The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On the Lib Dems plans in Southend come May and local political blogging…

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Southend’s newest sensation of the political blogging scene has finally turned his attention to the Liberal Democrats after his recent attacks on the Greens, the Tories and UKIP. In a piece entitled, ‘Where have all the Liberal Democrats gone?’ he opines about the parties fortunes in the borough.

Now I’m not going to fill in all the blanks for him as I don’t want to spoil his fun by bringing knowledge to the situation, that isn’t seemingly what his blog is for. Julian Ware-Lane has always led the field in local political blogging but now he forms a two-headed tag-team and whilst I would love to sit here and be aggressive about it, it is actually fun reading and credit where credit is due, between them they do lead the way in Southend political blogging. Whether much of what they write is fair or written with strong Labour specs on is another matter but they do churn out content.

I was asked the other day if I had any advice for him and I casually replied that he should invest in a copy of McNae’s. All the cool kids have one (myself included) although I aced Journalism Law at university and am pretty confident that my blurbs never skate even near the line.

He questions whether Cllr. Paul Collins’ big defeat (and lets not beat around the bush – it was a big defeat) in Westborough last year is the reason for having no PPC selected for Southend West as yet. I can answer that question, No, No it isn’t. I can give a much more informed opinion of why there is no PPC in place at this point but this is not the forum. I’m being a good boy today.

As for when a PPC will be selected and announced, I’d expect movement to happen on this subject before I’ve raided the Cornish Bakehouse for my Monday four double chocolate doughnuts for £1.50 treat (seriously if I lived within walking distance of that bakery then I’d eat so many freaking double chocolate doughnuts it would be insane).

On the Rochford & Southend East issue, this is a much harder candidacy to fill, I think that is fair comment. The party across the land have lost many members and many good candidates are disillusioned, that is the truth and there is no hiding from this fact. The Lib Dems in Southend are not immune to this but I’m sure there will be a candidate on the ballot for people in Rochford & Southend East to give them a Lib Dem option. Who knows maybe it’ll be a 31 year-old double chocolate doughnut enthusiast? Who knows…? (I know but I don’t want to spoil Matthew’s hypothetical fun)

He really does think the Lib Dems are dead in the water as he predicts that the party will lose Leigh ward but still be a junior partner in the administration come the summer. Well with four councillors (which is the number he predicts) then the Lib Dems would be the smallest party (or group) on the council. If that is the case I’d hope the Lib Dems step aside and allow the other four groups to form an administration. I said this in 2014 that Southend had (rightly or wrongly) rejected the party and should they go down to the fifth largest party then I can see no reason why the party should be involved in the administration in any way. Also losing Leigh ward would be a real kick in the teeth for the party but if I was a bookmaker I wouldn’t be putting my mortgage on that result just yet.

Also he sincerely doubts that the party will be able to find a full slate of candidates across the borough, well lets see what happens eh? I’m not saying I know the answer as nomination papers etc. haven’t been sent out yet but I have an idea as to whether the party will go 17/17 I wouldn’t want Matthew to be unduly surprised so I’ll give him fair warning to not worry too much about the Lib Dems in Southend on this front. If the party goes 17/17 it won’t be a shock but if they don’t I wouldn’t exactly have a heart attack either. Sincerely doubts is probably over-stretching.

I’m not going to sit here and say everything is rosy in the Southend Lib Dem garden because it isn’t. I’m a realist but I also wouldn’t be writing the obituary just yet either. I expect a very good person will be selected as the Southend West Lib Dem PPC within a few days. Just because Matthew Dent isn’t briefed on the inner workings of the local party doesn’t mean nothing is happening. If he is so interested in finding out all the gossip before everyone else I will happily offer him the chance to resign from the Labour Party and join the Lib Dems, then he can write with all the facts, wouldn’t that be novel?

Look I enjoy his blog, I really do but I always struggle to trust any politco (including my lot) who basically say that the party they are a member of is great and everyone else sucks. The political spectrum is relatively narrow as the main political parties are all realists but when in opposition they’ll widen that spectrum to appeal to a wider set of voters before actually narrowing what they do in power because sometimes there is only so much money in the pot etc.

Labour introduced tuition fees and they introduced privatisation to the NHS. The two big sticks they use to attack the Lib Dems and Tories respectively, they actually started. This isn’t political rhetoric, it is fact. It just goes to show that all political parties will often take the same road when presented with similar financial options. The whole funding of new hospitals and new hospital wings with private money was fantastic short-term but has crushed many NHS trusts financially but as Julian Ware-Lane told me on twitter, ‘The GE will be a chance for voters to pass judgement on the ConDem Govt. What happened before is history.’

