The Emperor of Southend


It’s been a while since I blogged about local politics. When I moved out of Wokingham, it was difficult impossible to stay connected with the local political scene in which I had become established. In Reading, I simply wasn’t there long enough to get acquainted.

But now, as some of you will know, I’m now living in sunny Southend-on-Sea. This is somewhere that I already have local knowledge, given that I spent four and a bit years visiting Ashleigh here most weeks. I also wrote this, back in the day, so I already have a bit of a beachhead in the local politics.

For the month and a bit that I’ve been living by the Thames Estuary, I’ve kept fairly schtum. I’ve been reading the blogs of the local politicians and fellow political geeks, reading the local paper, and watching the latest council meeting on their nifty webcast — which is one hell of an innovation.

Straight off the bat, what I notice is something right up my street: a debate on how to elect the borough’s councillors, all at once every four years, or a third at a time in consecutive years?

Read on…


Lib Dems Getting Nervous?

Does Liberal Democrat bravado about two-horse races mask a deeper fear, that I might be about to challenge their position?

One more day to go, and I’m starting to feel a little pinch of nervousness in my stomach. It seems silly, given the unlikeliness of me winning. But I’m wondering if the Lib Dems aren’t starting to get a little worried.

I’m the first Labour candidate in a long while to actually campaign this ward. The first non-paper candidate in a while. Previously the ward has been a safe Tory seat, with the Lib Dems in clear second place and no one else in sight. This is something that the Lib Dems seem oddly proud of, though as I say since no Labour candidate has properly campaigned here before it isn’t exactly a fair measure.

But for the last few weeks I’ve been working the pavement hard. I’m at a disadvantage from the start, really, since I have less money to throw into a campaign, and a smaller pool of volunteers to draw from (though the local party members have risen admirably to my aid, and I’m proud to count myself amongst their number). So I’ve only been able to produce one leaflet, and have had to (largely) distribute it myself.

The Tories seem only to feel the need to put out one leaflet, and honestly when one looks at the electoral history of the ward, it seems understandable. The interesting thing, however, is the Lib Dems. On the face of it, they’ve put out three leaflets: one a few weeks before the date of the by-election was announced, another around the same time as I started canvassing, and then a third last night. Except, in reality, they seem to be the self-same leaflet.

They’ve moved things around, changed fonts, changed the format. But at its core, it contains largely the same information. There seems to be no new revelation which prompts another sheet, other than to maintain some sort of endless barrage. And I do wish that their canvassers would actually put leaflets all the way through letterboxes, and not leave them hanging halfway out. I suspect a lot of local residents would agree with me there.

But having damned them for putting out the same leaflet three times, there are a few minor changes, and I think they’re very telling. Firstly, the latest leaflet has a section about the reasons behind the by-election. This is on the front of my leaflet, and has been my primary line of attack against the Tories. Cllr Stretton resigned in a manner which showed utter disrespect for the people who voted for her, and showed she was thinking almost solely about her own political career. And yet this is the first I’ve seen from the Lib Dems mentioning. Maybe I’m gaining some traction with it. Maybe they’re worried they’re loosing ground on it.

Secondly, there’s a slight change in their “two-horse race” spiel. It featured on their last leaflet, saying:

Lib Dems v Conseravtives – that’s the political battle in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe and across the Wokingham Borough. The Conservatives control the council and the Lib Dems are the only opposition; there are no councillors from any other party, nor any independent councillors.

The latest leaflet says:

The Conservatives run the council. The Liberal Democrats are the only opposition and there are no other councillors. In Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe Labour have come bottom in the last 3 local elections, averaging less than 5% of the vote.

Notice the change of tack from a general attack on the chances of other parties, to a specific attack on my chances as Labour candidate? Interesting, isn’t it. In the previous leaflet, they were confident of their status as the only opposition. Now they seem to feel threatened by my campaign.

Everything they say is true. Labour have come bottom the last three times, with around 5% of the vote. But as I said above, there was no real campaign. And as for this two-horse race, is that all residents want? The Lib Dems, like the Tories, seem to discount the fact that such positions are only decided by the voters. Of course Labour can win here. All it takes is for people to go out tomorrow and vote for me.

This, I think, is what the Liberal Democrats are realising. I think they’re noticing a new challenger, who might be able to take up ground they have systematically failed to. I think they’re getting a bit worried.


Tin-Foil Linings


The Barnsley by-election results beg even more an answer to the question, "What is the point of Nick Clegg?"

This morning is wonderfully sunny in Brighton, and I think for left-wingers and Labourites across the country, the whole day will have that character.


