Politics in Southend is, to be honest, a joy. You never know what’s going to come along next.
I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but politics seems to be particularly…weird around here. So in the spirit of the end-of-year listicle, I decided what better way to round off the year than with a rundown of my personal favourites of the lot (And split it over two posts to boost traffic -Ed).
Here it is then. Numbers 10 to 6 in my top 10 rundown of the maddest things that happened in 2015 in Southend local politics.
The problem with living in a so-called “safe” seat is that there’s not a great deal of reason for your MP to feel they have to work for their constituents. That’s by no means true of all MPs in safe seats, but if re-election is all but assured, the danger is that these MPs are more bothered about the interests of their parties or themselves than the places that they represent.
The two present Southend parliamentary constituencies — Southend West and Rochford & Southend East — have never returned anything but Conservative MPs. Indeed, for anything different you have to go back to 1945, when the seat of South East Essex covered part of Southend and returned Labour’s Ray Gunter.
So given that it has been 70 years since anything but a Tory MP represented any part of Southend, and present MPs Sir David Amess and James Duddridge both sit on hefty majorities (14,021 and 9,476, respectively), it seems fairly clear to me that both constituencies are Conservative safe seats.
Like I said, that doesn’t mean that MPs have to be disinterested in the town. Which makes it all the more disappointing that they apparently are.
From the Labour Party rule book…
Chapter 2 Membership rules
Clause I. Conditions of membership
A. A member of the party who stands for election, subscribes to a nomination paper of or acts as the election agent to a person standing for election, in opposition to a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member…
B. A member of the party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member…
Well that, my friends, was an unmitigated f**king disaster.
I barely know where to start. There won’t be any glossing over on this blog, because frankly there is no glossing over this. Labour were preparing for government on Thursday, and on Friday the Tories have a majority.
I don’t really know what went wrong. Clearly the majority of the British people were not convinced by the policies that Labour were offering. Which, to be honest, is a shame because I do believe that we had the best ideas for the good of the whole country. But if we can’t communicate that effectively and convincingly then it’s worthless.
Something has been bugging me throughout this election. A phrase, coming up over and over again in the national debate as well as here in Southend. No, it’s not “Long Term Economic Plan” (Though there is a special place in hell waiting for whichever moron dreamt that up -Ed).
This is a phrase which has been used again and again, and each time I cringe inwardly and out. Somehow, despite it being demonstrably nonsense — and demonstrate, I will — it has become so ingrained in our social psyche that it’s like the “Fine,” we utter in response to the Monday morning “How are you?”, despite being very un-fine.
I’m calling time on it then. Let’s have no more of the phrase “professional politician”.
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.
Read the leaflet
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.
Well, I hate to say we told you so…
The Southend Echo were yesterday evening reporting that Southend 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.“
Talk about piss ups and breweries…
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.”