So the Iraq War, introducing (and trebling) tuition fees, starting the privatisation of the NHS, crushing NHS trusts long-term with sky high rental costs of new buildings, being in charge of an economy that collapsed and let the bankers run wild is all in the past and doesn’t matter. Therefore by the 2020 General Election I’m sure the fact the Lib Dems were in a coalition or anything the Tories did in power between 2010-2015 if they find themselves in opposition won’t matter and won’t be mentioned by any Labour candidate. Yeah right…

I’m not saying Labour are bad. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are great. The truth lies somewhere in the middle and determining where that is for all of us personally should determine where our vote goes. Same with the other political parties. This is one of the things that I really deplore about politics, just how black and white politicos and candidates get whereas in reality most things are a shade of grey to some degree. I’ve written many blog posts both praising and attacking the Lib Dems for what they are doing in government and I like to think that this is a mature attitude and not just acting like a political sheep.

So anyway that will be all. Short version is the Lib Dems in Southend aren’t dead yet and things are going on. Many local candidates are in place and just because they haven’t been announced yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. I think it is fair to say that bountiful success is not expected in May but nor do I expect being last in every seat with no votes whatsoever. The reality will be somewhere in the middle. The Southend West PPC will get selected and announced in the very near future and the Rochford & Southend East candidate will be next on the list but who knows who it will be…? *has a twinkle in his eye*

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Written by neilmonnery

January 16th, 2015 at 6:00 am

On Nick Clegg and the chances of losing his Sheffield Hallam seat in May

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Oh Sheffield Hallam. The baying public are looking for this seat to provide the Michael Portillo moment. The evil bugger Clegg who sold his soul for a car. Sold out Forgemasters for reasons unbeknown to his mere mortals. Laughed in the faces of students when he turned around and not only didn’t consign tuition fees to history but in fact actually increased them. He also married someone he loved but she was foreign, I mind how fucking dare he fall in love with a non English person and then naming his kids with traditional Spanish names, who wears the trousers Clegg, who wears the trousers? I know that happened ages ago but it still needs to be reiterated.

There is of course no doubt that he’ll lose his Sheffield Hallam seat because he is the most evil of the evil. A man so evil that Montgomery Burns bows down to him as a hero. A man so two-faced that he actually wears a prototype invisible neck brace that was paid for by you – the tax payer – after millions of secret pounds of research were poured into it to stop him feeling the effects of whiplash. A man so dastardly that Mutley now lives with him. A man so blue that unlike every other smurf, he even pisses blue and not yellow.

In case you can’t tell I’m being sarcastic.

The Guardian wrote an article that they have written before and will write many times between now and May over the weekend, Could Nick Clegg lose his Sheffield seat in May general election?. The first five paragraphs of the article concentrate on an encounter Clegg has with a 53 year-old who usually votes Lib Dem but intends to vote UKIP this time. Is he voting against Clegg because he thinks that he is evil? Well no, he’s voting UKIP based on the issue of foreigners and actually says he likes Clegg and has listened to him talk many times and is impressed by him. However his vote is going to someone who hasn’t been selected yet based on reasons that Clegg couldn’t actually do anything about.

The writer goes on to say that the Labour candidate is playing up two things against Clegg, one the Forgemasters loan and one is he doesn’t care about Sheffield Hallam and is busy in Westminster. The article also states that he actually spends two days a week in his constituency, which is actually a very high number for a minister in a non London based constituency but still. The Labour candidate is getting no central money, is starting from a standing start with no ground game, in a seat which is very affluent and remembers the bad old days of Labour in south Yorkshire before the Lib Dems came in and wrestled the seat from the Tories in 1997. This is not a seat where Labour have any realistic hope of winning yet all the talk from the media will amp it up to a crazy and unfair level.

I have just had a look at the Betfair Exchange and Nick Clegg is 1/10 to win. Labour are hilariously at 3/2 – I mean lay that bet as much as you can folks. If people want to throw their money away then feel free to help them. Labour are 19,000 odd votes behind in a seat with no history, where the council seats even in recent elections have been flat out dominated by the Lib Dems and people don’t think Clegg is evil.

As I’m a kind type of person I’m going to help you try to understand how likely a Nick Clegg defeat in May in Sheffield Hallam.

