Archive for the ‘southend’ tag
Being a member of a political party is slightly different to being just a supporter and a voter. It is that time of year where my membership of the Liberal Democrats is up for renewal and after a couple of years as a member it is always good to look at yourself and ask whether it is worth it.
I have decided that there are three reasons to be a member of a political party – National Issues, Local Issues and Personal Ideology. The big question is how many of those three do I (or anyone for that matter) have to be happy with to continue membership (or indeed join in the first place).
I’ll start with Personal Ideology.
Several weeks ago I was challenged to write about my Lib Dem Values. In a way it was also a way to see if my thoughts meshed well with that of the party. I am a liberal. I believe in liberal philosophy. I don’t really have to challenge myself on this at any level because I have always had a very similar viewpoint of the world and our place in it. No one person is born better or worse than the next person. Every person deserves the same chances and opportunities in life. If the Liberal Democrats still sit broadly in the liberal realm of the political spectrum then I can tick this box.
However National Issues is a harder thing to sit with.
I joined the party after the coalition was forced. Despite having always voted and leaned Lib Dem I never actually joined until March of 2011. So I was not a member of the party when solely in opposition so I do have a slightly different viewpoint to many others who have been members for far longer. The biggest difference between opposition and government is that sometimes principles and practicalities are mutually exclusive and something has to give way.
The question is at what point do principles become compromised unnecessarily? That is the problem the I personally wrestle with. Being part of a coalition does mean that we as a party will have to do things that we are not personally comfortable with. If we want to live in an isolated Utopian state and only do things that as a party we would be happy with then either win a General Election or be in opposition until the point where an outright victory occurs. Coalition will always mean two parties (or more) doing things that they are both comfortable and uncomfortable with. This is just the nature of the beast.
However when we see MP’s and the national party doing things that go against the will of the membership without getting an obvious trade back on another issue then it is immensely troubling. It can be said that the Tories have backed things they would have preferred not to during the past 35 months or so. It most certainly can be said that the Lib Dems have done just that and on multiple occasions.
People have left the party due to various issues since the formation of the coalition. Many leave strictly because of one principle gone too far and others because of an accumulation of principles they believed in being ignored and in some cases actively campaigned against by the upper echelons of the party.
It is hard to really back some of what is going on at Westminster. I like Nick Clegg. I like him a lot but unless he explains why he does some of the things he does and listens to the grass roots then it is hard to fully back him. We have gone past the point where we can believe in Nick Clegg and the national party with blind faith that they know what they are doing.
So this box I probably can’t tick so I’ll say it is an incomplete.
Lastly Local Issues.
I currently live in Southend. We have a Conservative run council (with a majority of one) and a rather interesting local political scene. The Lib Dems locally are good people (which is always a pretty decent start) and I think we can see some progress here. I wish the councillors would be better at talking about their achievements as it is rare to see them in the local paper talking about what they do – and some of them do excellent work and genuinely make a difference.
I do like to think that I live in the real world and the financial situation makes things very difficult for the Tory run council. Cuts do have to be made to make ends meet but there is always a question of what cuts and where. Do we cut along ideological lines or do we cut where those effected are those who can deal with being effected? This is where I struggle with what the Tories have done going into a voting pact with the Thorpe councillors (although now that pact isn’t needed) because Thorpe is the ward where people can deal with issues better than any other. So whilst those in Thorpe will be delighted at the reduction in car parking charges in the Broadway, that is money that is now not going into the coffers.
Also we have to work on what things are spent on – certainly the big projects. The Shoebury Youth Centre was a £2.9million building but it is hardly being used. Firstly we have to question why it was built in the first place but secondly we need to find a way for that building to become a viable part of the Shoebury community. There are issues like this all over the place and in general the local Lib Dems seem to be actively working on finding solutions to difficult situations and aren’t just sticking their heads in the sand and saying ‘those evil Tories are really evil’ etc…
So locally I think I can probably tick that I’m relatively content with what is going on. The local party are active and I do think that being part of it is worthwhile and it can benefit the local community if we continue to work hard and deliver on what we can do.
