Earlier this morning , at a press conference, it was announced that a deal has been reached between the Independent, Labour and Lib Dem groups to form a coalition administration on Southend Borough Council, under the leadership of Ron Woodley.
News this may well be, but to anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention it won’t come as a surprise.
Earlier today I blogged about the hypocrisies and contradictions of Southend’s Independent Party Group, and in particular their candidate in St Luke’s, Caroline Endersby.
It seems that the Independents are getting worried that their inactive, invisible candidate may not be striking quite the chord they had hoped with the electorate. They have resorted, now, to lies and to misleading voters. Amongst others, they claim that Labour finished 3rd in 2012, when in fact our candidate finished 2nd, and that Labour cannot win in St Luke’s.
Gray Sergeant, Labour’s candidate in St Luke’s at this election, has issued a response.
Another day closer to the election, another example of the independents hawking their particular brand of contradictory political nonsense to the people of Southend. Today I snapped the above picture in St Luke’s ward, coming over the bridge over the railway at the western end of Eastern Avenue.
Placards like these are apparently a big way in which the Independents campaign. Results seem to suggest that this is a fairly successful method — there are nineeight independents on the council — but for the life of me I can’t tell why. There is no reason on this board for anyone to vote for Caroline Endersby. And from what I have seen of her leaflets, they don’t offer any reasons either.
The below letter was sent to the Southend Echo on Wednesday 14th May 2014. See these previousposts for the background.
On Monday evening I attended the local election debate at Hinguar Primary School for West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates, advertised in your pages (Southend Echo, 9th May). You can imagine my surprise, then, where upon arrival and with no notice I was informed that the terms had been changed and it would be just for Shoeburyness candidates.
The effect was to create a debate only between the sitting Conservative councillor and the Independent candidate (whose group had been involved in organising the event). It was a shame that the debate was so needlessly constrained, particularly given that the main subject of discussion (the sea wall) is primarily in West Shoebury ward, where I am campaigning to represent the residents after the election.
But what angered me greatly was the assertion that the Labour candidate for Shoeburyness had “decided not to turn up”. This was absolutely not true. Maggie Kelly was unable to attend due to the short notice and her working commitments, which is the very reason that I – as the candidate for West Shoebury – was to take part in the debate.
Labour’s voice was deliberately cut out of the debate and I am very disappointed that the organisers resorted to this, as Labour is the only party in Southend with an optimistic and forward-looking plan for the borough. A cynic might wonder if this was the reason I was not allowed to participate.
Matthew S. Dent Labour candidate for West Shoebury
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.
When the leader of the Independent Party Group, Martin Terry, decided not to stay in Westborough for a hopeless stand, but rather to flee across Southend to the electoral safety of Thorpe, I genuinely wondered whether the Independent Party Group would field a candidate.
I mean, Martin has salted the ground for any candidate pretty thoroughly, and has surely tainted the official Independent banner in Westcliff. He essentially declared that his ego was more important than the voters he was supposed to be representing. Then he threw a slightly inept smoke bomb, and tried to sneak out the back.
However. For every thankless task there is a taker. Cometh the hour, cometh Independent Party Group candidate for Westborough: Alan Hart.
By recent standards, the full meeting of Southend Borough Council last Thursday was a brief affair. It was done by around half ten, unlike previous occasions when it has gone on into the wee hours of the morning.
I didn’t attend myself, but thanks to the magic of technology I have been able to catch up via webcast on the thrilling debates around the current budget — perhaps the last full-year’s budget to be set for Southend by a Conservative administration. Though it might have been shorter, it was definitely not short on content of interest — and potential scandal.
Now, I don’t know what the truth of matters are. I have no idea if what Cllr Holdcroft alleged on the floor of the chamber is true, and I will cast no judgement on that. But it does present, in my view, some very serious issues which need addressing.
News broke on Friday that the leader of the Southend Independent definitely-not-a-party Group, Martin Terry, intends to resign his present council seat representing Westborough ward in order to fight for election to Thorpe ward in the May local elections.
This is not a surprise to anyone in the know. Martin Terry has been looking for a Thorpe-wards relocation for a while, and it seems like the final piece has fallen into place (permission, perhaps, from Thorpe councillor and one-man self-promotion engine Ron Woodley?).
One side effect, though, is that that it has at last broken any pretence that Southend’s independents are anything but a political party.
My apologies to anyone whose non-specific Googling has brought them to this page. This blog is, of course, about political whipping. Which is less kinky than what most of you clicked the link for. Sorry.
For the uninitiated, a party whip is responsible for keeping the party in line, and making sure that all of the representatives of that party follow the line set by the leadership. It’s a fairly thankless task, but it’s the cornerstone of stable governance under the political party system.
And, on Southend Borough Council, the Independent Party Group make a point of not using a whip. So, for that matter, do UKIP. They flaunt it on their campaign literature as some sort of badge of honour. If only it were that straightforward.
An article appeared in the Southend Echo recently, mooting an alliance between the Independent Group on Southend Borough Council, and UKIP, following the elections in May next year.
It’s an interesting idea. They both contain references to independence in their names. They both claim to operate without a party whip. They are both dangerously unpredictable, with principles malleable in the extreme.
The idea of Martin Terry’s band of self-aggrandising publicity machines teaming up with UKIP — somewhere to the right of Margaret Thatcher — to run Southend should terrify all rational thinking residents of the town.
It’s a good job that it stands very little chance of happening.