List of things that are as likely as Nick Clegg losing:

Kermit the frog coming out and admitting that he has cheated on Miss Piggy with George from Rainbow.
Pat Sharp not being greeted as the second coolest student union visitor (Karl Kennedy from Neighbours will always be #1)
Jeff Stelling resisting a pun whenever Gareth Jellyman scores.
I get asked to be the fifth coach on The Voice and the fifth judge on The X Factor is a shock duel role as the main influential voice in the music industry.
Kevin Pietersen captaining England in the World Cup.
The existence of dragons gets confirmed and they in fact don’t like the Welsh.
Kay Burley gets through the General Election campaign without being involved in a clash with someone on camera.
Nigel Farage quits his role of leader of UKIP to play basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Ginger kittens will stop being cute.
Ginger women will stop being feisty and extremely attractive.
The People’s Republic of Southsea finally declares independence from the UK.
Leprechauns not liking Lucky Charms.
The Mirror publishing the Ed Miliband bacon sandwich photo on the front page for every day of the General Election campaign with the headline, ‘Ed has Tommy K instead of HP Brown because he’s red through and through’

and lastly…

I’ll attract a female partner before the General Election.

I think that sums up the odds of Labour winning Sheffield Hallam seat once and for all. Look I know Nick’s majority will be reduced, I know he won’t waltz it based on his name but I also am a man of numbers and logic. Despite what Labour activists believe, not everyone pours scorn on Nick Clegg. Plenty of people still believe that the Lib Dems are the better option than the Tories and in seats like these, that is the decision they have. UKIP will take votes from all three parties but nowhere near enough to challenge. Labour will pick up some disaffected Lib Dem voters, of that I have no doubt but look at the numbers. I know in politics people like to publicly say that they are always in it to win it but most of the time candidates are in it to fight the good fight, to give the electorate the option and to build momentum going forward.

So lets not all get our knickers in a twist (for the record at this juncture I am not wearing knickers but boxers) about Labour’s chances of pulling off a Michael Portillo moment. It isn’t going to happen. There will be 100 more interesting battles in March-May but sadly because of the narrative the media will have this seat as #1 because it fits their storyline and that my friends is oh so depressing, the media attempting to create the story because they want sex and excitement. The fact Labour aren’t giving their candidate here any money shows what they really think but still it is the good local man trying to beat the evil Nick Clegg, I mean who wouldn’t want that to be the big story of the campaign? It isn’t the big story of the campaign but the news media don’t report the news these days, they direct and set up the news narrative and that is a problem with modern society and modern news companies.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 12th, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Politics

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Nigel Farage disgusting comments on HIV and my views of sex education

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Folks. Sometimes I wonder why I am involved and interested in politics. My political views are well known and the term, ‘bleeding heart liberal’ has been thrown at me more than once. I looked up the definition of the term, ‘a person of left-wing or liberal views (i.e. of helping the poor, siding with the oppressed) who is deemed to be excessively soft-hearted’ and I don’t think it is really justified in my case. I am not excessively soft hearted, I like to think that I have a good heart and firmly believe that our place as human beings is based primarily on equality and not on where we are lucky enough to live, or the circumstances we find ourselves in.

The problem is that there is a stirring in the UK, a stirring against that very notion. UKIP’s strength is coming primarily from people who believe that they are more important than others. If they have a problem then they deserve help but if another person has the same problem then they don’t. That I struggle with so much. I’m not saying that at times I’m not a selfish individual because at times sure I am, but I don’t ever think that people should be treated differently because of any circumstances.

This brings me on to an article I read this evening in the Independent. The piece entitled Nigel Farage on HIV: Why the Ukip leader’s remarks may actively hinder treatment in the UK made me so sad. I mean genuinely sad.

Nearly 60 countries from around the globe deny entry to people with HIV or Hepatitis B according to the United Nations. These countries include the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the UAE and Yemen. All of them very liberal and forward thinking democracies. Well maybe not.

Nigel Farage thinks that Britain should only accept ‘quality people‘ and when pushed he responded, ‘people who do not have HIV to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.’ I mean c’mon folks. C’mon. I haven’t been exposed to HIV and as far as I know, no-one that I know has HIV so my knowledge of the condition isn’t great but I know enough to know that people with HIV can live for a significant amount of time and be extremely valuable members of society. HIV is a disease that can be spread but the UN say that restricting entry does nothing to protect the public health. The best way to deal with the disease is to better educate people.

I like to think I’m relatively educated. I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I’m also far from the least educated. Education is a vital issue that as a nation and as a race we need to embrace when it comes not only to HIV but also to the potential spread of all diseases. The more we know then the more we will know how to prevent the spread of diseases. The implementation of better sex education will do wonders compared to illiberal and draconian measures about banning people from entering the country if they have a disease.

