I noticed Julian Ware-Lane’s blog last night about Chalkwell Conservatives failure to follow instructions, in putting council email addresses on their election literature. I, too, was at the candidates and agents’ briefing at the civic centre last week, and I too heard the strict instructions from the Head of Democratic Services, Colin Gamble, that council email addresses were not to be used in political campaigning.
So, on a whim, I reached for the nearest piece of opposition literature that I had. It turned out to be for Prittlewell Liberal Democrats, the content of which I have already weighed and found wanting on this very blog. But I hadn’t twigged to the domain of the email address on the bottom: @southend.gov.uk.
A slow hand clap for the Lib Dems then, demonstrating in one fell swoop a high-handed inability to follow the rules, and a contempt for a level playing field. That Liberal Democrat commitment to fairness only goes as far as it they’re not facing electoral wipeout, then.
I wonder how many other Southend councillors think the rules don’t apply to them?
The phrase “I don’t know where to start” is rather overused, but having sat here staring at the latest gift from my little birds, I really don’t.
The gift, of course, is the above leaflet from Southend Liberal Democrats, which announces in the traditional (But not necessarily the most helpful -Ed) way their candidate for Blenheim Park ward, Chairman of Leigh Town Council Richard Herbert.
So where do I start? With the glaring typo on the front page? (Word to the wise: “its” means “belonging to it”; “it’s” means “it is”. Southend Lib Dems should invest in a spellchecker. Or an understanding of the English Language. Or, preferably, both -Ed). Maybe I should pick at the fact that the same photo of Richard is used no less than four times in the space of two pages?
Or maybe I should start with the fact that they demonstrate that they actually don’t know where they are trying to campaign, by consistently getting the name of the ward wrong and citing a ward which hasn’t existed for fifteen years?
Yeah, that sounds like a good starting point.
So, one day after I blog about how the Liberal Democrats don’t have a hope — or even a candidate — in Blenheim Park ward, the only local Lib Dem activist who has mastered the use of internet has blogged a witheringly sarcastic response.
You might think I’ve struck a nerve.
Once upon a time, you see, the Lib Dems were the repository of anti-Tory vote in Southend West. Then they found themselves in government, and those flexible principles which had allowed them to be all things to all people in opposition became a major turnoff to the electorate, who had voted for them thinking that they might actually stand by what they had said they believed in.
Now, there are only five Lib Dem councillors left in Southend, and rather than looking to grow that number they are desperately worried that the sole seat they have up for re-election this year might slip through their fingers.
And if I wasn’t sure of that before, then Neil Monnery’s jittery blog today has confirmed it to me.
It looks like my friendly reminder last week helped: Southend Liberal Democrats seem to have remembered that there’s an election in May, and have selected Paul Collins as their candidate for Southend West — with only 109 days left until polling day…
Paul, some may remember, was a councillor for Westborough ward until last year, when he suffered a pretty heavy defeat to Labour’s Kevin Robinson. His was the name my little birds consistently brought back to me as the Lib Dem candidate-to-be — though, interestingly, Leigh councillor Carole Mulroney was also mentioned — and to be fair to him, he wasn’t a bad councillor. Certainly there was much on which I agreed with him during his time in the chamber.
But voters of Southend West would do well to look at Paul and his party’s rhetoric, and compare it to their propping up the Tories in government and voting for the bedroom tax; trebling tuition fees; slashing benefits for the disabled; and a host of other illiberal, unfair measures. They would do well to look at the Liberal Democrats’ record in government, and then go and vote for Labour’s Julian Ware-Lane, the real alternative to the Conservatives and David Amess in Southend West.
We are less than 112 days away from the general election. For Southend Labour party, that means that the campaign is well and truly underway. We have two excellent candidates selected for the two Southend seats (Ian Gilbert in Rochford & Southend East, and Julian Ware-Lane in Southend West), and leaflets have been going out and doors being knocked on for months.
According to a Daily Express report a few weeks back, the Lib Dems are yet to select candidates in more than half of all parliamentary seats across the country. I can, actually, believe this. After all, in Southend they have no candidates yet.
I’ll lay my cards out straight off here; I’m not much of a fan of party leaders debates in the run up to general elections. We have a parliamentary, not a presidential, system in which we do not elect our heads of government. We elect our representatives to parliament.
What would, in my opinion, be more helpful would be 650 individual debates, one in each constituency in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That way people can see the candidates that they can actually vote for going head to head, and make the best choice for their local area.
Time was, these were called hustings.
That, however, isn’t going to happen. Unless David Cameron feels he can somehow chicken out of the debates completely, some variation upon the head-to-head party leaders’ debates of 2010 will be happening.
So what would be the best arrangement?
In the jfilm Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, there is a terrible joke in which Russell Crowe’s character challenges Paul Bettany’s to pick between two weevils on the tablecloth. Paul Bettany’s physician analytically picks the larger if the pair, provoking gales of laughter from Crowe, who tells him, “Don’t you know, doctor, in the service you must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”
A terrible joke. But somewhat illustrative of the choice facing Southend Labour following the local elections.
The votes have been counted (or, in Martin Terry’s case, weighed) and there were a whole host of new councillors waking up this morning.
I was at the count myself live-tweeting — and live-blogging, when I could keep up — and I saw events as they unfolded. If you haven’t seen the results yet, you can take a look here. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Done?
So the big story is the one that the BBC are currently trailing; the surge of UKIP across the country. But it wasn’t just UKIP, so how did everyone else do?