So two ticks and an incomplete. The National Party do concern me and do the pros outweigh the cons of being in coalition? I’m not sure. Are we losing our soul? Some may argue that and in all honesty I do not know the answer. However my ideology has not changed and being a member of the local party is I think worthwhile therefore it’ll be another year as a member for me…
I have been relatively quiet on here for a couple of weeks. In reality I have been relatively quiet across all Social Media in the past couple of weeks. I have been in a sort of malaise regarding a lot of things. I’ve had a lack of energy and drive. This isn’t to say I’ve been down as you’ll find out later if you read long enough that isn’t the case but it has just been a general malaise.
Last week was weird. Like seriously weird. I’m not going to write all of the weirdness on here but there was a 48 hour period where pretty much everything that happened seemed to be the universe conspiring against me. However of course the universe doesn’t tend to work like that so I’ll just take it as a few freak occurrences that seemed to transpire in close proximity to one another.
So what I’d thought I’d do is blog briefly on the main things going on and we’ll see if I expand on any of these in subsequent days…
On Thatcher’s death…having been brought up in my formative years on a council estate with shall we say not Maggie lovers as parents there aren’t many tears being shed. However I do find it distasteful seeing people reveling in her death – certainly people who aren’t old enough to have seen her as Prime Minister. I was seven when she left office and don’t feel that I know enough to judge her time in office – nor her as a person. Even though my upbringing was certainly anything but Pro-Thatcher I just think the best thing to do – even for those who despise her – is to keep your own counsel and give thoughts to her family.
On the media…well my own opinion is what it is but I think I am in a position to look at and have strong opinions on the way the media have reacted. I think that considering the bias that the BBC is said to have to the left, that they have gone overboard on her passing. I also think certain right-wing newspapers have done the same. I know the former PM was very much a marmite person (I know so many people who hate that term but heck its true) but she was never Mother Teresa or Florence Nightingale and I get the sense some media outlets think she was more important and a better person than the pair of them put together.
On Lib Demmery…it is a strange year in Southend. With no elections in 2013 life is relatively quiet. We have seen the council change from No Overall Control to a Conservative majority of one following a defection to the Tories in recent weeks and that has caused an interesting domino effect. However don’t expect anything too dramatic to happen until around this time next year when we find out who is standing where across Southend.
On High Court victory…the fact that the Portsmouth Supporters Trust are set to take ownership of Portsmouth Football Club this week pleases me. Like everyone I can’t predict the future but I do know that it was PST or bust and I trust the trust as it were. With a ten-point penalty set to relegate the club it will mean Portsmouth travelling to Southend next season and should I still be living in the area then it’ll be nice to see the lads for the first time in a few years. You never know I could be commentating on the game!
On commentating…I think I have done seven or eight games so far this season. Only did one before the turn of the year but have done roughly half the home games since and have yet to see the Blues win. It has got to the stage where the security guy laments my arrival and said to me yesterday, ‘when I saw you sitting there I knew we were doomed.’ He says we need to get my jinx out of the way and luckily (or unluckily depending on your PoV) I’m behind the microphone for the last home game left of the season – Morecombe on Saturday the 27th.
On dreams…one thing I have learnt about myself is whilst we all dream every night, I only ever tend to remember my dreams when I’m stress-free. Recently I have been in a dream state many times with some extremely vivid dreams. These are both entertaining and at times concerning. Dreams are like your very own television show where usually you are the star. The thing is though clearly I’m feeling ok about life despite this general malaise that I’ve been going through.
On the week ahead…I’m out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings for various activities. My favourite TV show returns for its 9th season – Deadliest Catch and I’m still breaking in 12 new pairs of socks. I know how to enjoy life folks. I really do. Socks with large holes in are a thing of the past (for now) the only question left is will pj bottoms with holes in be a thing of the past? Yeah we’ll see about that…
So to sum up I’m still alive. I’m doing fine and I’m clearly relatively stress free. I hope that my blogging buzz returns soon.