This is something I’ve written about before. I was severely unprepared in my education with regards to sex. I mean the sex education I received was pathetic. It consisted of one day in Year 9, so I was what, 13? and if I’m being 100% honest with you, I wasn’t ready to learn. I thought the whole thing sounded disgusting and I had no interest in it. We all grow up at different rates and there will have been others in my year who surely felt the same. No doubt many of my fellow students were tremendously excited. Still I do remember most of what we were taught and I don’t think many people were adequately prepared by the sex education we received.

Now it is what, 18 odd years later and my knowledge is more rounded and I’m more prepared but that is due to my own personal education. It is clear to say that I’m not your typical person. I have not exactly been that sexually active in my life. I am sure there are others who, unlike me, may well have been extremely sexually active but be just as uneducated. This is a problem we have as a society and this I firmly believe has helped allow UKIP to form views like this and not see their whole façade shatter.

The thing is the Tories aren’t completely clean of this stain. In January, the following Conservative MPs, Stephen Phillips, Stephen Barclay, Tracey Crouch, Dominic Raab, Graham Brady, Charlotte Leslie, Mark Field, Nigel Mills, Jonathan Djanogly, Chris Kelly, Bob Blackman, Jonathan Lord, Craig Whittaker, Conor Burns, Karl McCartney and Sir Gerald Howarth added their names to an amendment that two Conservative MPs (who are doctors) in Dr. Philip Lee and Dr. Sarah Wollaston supported to do what Nigel Farage wants to do, to refuse entry to the UK of anyone who has HIV or Hep B. Do these people not understand that by doing so, it doesn’t protect the public or is it that they are pandering to those who are ready to be scared because they don’t know the facts?

I saw an interesting stat the other day, an Ipsos-Mori poll asked the public how big a percentage of the UK population was made up of non native people. The public said 31% whereas the actual number is 13%. When people don’t know the truth then they’ll form opinions based on incorrect information. This is the scariest part of politics and is the reason that UKIP are free to pretty much say whatever they want and are relatively teflon. People will easily believe something when it backs up their uninformed viewpoint. If you then attempt to bring facts to the case then they’ll tell you that facts can tell you anything. It shows that more people than ever before seem to be willing to close their minds and if that isn’t the scariest thing then I don’t know what is.

On the other side of the ledger it should be said that younger people are more open minded than they ever have been and that brings hope. They might not be voting Lib Dem for whatever reason but more than ever before would describe themselves as liberal. Young people are more accepting of people who are different. We are all unique and we should be free to express ourselves as such. Society though still dictates how many of us live our lives and we are afraid of ruining our reputations or careers because we may be different to other people. This is something our education system is woefully failing at, education isn’t about exam results but it is about preparing people for the world and letting people find who they are. This is key when it comes to sex education. Without good knowledge and an open mind then young people will think they are wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral or whatever if they have urges that differentiate from the perceived ‘norm’. I speak with first hand knowledge on this matter.

In a way I feel as though I’m lucky that I didn’t let these feelings engulf me and make me feel worse than I initially did. I always had the thirst for knowledge and learned that things aren’t wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral. They are just different. Nigel Farage, those Tories and a depressingly large number of the people in this country though are intolerant of those who are different. Banning those with HIV or Hep B from entering this country wouldn’t help solve the problem of the diseases spread but would further stigmatise those who have the disease.

What needs to be done is clear. It is so clear. People need to be better educated with facts instead of scare stories or school yard gossip. The better educated not only the youth of today, but all of us are, then the better we’ll understand what the problem is and how best to deal with it, instead of just pandering to an uneducated vocal majority who are scared because they don’t know the facts. As human beings the more scared we are then the more desperate and receptive we’ll be to solutions that don’t actually solve the problem, but sound like they will. This is a real problem that we need to understand and deal with. This is why UKIP are doing so well.

People are scared and in all honesty I don’t know why. If you are scared of what you don’t know then the best way to deal with that is to become more informed and not do what too many people are doing, putting their fears and worries on to a political party who inflates this fears and worries. Maybe that is just me but I don’t understand why people are willing to listen to rhetoric without knowing the facts. That isn’t using the brain that we are blessed to have to the best of its abilities. I don’t care if people have different opinions to me, that is life, but when they have such strong and radical opinions based on a severe lack or even no knowledge then that makes me sad. My opinions evolve as I gather more information on many, many things, as do everyone’s. Unless you allow yourself to gather more knowledge and information then your opinions will never change and that isn’t part of the human journey.

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Written by neilmonnery

October 12th, 2014 at 7:55 am

Posted in Politics

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More on Southend Politics and the 2015 General Election

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Sometimes folks I get frustrated. No not at my pathetic lack of a private life but more at how some people can read what I write here yet not understand a word that I have written. In the past week I have written extensively about Labour’s decision to select Cllr. Ware-Lane as their PPC for Southend West. In isolation it was the obvious choice but in terms of delivering a Labour MP for one of the two Southend seats then it was not so much of a good move. I explained my reasoning in a simple and logical way. However unsurprisingly said councillor missed the point entirely, which isn’t the biggest shock in the world considering but still.

