With the election done, and the joint administration secured (Just about -Ed) back in control of the council, we’re starting to settle back into normality in the weird world of Southend politics. Which means, as ever, my little birds have begun again to sing.
One particularly interesting take regards the odd politics of Shoeburyness. Apparently, a certain former Independent Party Group councillor, licking their wounds, is eyeing up the possibility of a comeback next year. Except, as eagle-eyed readers will already be aware, the councillor up for re-election in Shoeburyness next year is Mike Assenheim of the, err, Independent Party Group.
The bad blood between Anne Chalk and Mike Assenheim is not exactly news, and their divisions may well have helped Roger Hadley back onto the council this time around. But one Independent running against another, especially when there can be no ambiguity in whether they were part of the same grouping, would be a definite escalation.
The 2016 elections are still a way off yet, but these whispers surely serve as reassurance that Southend local politics will continue on in the same bizarre vein as usual.
On Monday night, there was a hustings for the local elections in Shoeburyness. I wasn’t able to make it, more out of work commitments than any greater urge, though I had debated on Twitter whether it was worth attending.
Those few regular readers who I’ve managed not to annoy away may recall that I was meant to be taking part in a very similar hustings last year. The Labour candidate for Shoeburyness couldn’t make the date, so it was agreed that I, as West Shoebury candidate, would stand in for her. Agreed until about ten minutes before the event, when Independent Party Group councillor Anne Chalk decided that I would outshine her chosen candidate the now-Cllr Nick Ward, and excluded me.
What grated the most, though, was the way that it was presented that Labour hadn’t bothered to turn up.
This year Maggie is our candidate again, against Anne Chalk herself. This year she made it to the hustings, and although I wasn’t there, she demonstrated that she is the only alternative to the Conservatives for the people of Shoeburyness.
So the Southend Tories have done a George W. Bush and declared mission accomplished in their long and bitter war against the closure of toilets. They can now presumably go back to their long and bitter struggle to close Priory House care home.
On a serious note, I was never particularly pleased with the proposal to close public toilets, its presence marring what I think is generally a pretty good budget, Southend’s £11 million Tory cut considered. I spoke out against it in the Labour group meeting, and hoped that it wouldn’t be part of the final passed budget.
So the Conservative party in Rochford & Southend East have selected their council candidates for the local elections in 2015. It’s not especially surprising, Southend Labour will be doing the same shortly. The list, too, is not terribly surprising.
This year, the Conservative Party won a grand total of zero seats in the nine wards up for election across the constituency. This time there are ten wards up for election, which surely gives them an opportunity to not win an extra one. It has become increasingly clear that Conservative fortunes in Southend, particularly in the east, are in full-scale retreat.
What is somewhat surprising is the content of the candidate list.
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.
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.
Firstly, an apology. It is, I suspect, not an apology owed by myself, but I will give it nonetheless. To anyone who attended the hustings last night at Hinguar Primary School in order to see and listen to me, you would have been disappointed.
I arrived at Hinguar at ten to seven, only to be told by Cllr Anne Chalk that I wouldn’t in fact be speaking. It had changed, apparently, from the West Shoebury and Shoeburyness hustings that had been advertised, to a Shoeburyness only debate. And as such, only Conservative Cllr Roger Hadley and Independent candidate Nick Ward would speak.
Now, I don’t know when this decision was made. I do know that I had discussed my intentions today and last night with senior Labour councillors, and no such communication had reached any of us. I do however know that the decision served to make it an Independent vs Tory battle, and that the accusation that the Labour Shoeburyness candidate had not turned up was entirely spurious. Maggie Kelly was never intended to come, as she was working.
But actually, having sat through the spectacle ensued, I’m not sure I’m not glad to have been little part of it.