I actually sent in a letter to the editor of the Echo in the week. It has yet to be published. It of course very well may not be published so here is a copy of it. The back story is that Cllr. Terry has called on Cllr Kaye to resign and force a by-election in Thorpe ward following her decision to join the Tories having been elected as an independent.
I was surprised to read that Cllr. Terry was prepared to give up his ‘safe seat’ of Westborough ward in order to challenge the recently defected Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe or should I say I wasn’t surprised at all?
You see Thorpe ward is the biggest stronghold of the independent group and Cllr. Terry knows that he has issues holding on to his seat in Westborough in 2015.
Cllr. Terry is clearly an intelligent man who doesn’t do things lightly. He remembers that his now former independent colleague Dr. Vel only held on to Westborough by 38 votes in May. He also knows that the last time the borough elections were held on the same day as the General Election (like they will be the next time he is due to stand in 2015) Westborough lost an independent councillor who slumped to third place that day in the polls.
There is a reason Cllr. Terry doesn’t want all-up elections to be held on the same day as either European or Westminster elections – he knows the independents would struggle mightily. Come to think of it did any independent councillor win in 2010? Oh yes…one – Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe. Suddenly it all becomes crystal clear…
Now on one hand I agree with Cllr. Terry that Cllr. Kaye should resign and a by-election be called following her decision to change parties. However he didn’t call for a by-election when Cllr. Morgan defected from the Lib Dems to the independent group, nor did I hear him call for a by-election in Westborough when Dr. Vel left the independent group to become a true independent. It is either a by-election for every defection or for none. It can’t be by-election only in certain circumstances.
I know he said that it is different when someone goes from a party to an independent compared to from an independent to a party but frankly I disagree. Remember in Southend the independent group are not solely independents. In fact Cllr. Terry calls himself the ‘spokesman of the independent group’ – how can independents have a spokesman? Surely they should all speak for themselves as they are independents and therefore all have differing views but as we all know in Southend – the independent group are not fully independent at all.
As for Cllr. Terry resigning to take on Thorpe in a by-election it would then of course force a by-election in Westborough. Yet more expense. Swapping Westborough for Thorpe though would ensure Cllr. Terry’s seat in the chamber for many years to come and of that I am very sure he is more than aware…
We are but three days away from the budget here in Southend and one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that the 35 locations across the borough like the one pictured below at the top of The Broadway in Thorpe Bay that will be removed from use.
Yes in the budget the bottle banks and recycling bins are to go in an attempt to save money. I haven’t seen it anywhere but I was talking to a councillor about waste and he then opened up his file and read out that the budget contains the plan to abolish these locations. We will be encouraged to use the pink recycling sacks instead. This seems like a proposal that on paper seems feasible but there are a lot of people who certainly don’t like the idea of leaving glass out on the street to be collected. Also there are people in this town who don’t get pink sacks (or black sacks for that matter) and so what would I do with my recycling if these bins were to disappear? I don’t get pink sacks (and nor do my neighbours) and don’t drive so even if the bins at the tips were kept then I wouldn’t be able to get there.
I live opposite a bottle bank and other recycling bins and I can tell you that they are used a lot. I often see people putting things in them and if as the council are suggesting that under 1% of all recycling in the whole borough comes through these recycling bins. I don’t know how much use the other 34 get but if they are anything like the bins at the top of The Broadway in Thorpe Bay then the people of Southend must be recycling heaps through their pink sacks and this should be applauded.
I have no idea as to the take up of these recycling bins but they seem to be used a fair deal and removing them will lead to the town’s waste going up as people throw recyclable materials away instead of recycling them if they are unable to get to a recycle bin easily. This would not be a good thing as being as green as possible is the way forward and since these bins first started appearing they have always been used well. Without them I fear for Southend’s green credentials.
Oh boy it has been a fun few days in the Southend councillor blogosphere. It all started with Tory councillors Cox and Holdcroft seemingly publishing the private thoughts of their Labour counterpart Cllr Ware-Lane on the proposed cruise event down the seafront. This did not sit well with the councillor for Milton. So all in all some interesting beef.