He writes in his blog post, whose title is taken from a Dale Winton Lottery Programme, In it to win it

I am not sure quite what Neil’s campaigning credentials are although I do know he stood in Westborough ward in 2012. He came sixth place in a ward that at the time had Lib Dem representation; sixth out of six, with a 90 votes and 5.4% of the votes cast. I will leave it to the reader to pass judgement on this but if the strategy was to do as badly as possible then Neil’s campaign was a roaring success.

So he’s not quite sure what my credentials are but he does throw out my Westborough result in 2012 to pass judgement on my credentials. I would expect nothing less from said councillor. I got smashed in 2012 but also I didn’t run my campaign. Also my dad died during that election process so I had no time to actually campaign. I’m sure even Cllr. Ware-Lane would concede that my dad having a major stroke, being on life support and subsequently dying is a fairly good reason for not being busy campaigning but you never know.

My credentials are simple. I work in my day to day life in analytics. I analyse data, a lot of data, for a rather big company. I suspect said councillor is not a fan of sabermetrics, heck I wouldn’t be surprised if he had never even heard of the term. There is a reason Nate Silver correctly predicted all 50 American States in the 2012 US Presidential Election and it isn’t because he is a soothsayer. It is because he analysed numbers and analysed them well. The more data you have them the better your accuracy of predicting a result can be. This data isn’t just about canvass data but looking deeper. It is what I do to earn a living and I like to think I’m at least semi decent at it so my credentials in analytics and therefore reading data aren’t too shabby.

Politics isn’t just about banging on doors and writing leaflets these days (and it should be said to my lot that this is something to learn as well) but the world of politics has moved on. An energetic campaigner can bang on say 200 doors in a canvass session but may only find 50 doors that open for them. People want their information as and when it suits them. Advanced sabermetrics, demographics, social media etc. are all vital tools in analysing a candidates chances of winning an election.

The rest of his blog is a meandering prose of limited facts and more dye in the wool hope. The fact is even in Tony Blair’s surge in 1997, when Labour were sweeping all before them and the Tories were as popular as I am…well anywhere, Labour still fell 8,000 odd votes short. If Labour can’t get remotely close when the Tories were embarrassingly unpopular and Labour were the great hope and riding as high as Ricky Williams did whilst on his year out of the NFL in India, then why would anyone with any semblance of nous believe that Labour can win this seat in 2015?

Another part I want to opine on:

The Nick Clegg bounce significantly boosted the Lib Dem vote; this time around it will be what is known as a dead cat bounce – voters are deserting a party that has kept Cameron at number ten and enabled him to foist all sorts of unpopular legislation on the UK.

The Clegg bounce. Yes it was very significant and very much helped the Lib Dems in Southend West. However the degree of the national Lib Dem bounce wasn’t as much down to Nick Clegg as I think Cllr. Ware-Lane believes. Again I have number crunched and I know more than I suspect he does. Will the Lib Dem vote go down in 2015? I fully expect so. However the last time the Lib Dems (or Lib Dems in previous guises) failed to reach the 9,000 vote mark in the constituency was 1970. What does that tell us?

Well it tells us that a significant number of people in the constituency are inherently liberal. The fact is that the Tories have only once come remotely close to losing the seat (in 1997) and that was to the Lib Dems. In fact had the national Tony Blair bounce not been a factor then it is eminently possible that Nina Stimson would have won in 1997. What would have happened had we seen that result we’ll never know but it does show that Labour do not poll well in Southend West and the reason isn’t because of poor PPCs or councillors or anything like that it is because the demographics aren’t right for them to succeed.

Southend West is generally relatively affluent, certainly when you compare it to Rochford & Southend East. Like most seats there are wards and polling districts that look good for Labour but in general the people in the ward would lean towards voting for the party they trust most on the economy. The Conservative party always poll higher in economy trust compared to Labour.

However this is what I want to write about – Cllr. Ware-Lane’s belief that lots of unpopular legislation has been foisted on the UK. Whilst it may be true that a lot of people are unhappy with the ‘Bedroom Tax’ as the Labour Party and media have dubbed it, more people in Southend West will be effected by the rise in the income tax threshold and the Pupil Premium and the free school meals for under 7s than will be effected by benefit changes. The fact that a million public sector jobs have gone is an issue but not a big issue in Southend West, the fact over 1.5million private sector jobs have been created is just as big a factor. That isn’t spin, it is just demographic fact. If the economy is on the up then Southend West constituents will vote Conservative or Lib Dem and even when it wasn’t – they still voted Conservative or Lib Dem.

