. There is a lot of anger at the Conservatives both nationally and locally, and a lot of feeling that ordinary people are ignored by the council. I think there’s some truth to that. Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe is on the outer edge of the Borough, and is a safe Tory seat. The Tories don’t feel it matters what happens here. They’ve failed to disown Cllr Stretton’s actions (the current party line being that she moved to Maidenhead and resigned because she has elderly parents, which really is neither here nor their).

I hope that every resident will go out and vote on Thursday, whether they vote for me or not. Democracy is important, and this is the chance to have a say on what’s going on locally at the moment. I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s happy about what the Tories are doing to the libraries. I’m offering an opportunity to reject moves towards privatisation.

And I hope that people will consider their vote, and not simply vote Conservative because that’s what they’ve “always done”. I hope people will read my campaign literature, and think about the issues. I don’t think anyone is completely happy with how the council are doing things, or how they are being represented. I ask you to think about who will work harder for you: another Tory careerist in a safe seat, or a Labour councillor in a generally quite Conservative area?

The (Tory)pion and the Fox [Political Flash Fiction]


The (Tory)pion and the Fox

By Matthew S. Dent

The Scorpion (right) and the Fox (left)

There is an ancient fable, told as a warning against excessive foolishness or trust. It tells that there was once a Liberal Democrat fox, called Nick, who lived on the opposition bank, of the river Parliament. One day he heard someone calling his name.

Turning around, he saw a gathering of Tory scorpions. ‘Nick,’ they said. ‘Nick, please help us.’

‘Help you?’ he asked, suspicious. All foxes knew that scorpions were not to be trusted- especially Tory scorpions.

‘We need to get to the other side of the river,’ the lead scorpion, called Dave, explained. ‘We need to get to the government bank, but there aren’t enough of us to get across.’

Nick looked over at the other bank. It was green and fertile, with food a plenty, and many comfortable places to sleep in the sun. Although he had always lived on the opposition bank, he had never stopped dreaming of one day making it to the government bank.

‘But I’m just a fox,’ he said. ‘There are too many obstacles. I could never manage to land on the other side.’

‘We’ll help you,’ one of the scorpions, George, whispered to him. ‘If you take us across, we will let you stay.’

Nick considered this carefully. It was very tempting. No fox had set foot on the government bank in almost a hundred years. But he was still suspicious.

‘You’re scorpions,’ he said. ‘And Tories. Everyone knows what you’re like. You’ll sting me. and cut public services, lower taxes for the rich and neglect the poor.’

‘No!’ Dave said, with a chuckle. ‘Why would we do that? We haven’t been on the other bank for thirteen years, because we did that. If we did it again, we’d drown too. Why would we do that?’

Nick thought on this long and hard. He considered it for several days, talking to the other animals, while the Tory scorpions grew impatient. Eventually he returned to them with the other foxes, to give them an answer.

‘Alright,’ he said. ‘We’ll carry you across on our backs. But we want our pick of the best sleeping spots on the other side.’

‘Certainly!’ Dave agreed, delighted.

So the foxes began swimming across the river, with the Tory scorpions on their backs. The water was cold, and turgid. It took all of the foxes’ efforts to get across. But as they drew away from the opposition bank, and towards the government bank, the scorpions stung the foxes, on whose backs they rode.

‘But why?’ Nick asked. The Tories were slashing public spending, raising VAT, continuing Trident, cancelling essential economic projects, politicising the police and destroying the education system.

As the water over his mouth and nose, he pleaded, ‘Why? You’ve drowned yourself too.’

Next to him, Vince Cable was sinking fast, as George stung him again and again.

‘Why?’ Dave laughed. ‘I’m a Tory. It’s in my nature.’

Is it an ancient fable? Perhaps not. But it might be one day. Wake up, Nick.