First of all lets look at the leader of the council and his sly dig that Cllr Ware-Lane doesn’t live in the ward he represents. Pathetic. Cllr Holdcroft is a grown adult and should act like one. As for Cllr Cox I think his crimes are far less although stating something that was seemingly said in private is just not cricket.
The thing none of these councillors seem to get is that the cruising event was the type of thing we should actually encourage. Do we not want 1000 odd cars and say 2,000 odd people coming into the town on a February Saturday evening? Cllr Holdcroft says it would have done nothing for the local authority, which might be true but would it have done something for the local economy of the traders along the seafront? You bet your bottom dollar that it would. With the shared space and the spy cameras who are desperate to ticket anyone who stops for a brief second the traders along the seafront are facing hard times. I’m pretty sure they would have loved 2,000 odd people coming in and spending money in shops and at pubs, fast food joints along the seafront!
Now of course there is the noise and the ‘safety of the public’ that has to be thought about. Cllr Holdcroft says it ‘would have brought noise, disruption and traffic chaos to the seafront and town centre causing aggravation to residents, visitors and traders alike.‘ Interesting Point of View – noise is certainly a fair thing to talk about but disruption and traffic chaos? How many vehicles are going along the seafront on a Saturday night in February? Not millions in my guess. Would residents be aggravated? Possibly but would visitors to the town be aggravated? No and would traders? No – they were extremely annoyed that the council and police got an injunction to stop the event! I’ll give Cllr Holdcroft a bit of a heads up – traders like more people to potentially sell their produce to. The seafront is dead in the winter months so this was a nice little bonus for them until it was snatched away from them.
Now that they have set a precedent does the town want to stop people coming in at the weekend to get drunk and create issues that face every single town every single weekend? I think it is a pretty fair assumption to make that the cruisers would have broken less laws during their proposed event than what revelers do every single weekend in bars, clubs and the surrounding areas. The police were down there anyway to ensure nothing went on – so instead of paying them to monitor an event bringing money and people into the town – we were paying them to make sure nothing happened. Quite brilliant financial planning there! Bravo!
Southend is all about the seafront. It is all about bringing people into into the town. If the seafront disappears as a force for businesses then the town is really facing an issue long-term. It seems that the general consensus amongst traders along the seafront is they are at near breaking point. Revenues are going down and they don’t see things getting any better any time soon. Southend’s seafront should be the jewel in the crown of the town. The way it is going it will soon become a relic. I know this was just one event but it is indicative of how the seafront traders are feeling. A chance to make some nice money on a February evening and instead the seafront was a ghost town and tills aren’t in action.
If (as seems the case) Cllr’s Holdcroft and Cox did essentially publicly express the opinion of another councillor that was expressed in private via the council e-mail system then they should just apologise and move on. As for the greater issue – it seems that the Tory council are not big fans of people coming into the town and spending money in local businesses. I thought that would be quite a big issue for them, certainly in the winter months? Yes I will grant that the noise could have been an issue but it is winter – no-one has their windows or doors wide open and these cruisers would not have been there all night. If things had gone well then perhaps this was a chance to find another regular event that brought people into the town. Heck if we are worried about that noise we should crackdown on people walking home drunk in the early hours – those guys make noise too but seemingly that is ok.
I think the council – and police – acted in haste here and as for people discussing private things in a public forum – pretty darn disappointing…
As politicos in Southend will know there has been a lot of chatter about holding all up elections every four years instead of electing in thirds three out of every four years. It is something that is probably going to happen at some point but can’t happen for a couple of years anyway but it is worth a bit of chat.
There are two main points regarding all up elections. One is it will save money but on the other hand it will reduce the amount of times people get to air their voice at the ballot box. In principle I’m not overly down with this but I can see the benefits. We only vote once every five years for European elections and the same for Westminster elections. The turnout in the May local elections in Southend was pretty derisory and the less that is said about the Police & Crime Commissioner Election turnout the better.
