As many of you know I am involved in politics locally here in Southend but I keep a keen eye on politics on the ground in several places but the one I really keep a keen eye on is in my old stomping ground of Portsmouth. I am you see a Pompey boy born and bred and I still have great affection for the city. Pompey has slowly become a Lib Dem stronghold as the council has been run extremely well for a long time and the people of the city have recognised this.
In May the Lib Dems made three gains from the Tories across the council (with Labour also making a couple of gains from the Tories) as the Lib Dems strengthened their already pretty strong position. One of those who got elected was Aiden Gray who swept in following what is fair to say a shock result in Cosham. Cosham has been a Tory stronghold for an age but their vote collapsed and was split both with Labour and the Lib Dems but it was the party of power that won as the three main parties were split by just 95 votes.
To give you a inkling as to how much of a swing this was – twelve months before the Tories had 1,103 more votes than the Lib Dems in this seat. So a 23.6% swing from the Tories to the Lib Dems is quite something to behold! Labour may well have stolen this seat but for a Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts candidate to grab 141 votes – many of which would have gone to the Labour candidate you’d have thought if he wasn’t there.
So good news you’d think for the Lib Dems but the councillor elected has already defected just six months after being elected after deciding that the council shouldn’t be putting any more money into the Pyramids and should instead be putting money into other projects. Yes that is the one reason he has given for leaving and he’s said that he has been thinking about defecting for ‘at least one month’ and he now fully believes that Labour speak for everyone and are the best choice for both Portsmouth and the country. Quite a drastic change there Aiden but should we be surprised?
Well I don’t know whether we should be but yet again I am disappointed. Not because he has left the Lib Dems but because he has changed his political view to such a degree within a month. We can all gradually change our thoughts but to go from one party to another in such a short time just doesn’t add up. You don’t fundamentally change overnight. So something else is at play here and the best thing I can think of is that he is an idealist.
I have seen people leave the Lib Dems for many reasons and that is fine. However those that leave and go straight to another party really get to me – certainly if they are a councillor. Either be an independent or resign and force a by-election. The people voted for both you but also the party you represent. I have been pretty consistent on this and I have little issue with people leaving any political party and staying on as an independent until the next election but to leave a party and join another sticks in my throat.
It seems to me as an outsider looking in that he saw what being in power is actually like. You have to make tough decisions and not everyday in a walk in the park and he decided that being in opposition was far easier and that he could stay true to his idealist principles. A lot of us get into politics as idealists but quickly become realists and pragmatists.
The Pyramids has been an issue for decades in Portsmouth and it will continue to be so until either it is torn down or starts making money. As a Pompey boy I loved going to the Pyramids. I always had a daydream of actually having a date at the Pyramids but as we all know me and dates aren’t exactly a match made in heaven and it was never to be. Heck as a 29 year-old I’d still say the Pyramids is an awesome date idea but I fear I shall never see it through. I would hate to see the Pyramids go I truly would but it also has to make money and can’t just be subsidised forever in my opinion.
Here in Southend the pier actually costs around £1.5million a year to the local tax payers. It is seen as a worthwhile loss as it brings in tourists to the area. I’m not sure the Pyramids centre does that and the place needs a viable long-term investment to make it self-sustainable. It needs a real plan. What that is I don’t know but to lose it from Portsmouth would be a sad day. That I do know. Just saying that it shouldn’t get investment is lazy and not what the people of Portsmouth want. Also to say it is a north/south thing is total BS. I would travel from Waterlooville to go to the Pyramids and also when I lived on the Isle of Wight we would go there. So people do travel down there from outside of the Portsmouth South constituency. To believe otherwise is crazy talk.
So there we have it. Just six months after being elected and after just a month of thinking he has left one political party and joined another and now fully believes they are the future. Quite a pace to change his mind but it isn’t one of those cases where someone thinks solely about their future. He had a cabinet position and his seat was a Tory stronghold and is now a three-way marginal in a city where the Lib Dems are well liked so whatever his reasons they weren’t seemingly motivated by self-preservation and that is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.