Yesterday morning saw the Labour team, including myself, out in Blenheim Park ward putting the below leaflet out across the ward. It was a bright and clear day, but as with last week the wind was bitter and biting. Not that that stopped us.
Over a few hours, we covered five counties: Kent, Norfolk, Surrey, Suffolk, and Middlesex. I am, of course, talking about the avenues within Blenheim Park ward bearing those names.
The weather won’t stop us this morning either; there are more leaflets to go out, and only 102 days left until the election. Labour are serious, nationally and locally, about offering an alternative that will work. We’re working hard for Southend, and I‘m out every weekend talking to Blenheim Park residents, listening to what they want from their local representative.
Vote Labour for a better Southend. Vote Matt Dent for a better Blenheim Park.
Another weekend, another campaign session in Blenheim Park ward.
Blenheim Park isn’t a small ward, which means there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and 7th May. I haven’t so far seen much evidence of campaigning by the other parties — the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP all have reason to look hopefully at Blenheim — but I have to assume that they are at work.
The above UKIP leaflet, for example, was spotted in the ward. I’ve seen it before: one has come through my own door. What marks it out for me is the lack of a) local relevance, and b) actual content.
The Southend Echo were yesterday evening reporting thatSouthend Hospital has run out of beds, entering the ominously named “black alert”. Whilst I don’t wish to be alarmist, and it does seem that non-emergency services are functioning to take some of the strain. But this is still terrible news for Southend.
“SOUTHEND Hospital has run out of beds for new admissions after going into “black alert”.
“Due to a higher than usual number of acutely ill patients requiring a hospital bed, the hospital is urging people to stay away from A&E unless they are seriously unwell or critically injured.“
When, in October, I suggested that Kerry Smith may have been sacked as UKIP candidate for South Basildon & East Thurrock to make way for Neil Hamilton, I was bloody joking.
But apparently UKIP are so much of a joke that they took it seriously, and came perilously close to selecting the disgraced former Tory MP for Tatton. In the end though, they seem to have gone for some bloke by the name of Kerry Smith.
Yep. The self-same candidate they deselected not two months ago.
When Cllr Floyd Waterworth (Blenheim Park) was selected as UKIP parliamentary candidate for Rochford & Southend East, it was to widespread surprise.
Partly because he was an invisible presence locally, unknown to even the local political anoraks, elected in his ward primarily due to low turnout, high UKIP presence in the media, and the European Parliament elections being an issue catalyst for his voters.
It was also because the candidate-presumptive had been Cllr James Moyies (West Shoebury), UKIP group leader and the person who probably deserves the most credit — after Nigel Farage, of course — for UKIP’s breakthrough.
I have no real idea why Moyies lost out to Waterworth (though I have my suspicions), but it does seem that there is some bad blood between the two. Conservative councillor James Courtenay (Blenheim Park) has today blogged that, James Moyies told him, “I won’t be voting for him [Floyd Waterworth] in the general election.”
This much is undeniable. Two of his MPs have defected to an insurgent party who are taking vast swathes of his party’s voters and activists. He has been forced into an embarrassing volte face on almost every policy position he initially espoused. More than 30 of his MPs have called for him to go, and now his party’s polling has dropped to 27%, within touching distance of UKIP.
Oh, hang on. That’s not Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, is it? That’s David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
I’ve been looking over Ed Miliband’s proposals to replace the House of Lords with a Senate, and I have to say: I’m pretty impressed.
Lords reform is one of the great pieces of unfinished business left behind by the last Labour government. We’ve been stuck with the halfway-house solution of 92 hereditary peers and an ever-growing number of life peers since 1999, and it doesn’t really fit. Successive Prime Ministers have added to its bloated membership (none more quickly than David Cameron), and it is high time that someone dealt with this undemocratic blight on our constitution.
So yes, I do rather welcome a firm commitment from Ed that a Labour government would take such action.
It’s a universal truth that all political parties are coalitions. The Labour Party, for example, is a coalition of old Labour traditional socialists to modernist “Blairite” factions and everything in between. The Conservatives have (a declining faction of) one-nation-type Tories, ideological Thatcherites, and further right almost-nationalist types.
The Liberal Democrats are still broadly divisible into the Liberals and the SDP, with a mix of those who joined when they were a left-of-Labour party, and have since pretty much melted away. And the Greens are an alliance between the middle-class, tree-hugging liberals of old, and old socialist elements floating around since Kinnock declared war on Militant Tendency.
But UKIP — UKIP have perfect the mongrel art of the political party. Farage is a sometime-Thatcherite, with a taste for the little Englander world-view, whilst UKIP’s first, and at time of print sole, MP is more of a classic liberal. And in elections in the north of England, they have been manoeuvring to be an Old Labour replacement.
So with such a varied composition, it can be no surprise that there are ideological fault-lines all over UKIP’s topography. And they seem to be coming to a particular head in South Essex.
Thurrock is just down the road from Southend. About fifteen miles or so from my door, as the crow flies. And to go there, to listen to UKIP it’s already theirs. They did indeed do well in the local elections in May, but then they did well in Southend without much of an idea of what they were standing for.
Tim Aker, the UKIP MEP for the East of England and candidate for Thurrock, is even going on Newsnight and describing Thurrock as “his seat”. Which is presumptious, given that it’s a three way marginal which he hasn’t won yet.
But it illustrates a point: they think they’ve got this sewn up. So in a by-election in a Labour council seat, a week after coming within six hundred and twenty votes of winning a safe Labour parliamentary seat, they’d look to storm it and win in a landslide.
Funny that they lost, and by a considerable margin.
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.