However one quote really stood out to me in the article in today’s Echo and it came from Cllr. Martin Terry – leader of the independent group on the council and councillor for Westborough. He isn’t sure that these elections should take place on the same day as other elections (European or Parliamentary):
‘While we have got to save costs and having four-yearly elections would save money, the danger is when you hold them all at once the result can be skewed.‘
Being the type of chap I am let me interpret that quote in non political speak:
‘We are fine with all-up elections but our share of the vote goes down when other elections are on due to national issues, so we would not be in favour of all-up elections if they take place on the same day as a national or European election. Heck we lost Westborough in 2010 which we would never have lost if it wasn’t for the Westminster election on the same day. Seriously guys we like the idea of saving money but if it costs us councillors then we would be less inclined to support it.‘
The head of the Labour group on the council Cllr. Gilbert is worried about the proposed change because the benefit of the current system is councillors face a vote three out of every four years. Lib Dem group leader Cllr. Longley is supportive but also has that reservation about the effect on the democratic process.
Cllr. Terry is not right that the result would be ‘skewed’ by having local elections on the same day as other elections. What is true is the turnout would be larger and therefore more votes would be cast. For example Dr. Vel won Westborough in 2012 with a total of 7.3% of eligible Westborough residents voting for him. If that isn’t a skewed result then I don’t know what is. The more people who vote the better as that will give us a truer reflection of what the public want. For the sake of openness using the same rudimentary maths I got 1.2% of the eligible vote in that same election. Boy I really enthused the electorate…
If we do go all-up then it’ll be an interesting campaign as all the parties would need to find 51 candidates for one election. That might not be easy for the Lib Dems or the independents. You’d expect Labour and the Tories to find the numbers but for all the other parties that might be be a gimme. It would also mean parties would focus more on certain wards than they do now.
Who knows how it’ll play out but one thing is for sure – Cllr. Terry is fine with saving money but if it costs his group his support wouldn’t be as solid.
In May I got mullered in the local elections. I got a beating that was so bad that an expert dominatrix would have been embarrassed at the markings left on my body (that is a lie – she would be proud) but the defeat at the hands of Dr. Vel was to be expected. Dr. Vel has is now in his third term as an independent councillor for the Westborough ward on Southend Council. He had previously served as a Labour member on the council.
Well Dr. Vel has ‘officially’ now left the independent group on Southend Council and now considers himself a true independent. We have long known that this was going down as the relationship between Cllr. Velmurugan and the leader of the independent group Cllr. Terry has been strained for some time. We aren’t talking weeks here we are talking months. So a parting of the ways officially was in reality a Fait accompli.
Cllr. Terry though has fired a broadside at Cllr. Velmurugan telling him via the local rag that he should quit and open up a by-election in Westborough ward if he wants to serve as an independent councillor. What horse shit says I.
The whole role of the ‘independent group’ on Southend council is one that is to be frank – quite laughable. They claim to be independent and spend most of their time raging against party politics but yet they are themselves a recognised group on the council and in doing so they get facilities at the Civic Centre and their leader takes home extra money based on the fact that he is the leader of their group. If I’m correct this decision now means that the independent group are now not the official opposition to the Conservatives on the council and therefore financially Cllr. Terry is hit by this as now both Cllr. Longley (Lib Dems) and himself lead a group of people on the council with the same number of councillors.
If Cllr. Velmurugan sees himself as a ‘true independent’ then so what? The ballot papers that the people of Westborough faced on May 3 had the line ‘Dr. Vel – Independent’ on them not ‘Dr. Vel – Member of the Independent Group’ (as shown below) therefore I have zero problem with him staying on as long as he puts in the work that his fellow Westborough councillors (Cllr. Terry and Cllr. Collins) do for the people of the ward. If he doesn’t sit on any committees that doesn’t diminish his right to be a councillor. He hasn’t hoodwinked the people who voted for him by going to another party. He was elected as an independent and is still an independent. Just not part of the independent group on the council.
I’d have so much more time for the independent group if they labelled themselves as something else. Maybe the ‘Southend First’ group or the ‘Southend against Party Politics’ group but they aren’t independent and this is a case in point. Someone leaves the group but stays as an independent and they are getting attacked by their group leader. Yes the group can (and do vote) in different ways but so do other councillors and groups. The Thorpe Bay three went into a voting pact with the Tories to get the best deal for their constituents in Thorpe Bay (although their failure to act on getting Christmas lights down The Broadway despite collecting money from all the shopkeepers along The Broadway hasn’t exactly gone down well amongst the shopkeepers down the parade of shops).