Just because one person believes something is unpopular then it doesn’t automatically equate to others believing the same thing. If you put me in a room of fifty blondes and they all turned me down then it wouldn’t necessarily mean the same would happen in a room with fifty brunettes or redheads, oh wait, maybe that is a bad example but you get my point. People come from different backgrounds and have different thoughts as to what is important to them.

He says that voters are deserting the Lib Dems, I would say deserting is a strong adjective in Southend West but a significant proportion are indeed leaving but they aren’t all flocking en masse to Labour. They are going back to the Tories or they are staying at home. Labour will not sweep up 2010 Lib Dem votes in Southend West to any significant degree. In fact I would suggest that more people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 but won’t in 2015 will vote Conservative than vote Labour. So a collapse of the Lib Dem vote actually doesn’t help Labour one jot in their goal is indeed to unseat David Amess.

Next his opening paragraph:

My selection as Labour’s General Election candidate in Southend West has inspired the Liberal Democrat’s sole surviving blogger in the borough to write not one, but two, pieces about it. You can almost sense the rising panic at Southend’s equivalent of Lib Dem Central, so much so that they want to me to give in just as I am getting going.

It is nice that he considers me a Lib Dem blogger now as he questioned whether I should be classed as such when I pointed out to them that my blog is actually far more well read than his, ‘Maybe, although if it is yours that out-performs mine I could question whether yours is really a political blog, or a blog that occasionally has political bits in it, he typed. Not that he has a big ego or anything but when I said there was a blog more well read than his in the local blogosphere them boom, he tried to find a way around it. Genuinely amusing.

However it is the panic rising at Southend’s equivalent of Lib Dem Central bit that is truly misplaced. I blog purely in a personal capacity here. I always have done and always will do. I have blogged openly and critically of the Lib Dem party both locally and nationally should I feel it was warranted. I can detach myself from typing with a Lib Dem hat on. I have heard absolutely nothing from Lib Dem Central as to their reaction to Cllr. Ware-Lane’s selection as the Labour PPC, so as for how anyone can sense rising panic is beyond me.

My blog posts were purely looking at things objectively. If Labour do intend to run two significant campaigns across both constituencies instead of prioritising the one that they are more likely to win then it is just poor strategy. Plain and simple. In a Utopian world then every voter gets the full attention from every party at every turn but this is the real world and that just isn’t possible.

To end:

I am in the contest to win it. Southend West Labour Party members deserve a candidate who tries his best, Labour supporters deserve a candidate who tries his best, the electorate in Southend West deserve a candidate who tries his best. David Amess deserves an opponent who will take the fight to him. That a Liberal Democrat views this as bad news merely serves as an additional incentive.

One day Julian will learn to comprehend basic English, sadly this is not that day. I said that it is bad news for the Labour party in their hopes to get an elected member of the House of Commons in 2015, I never said nor implied it was bad news for the Lib Dems. If Cllr. Gilbert won in Rochford & Southend East, it would give Labour a foothold in SE Essex, it would also bring more money from Labour HQ, also they would be able to afford full-time or part-time people on the payroll to help spread the Labour word. Getting an MP in an area which isn’t natural home to a party is key because local activists can rally around that seat and numbers can swell if the MP is doing a good job. It is like a snowball, you have to start the snowball rolling to see speedy progress and to get the snowball rolling you have to win, so when you have a chance to win you go all out for it as the long-term benefits will be far greater.

If Labour want to help ensure the Tories win both seats in 2015 then keep doing what they are doing. Labour have a chance (albeit not a big one but significant enough) to stop the Conservative monopoly in Southend in terms of parliamentary seats, it is a shame for those non-Tories out there that they are doing their best job to pass on this rare opportunity. The Perfect Storm is brewing for Labour in Southend and instead of planning for it, they are busy shooting themselves in the foot to make the task much harder for themselves than they need to.

You know what, I’m going to miss this when I’m gone. I hope my next home will be as interesting politically speaking. Considering I have an inkling of where this may well be, it might even be more exciting!

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August 28th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Give Douglas Carswell his due – this is how you defect and what a UKIP coup

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I have written before that I think as a matter of principle that anyone who is elected but who decides to change their political allegiance should resign and go back to their electorate to seek re-election with their new party hat on. I firmly believe this is the case at both local and national level. This goes for members of any party going to members of any other party or indeed independents joining a party or vice versa.

This morning Douglas Carswell resigned from the Conservative Party and promptly joined UKIP. However in doing so he also resigned from his parliamentary seat and said that he intended to seek re-election as a UKIP MP in the by-election.