I am, of course, referring to last night’s by-election victory in Barnsley, which saw the frankly impressive Dan Jarvis elected to replace the disgraced Eric Illsley. Dan’s success isn’t in any way surprising, in a safe Labour seat (though I do think Dan would have done well in any seat), but what is especially heartening is the fares of other parties. I’ll reproduce the full results below, as they’re just so damn amusing:

  • Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724 – 60.8%
  • Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953 – 12.9%
  • James Hockney (C) 1,999 – 8.25%
  • Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463 – 6.04%
  • Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266 – 5.23%
  • Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012 – 4.18%
  • Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544
  • Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198
  • Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60

Turnout 36.5%

(Source BBC News)

Yes, you read that correctly. 4.18% of the vote to the Liberal Democrats. Sixth place. Glorious, no?

I know it isn’t funny, that they came below the BNP, but on many levels it is. I might be worried if it wasn’t such a safe Labour seat, but there was never any chance of UKIP or the BNP winning, so why not enjoy them sticking the boot into Clegg and friends.

At any rate, the yellow vote has utterly collapsed in Barnsley, dumping them below the 5% threshold which sees them lose their deposit. Any government party can expect to fare less favourably in a by-election (God knows that Labour had enough bad ones), but this is landmark. Already Lib Dems are making excuses that the turnout was low, that their voters simply stayed at home. Possible, but it’s far more likely that those who voted Lib Dem at the general election are so disgusted with the party’s behaviour since entering office, that they politically withheld their vote, or switched to Labour (the only left-wing, progressive party left in British politics).

It’s a humiliating endorsement for the Lib Dem leadership, that they were so heavily punished in an area that will be most damaged by the cuts which have, by and large, yet to come into effect. This is the start of something that the government are denying; that people are not going to sit and accept ideological cuts to the poorest in society. With the local elections coming up in May, and the Lib Dem’s large council base, the party must be really starting to worry.

Still, there’s a silver lining to every cloud. Or, perhaps more aptly in this case, a tin-foil lining; at least they beat the Monster Raving Loonies… There there, Clegg.

A Call to Arms

This is mostly for readers in the UK, so I apologise to any international readers. But hey, you never know, you might find it interesting anyway.

Today is election day. At time of writing, the polling stations have been open for about an hour. And I am begging every single UK citizen, who is over 18, reading this to go out to their polling station, and cast their vote. I don’t think I can overstate how important this is. Today you can decide who is going to be in government tomorrow. If you have the opportunity, and do not vote today, in my opinion you have no right to complain about the result.

Now, I am not politically neutral. I think I’ve probably made that abundantly clear already. I am a Labour supporter, and I have already cast my vote according to my conscience. I have voted for the Labour party, because their policies make the most sense. They don’t promise unfeasible tax cuts. They promise to be fair to the poorest people in this country. They have steered us through one of the worst recessions in living memory (which was the fault of the Conservative Thatcher government), and they will continue to bring us through it if we give them the chance to do so. I urge you to read their policies, and consider voting for them.

But what I beg you to do, is to not vote for the Tories. I am firmly of the belief that David Cameron and his cronies would be a disaster for this country. They would begin drastic cuts too early, risking a return to the depths of recession. They would alienate economic allies in the EU, with their ridiculously archaic Euroskeptic view (and incidentally, Cameron has not read the Lisbon Treaty. However much you may think there should have been a referendum on the matter, actually gives greater power to Westminster, rather than Brussels). They would cut benefits for many of the families who genuinely and honestly rely on them to get by. They would usher in changes to the law that discriminate against all but the white, middle/upper class, heterosexual married family. Basically, they would return to the dark days of Thatcher.

Vote for Labour. Vote for the Lib Dems. Vote for the Greens. Vote for one of the Nationalist parties (if you’re in Scotland or Wales). Vote for an independent. Preferably don’t vote for the BNP or UKIP. Read the parties’ politics, what they would do for this country, and decide on that basis. I’m not stupid, I don’t think that the Tories are evil. I think that they are wrong. And I also don’t like how they have conducted their campaign, using millions of pounds of donation from Lord Ashcroft; a man who doesn’t pay tax in the UK, but still thinks it’s his right to decide how and by whom this country is run. And Rupert Murdoch. The man who wants to buy Number 10, who wants to install his man as PM, so that the BBC will be dismantled, and he can expand his monopoly. The Sun, et al, have lost all sense of responsible journalism, declaring Cameron the winner of debates in which he floundered, and lying to the public at large. Today they run with a gaudy Obama-style image of Cameron.

Don’t do this to Britain. The choice is yours, this is the principle of democracy. I haven’t always been it’s greatest advocate or supporter, but I’m asking you to prove to me today that it has merit. So please, go down to the polling station today, and cast your vote. Because untold numbers have died over the ages so that you can do so. And if the country is to survive the next five years, every one of you needs to. Go out and vote, for policy, not personality. For equality, not closed mindedness. For the future, not for the past.

Thank you.

“In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.” -Aristotle, Politics.