If the independents are truly independent then they would have no issue with Cllr. Velmurugan not being part of their group and being a ‘true independent’ but as they clearly do then I think it is safe to say that they aren’t truly independent. A lot of people like the idea of having independents involved as they see that they will not have party politics to answer to but the independent group on the council do have party politics and that is becoming all the more clear by the day.
Edit 21/12/12: As Cllr. Ware-Lane points out in the comments. The numbers are now 10/9 not 9/9 and therefore my financial points are not relevant about group leader salaries/allowances are not valid.
Southend Council meetings to be streamed live on the interweb – councillors line up to voice disapproval
It has been coming. Sometimes you can sense the way the wind is blowing and these meetings being broadcast live over the internet seemed to be the way things were going and in yesterday’s local rag it was confirmed that the Tory-led council were going ahead with plans to upgrade audio equipment and install video equipment to the cost to the taxpayer of £82,000.
Councillors seem to be in general against the plan – not because they don’t like being filmed or are fearful that people might actually hear what they say – but more because at a time where cuts are being made – and will continue to be made for several years – spending money on this seems like it is money that could be better spent elsewhere. This is the view of Cllr. Ware-Lane and Lib Dem Leader Cllr. Longley (who was quoted in the Echo) as well as Toey Cllr. Salter (again quoted in the Echo story).
Now a couple of local activists are delighted with the plans including Del Thomas and the Echo’s latest columnist Ms. Jack Monroe. So the big question (well not the big question but considering this is my blog the most relevant question is where I’m going to nail my colours to the mast…).
Well I am pretty much in the same boat as Cllr. Ware-Lane, Cllr. Longley and Cllr. Salter. I think broadcasting these meetings is a good idea but at this current juncture is it really going to engage with the local electorate? How many people are going to tune in on a Thursday evening to watch a full council to see what their councillors say? A local Lib Dem activist I know says that council meetings are ‘the best theatre in town’ which either says how bad the local amateur dramatics groups are or grossly over-exaggerates what actually goes on in the council chamber.
There is a real issue with engagement between councillors and the people of Southend. The quite frankly abject numbers who voted in May is testament to this. This might help but how much will it really help? That is a legitimate question and when you couple it with ‘How else could that £82,000 be spent?’ then you have two very pertinent questions that should be answered.
Look I’d probably tune in and just have it on in the background to see if anyone said actually stupid/dumb/interesting/ that I could blog about but it wouldn’t be ‘must see TV’ as it were. Anything really interesting would be covered by someone from the local rag or other bloggers who are far more dedicated than I to spend their Thursday evenings down at the Civic.
£82,000 isn’t a huge swathe of money when you look at the total budget but could it be spent better elsewhere to enhance the lives of more people? I think it probably could and could you spend £82,000 and find a better way to engage with the public? Yes. Yes I think you could. On paper it seems like a good and noble idea but when push comes to shove and in this economic climate the council is having to live under it doesn’t seem like a good investment and the council will not be getting their bang for their buck as it were.
Claire Bibby thinks so. Who is Claire Bibby I hear you ask and why should we care what she thinks? Well she was an independent candidate in May for the Southchurch ward here in Southend and she got just beaten out in the last result of the evening. Well she has blogged on councillors expenses and you can read her views here but for those who can’t be bothered it is basically attacking councillors for having too many expenses and with a focus on the portfolio holders. Fair enough one might think but one thing really stood out to me:
The Tax Payers Alliance will be investigating councillors expenses, as the Tax Payers Alliance believe the expenses given to councillors are far too much, and the role of the local councillors is about providing a community service and should not come with expenses more than the average salary of the area they represent.