All I can say to him is essentially well played and no-one can really complain. He was indeed my MP very briefly when I lived in Harwich in 2005-2006, a seat he won in a very tight contest in 2005 from Labour. Due to boundary changes he took on the Clacton seat, much of which encompasses his former Harwich seat. He won very tightly in 2005 but he waltzed away with it in 2010 with over 50% of the vote and a majority in excess of 12,000.

Clacton profiles as traditionally a very safe Conservative seat but it also falls into the trap of profiling as a potential slip up seat if UKIP really surged. Plenty of the older generation live in this seat and could easily be swung to UKIP. The big problem the Tories have is that Douglas Carswell is a genuinely popular guy locally and plenty of his activist base and his voters will go with him due to the fact that they like him personally.

This is going to essentially be a flash vote based on Europe. He has left the Conservative Party based mainly on the fact he thinks that the party are not serious about change in terms of our relationship with the European Union. That is what he’ll campaign on. Real change between the UK and the EU. Scarily he could come through and pull it off.

Whatever I think about his politics though, you can’t knock how he has gone about this (bar maybe the fact he seemingly didn’t tell David Cameron about this in advance – that reeks of a lack of class). He is going back to the voters in Clacton and giving them the option of voting him back into Parliament. I suspect they may well do as the UKIP protest vote is still very much out there and couple that with a personal vote and they could well win.

Of course even if they don’t win, this move keeps UKIP very much in the news over the next few weeks. Whatever we all may think of Nigel Farage and his press team, you would struggle to really criticise how they run their media game. The BBC are wooed by them and the other news organisations aren’t too far behind. They find ways to keep their story, propaganda, manifesto, policies, whatever you call it, they find a way to keep it in the news and the more they do that, the more people are likely to start to believe that they can actually deliver on their promises.

Depressing.

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August 28th, 2014 at 10:53 am

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Do Southend Labour want to win or fight the good fight but lose?

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In 2010 a lot of political analysts believed that Labour wanted to lose so they could sit on the opposition benches for five years, throw stones whilst the economy turned around and then promise the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to lure people back. It was a very persuasive argument and one that I thought actually carried some merit. Sometimes in life it is better to fight the good fight but lose and say that you’ve fought the good fight without actually then having to make the big decisions.

Yesterday I wrote what I thought was a fair and honest critique of the decision by Labour to essentially run two legitimate campaigns in Southend next year instead of really aggressively targeting one of the two seats. There were two people I expected to rile by my comments and unsurprisingly they both were. I maybe a member of the Lib Dems and therefore I may have a vested interest in things but I can also look at things from a logical point of view and not just spin and push the bandwagon (I initially mistyped that as bangwagon and have smirked to myself).

The fact is political parties do not have an infinite amount of resources, either in terms of dollar dollar bills nor in terms of manpower. Labour of course know this and that is why I never see a Labour leaflet in Thorpe Bay despite living here for several years. They know it is a waste of time and money to write, publish and deliver leaflets in this area. Thorpe Bay is not what you’d call Labour territory as the demographics and mathematics are all wrong.

Cllr. Ware-Lane tweeted me last night that my blog post reminded him that he needed to start his Leigh ward campaign. A nice shot at saying that he was coming to get the Lib Dems at the heart of their western operation. I cried all night I was so frightened at the thought of Labour pulling in the votes in Leigh to come through the pack and beat out the Tories and the Lib Dems in a General Election year. Give me a fucking break. There are votes to be had for Labour in Leigh of course but they’ll be third at best, they will not beat either the Tories or the Lib Dems there even if they ran their whole GE campaign on a ‘Leigh Independence Movement’ backdrop. The numbers nor the demographics are there. It’s not rocket science.

This is where I think a lot of people fall down. Just because I myself am a liberal doesn’t make me think that other people will be just because I am, or I talk to them about liberal values. The same with all the other parties from across the political spectrum. There are swing voters out there, a good chunk of them, but the vast majority will only swing between two parties (although having said that I did meet someone the other day who told me they had voted Lib, Lab and Con within the past five years) but those people are few and far between.

Matthew Dent says that in part he suspects my blog post was at least partially motivated by my own party’s interests, you can read his full blurb here. I can assure him it wasn’t. I know the Tories are winning Southend West next year and deep deep down whilst being second would be great, second gets you nowhere in this game bar momentum. I’m all but certainly out of Southend in the near future (landlord wants to sell and it is time for me to go elsewhere) but even saying that, I still fully expect the Lib Dems to be second next year in the west, with or without a concerted effort by Labour there and even if they aren’t – it won’t be by any significant amount. The Tories will still run away with it and long-term the demographics of the west is more Lib Dem than Labour.

