File this one under “unconfirmed” and “liable to change”, but my little birds sing to me songs of a former Independent Party Group councillor for Shoeburyness, who plans to stand for election next May against sitting Independent Party Group councillor Mike Assenheim.
It doesn’t take a great deal of sleuthing to realise that this is none other than Anne Chalk, who lost to Tory Roger Hadley in May. Finding strife in the Independent Party Group these days is no great achievement, but Anne was never that keen on the leadership of Cllrs Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) and Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe), not indeed her ward colleague Cllr Assenheim.
I don’t know what banner she will stand under, but I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be under that of the Independent Party Group. If she does indeed follow through her threat, I foresee more squabbles about who is the “official” Independent candidate for Shoeburyness.
I’ve said before that one thing that unifies Southend Independent Party Group is an inability to play well with others. Represented in their number is former Labour candidates, former Lib Dem candidates, and until very recently a former Tory.
The news that Cllr Steve Aylen has left the Independent Party Group after a falling out with Ron Woodley is scarcely news. Conservative blogger Cllr Mark Flewitt already covered it in his stream-of-consciousness style, and the Southend Echo in something a little closer to English.
I don’t want to get too deep into Cllr Aylen’s accusations (Putting it simply, I have heard that he was rather brusque to an officer, but that Cllr Woodley threatened him in open committee -Ed), but whilst I don’t agree with Steve on a great deal of subjects — not least culling deer in Belfairs Wood — I have always found him pleasant to deal with and entertaining in the council chamber.
But one of the points Cllr Aylen made when quitting the Independent Party Group was how much like a political party it had become. Hardly a surprise to most of us, but strenuously denied by Messers Woodley and Terry. But given that my little birds this morning report to me that Martin Terry has stepped down as the leader spokesperson of the Independents, to be replaced by Cllr Mike Assenheim, this blogger wonders how much longer the fallacy can continue.
Rubbish. That’s what Independent Party Group leader Martin Terry branded my revelations of infighting amongst the Shoeburyness independents.
I trust he will be describing Anne Chalk’s latest leaflet doing the rounds in the same terms, given she roundly turns on her former colleagues now that she has been relieved of the burden of being on the council.
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.
I was entirely unsurprised to hear from attendees that the Shoeburyness ward local election debate organised by Cllr Anne Chalk was a stage-managed farce. Those readers with long memories may recall that at the one she organised last year I was supposed to be representing the Labour Party, until she cut me out last minute and tried to claim Labour had not turned up.
This time Cllr Chalk managed surpass herself, employing one of her friends and allies as a thoroughly biased chair. Almost all of the questions were offered to Cllr Chalk, who, apparently was best placed to answer as sitting councillor. Aside from the bias this shows to the incumbent, I have seen no other debate where questions were not answered by all candidates at the debate, in favour of one obviously preferred contender.
The result was the Conservative candidate Roger Hadley being asked a lot of questions about how awful his party is, and Labour’s Maggie Kelly being cut out of the debate almost entirely. The Green and Liberal Democrat candidates did not make an appearance. It says something that Cllr Chalk is so worried about being found wanting, that she has to stack the deck against her opponents.
I think Cllr Chalk should apologise for this abuse of democracy, and assure us that it will not be repeated.
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.
The times are changing, we are told. The “new politics” means that the smaller parties are a serious force, rather than just a protest vote or an unfunny joke. Their branches in Southend, though, haven’t seemed to have gotten the message. For the local elections, only three parties are fielding a full slate of 19 candidates: The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour.
This is the second Labour slate of which I have been a part, and I am once again struck that we have the very finest people in the borough. Southend Labour Party are committed to offering a fairer, progressive choice, grounded in reality, to make this town the very best it can be.
With Labour as part of the council administration for the first time after fourteen years of Tory rule, we are getting things moving in the right direction. New housing stock is being built. Vital services like libraries, children’s centres, and care homes have been protected. And with schemes like the Southend Energy Company we are taking action to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis.
There is only one choice, on May 7th, for a better Southend. Vote Labour.
Nominations for the local elections in Southend-on-Sea closed at 4.00 p.m. yesterday. A third of the council seats are up forre-election in addition to two by-elections. This means that there are 19 seats up for election in total.The election will take place on May 7th, and the deadline for registering to vote is 20th April.
Below is the breakdown of the numbers of candidates standing by party, and the full list of nominated candidates.
Seats for re-election
(A note on Independents: some independents are more independent than others. Not all of the independents on the ballot paper are part of the official Independent Party Group. Some are genuine independents, such as Lucy Courtenay in Chalkwell, and some seem to be Independent UKIP, such as Alex Moyies in West Shoebury. I will be looking into and trying to clarify this.)