So councillors in a more prosperous area such as say Thorpe Bay where both Claire and myself live and we can be honest here – the councillors do not have anywhere near as many issues as say Kursaal or Westborough councillors but councillors here in Thorpe Bay should be paid more than the Kursaal or Westborough councillors? That is to be frank a very scary proposition in my eyes. Why should councillors expenses be tied to the average salary that they represent? It would be saying that some councillors are worth more money than others – and whilst that is probably true as some councillors do work far harder than others – it should not be linked to the area that they represent and certainly not the councillors in richer areas having a larger expenses packet.
Expenses are there to ensure that councillors are not out of pocket for work they do linked to their council work. So for example help with travel costs going to see people, phone calls and the like. Now I don’t think I’m shocking anyone here when I say that councillors in certain areas have more work than others. There are more issues in certain areas. That is just the way it is but to link the average annual salary to their expenses allowances? Madness.
Councillors expenses should be scrutinised closely but councillors should not be out of pocket for work that they do. A councillor knows that they are going to give up time for their council work – that is part of the deal but they don’t need to be spending money out of their pocket. They get an allowance to cover these costs therefore they shouldn’t be out of pocket. If you change the way these calculations are made then you’ll get councillors trying to get the ‘premier’ wards financially and possibly leaving the less well-of wards with councillors who won’t work as hard and put the hours in because they’ll be out of pocket – and that is a scary thought.
Some very disappointing news dropped into my inbox earlier today and confirmation has come that Cllr Ric Morgan has quit the party and has joined the Liberal Party. He will continue to serve as one of the three councillors for Prittlewell and whilst a member of the Liberal Party he will be serving as an independent. This means in terms of the make-up of the council the independents are now the main party of opposition although with one of their members effectively voting with the Tories on all issues and the Thorpe Bay three having a voting pact with the Tories it is pretty much a farce and you can’t really tell the make-up of the independents on Southend Council.
On a Lib Dem level I think this is a bigger blow than how it might seem to the outsider. Ric Morgan is in the (accurate) words of the local rag was a maverick and the Lib Dems badly need someone like him. I don’t think it is a secret to say that there was tensions between Ric and the leader of the Lib Dems on Southend Council and that these tensions were not being solved any time soon. Some people have already contacted me to say that this was a secret and I shouldn’t be saying secretive internal stuff on the blog. I think the way Ric has left and his public trashing of Cllr Longley and the Lib Dems for having no vision in the local rag pretty much shows that these tensions are out in the open.
I don’t think it is right to comment on those issues as I am not a councillor and am therefore not privy to a lot of what goes on but I do think I can say that I have been concerned in my what year and a half as a member of where the party is going in the borough. The vision is very short-term and is extremely defensive. The talk is of keeping what we have and not expanding our horizons and making progress across the town. Whilst the Lib Dems nationally are not exactly the flavour of the month there are pockets across the country where the Lib Dems are doing well. These are places with a clear message and a clear vision. That isn’t something the Lib Dems currently have in Southend – well not to my knowledge anyway.
The membership of the party locally has pretty much stagnated in the past year or so with no real movement or defections. New blood and new ideas are what keeps political parties going. I am the nominal head of Liberal Youth in the borough but in all honesty I have been pretty awful. However I had a meeting last week with Essex Liberal Youth and I’ll be working on this in the near future to start getting the Liberal Youth active in Southend. Hopefully this will help bring in some more voices to the discussion.
I thought the ‘Six to Fix’ that the party put out for the May elections was actually a pretty decent document. However these issues have not gone away because the election is over. These are things that Lib Dems should still be talking about. As for Cllr Morgan saying that his local colleagues are ‘lacking in vision’ that is a claim that could easily be substantiated but to be fair most political parties could be accused of such a thing.
This departure is not a good thing for the Lib Dems. I won’t sugar coat it but I am hopeful that it is the kick up the backside that the party need locally. With no elections next year things seem to be in a bit of a malaise but if the Lib Dems carry on down this path then in four years I could easily see the Lib Dems holding just Leigh on the council. This is the strongest warning shot across the bow that the party could have gotten locally. The Lib Dems have for many moons been the natural opposition to the Tories in Southend. The way things are going they might be hind both the independents and Labour in the very near future.