Lets put it into context, Labour came last in five of the west wards in the 2014 local elections, last. It would have been six had it not been for the Greens. They won one ward (the same as the Lib Dems) but the Lib Dems were only last in Chalkwell and Belfairs. Here is the breakdown of the 2,014 council numbers in the west (I have only used the top result for each party in Westborough as two seats were up).

3645 – Labour
4126 – Lib Dems
7945 – Conservative

So even in a down year for the Tories where UKIP had a significant impact on their vote, the Tories cleared Labour by more than double in terms of votes cast and the Lib Dems by nearly double. I just don’t see any reason for any optimism for any party to overtake the Tories next year, certainly when you look at the 2010 numbers and see that the Tories may lose split votes locally but gain them nationally (Amess received around 3,000 more votes than the Tory council candidates in 2010). Of course UKIP could impact the Tory vote should they field a candidate but I would expect their impact to be less dramatic than in the east.

I maybe a Lib Dem member and activist but I am not blinded by loyalty and believe that we can win every battle no matter what the realistic situation is. I can write open and honestly and do so frequently without my Lib Dem hat on but more my Journalism degree hat on and yesterday’s post was one of those occasions. Labour’s high mark in the west is second, Labour’s high mark in the east is first, why not just go for it and go for the win instead of fighting to be best of the rest?

I think the best metaphor I can give is if you are a sprinter going for the Olympic double and someone offered you a chance for a gold in the 100m and a bronze in the 200m or a guaranteed silver in the 100m and a chance for a second silver in the 200m then which do you take? Do you go for gold or do you set your sights on two silvers? I know what I go for…

Politics is not ideal. Yes all parties should be able to put their full resources behind every potential councillor and every potential member of the House of Commons. Every single voter should get the full treatment and should be treated as equal but we all know that is impossible under the current system. You have to prioritise otherwise you risk not getting any member of your party elected. People understand that and strategically I wonder just how much Labour do…

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August 23rd, 2014 at 10:12 am

Posted in Politics

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Labour shoot themselves in the foot in Southend

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Sometimes you think it is just about getting the best candidate for the gig, however sometimes it really isn’t if you actually want to win. The more you get exposed to the inner workings of politics you come to understand that to win you have to prioritise, you have to work out where your money is, how to spend it, where to spend it, how the activist is, where the activist base is, how best to use the activist base and so on.

When the 2015 General Election comes round it is highly unlikely I’ll be voting here as it seems now all but certain I’ll be moving out of Southend in the near future. However the seat where I am living is, despite what might be seen as an extremely safe Tory seat, actually not that safe. James Duddridge is an odds on favourite to win again but if you delve into the numbers (which I like to do) then you’ll see that he’s a big favourite, but a big favourite who could lose if everything goes against him. Should Duddridge fall short then it’d be Labour who’d pick up the seat.

Over in the west of Southend David Amess will win another term at as the MP. Of that there isn’t any doubt whatsoever barring a significant scandal coming out about him and even if that happens, I’d expect him to still hold on just. If he lost he’d lose to the Liberal Democrats.

So why am I talking about Labour shooting themselves in the foot? Well they’ve decided to field their arguably two strongest candidates in both seats. Cllr. Ian Gilbert beat out Cllr. Julian Ware-Lane for the Rochford & Southend East nomination. At this point it still was a long shot they could pull off the win here but the fact the Tories failed to win a single seat here in the council elections this year, coupled with the rise of UKIP and what will be a total collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote in the east of the town then Labour are live dogs. If Cllr. James Moyies stands in the seat for Parliament next May (as far as I’ve read there hasn’t been any decision on this) then Labour are very live dogs in this seat.

Labour lost by 11,000 odd last time around and 11,000 is quite a majority to overturn, certainly if the party trying to overturn it isn’t exactly sweeping all away in the council elections (which they aren’t) but lets look at the maths again.

The Lib Dems will lose 4,000-5,000 votes in the seat at a pretty well educated guess. You would expect Labour to pick up around half of them, so that majority is now around 9,000 to win. The Tories have been in power, so Labour now aren’t the party of government. This means that the vote for change now is in the hands of Labour and for whatever David Amess’ faults on the other side of the borough, people you speak to (who aren’t staunchly political) say that he is a good constituency MP, I don’t hear the same about James Duddridge. He is kind of an anonymous MP. So his name carries very little cachet. So his personal vote will not be strong.

Then throw in the UKIP factor. I don’t want to put words in Cllr. Gilbert’s mouth but you have to think that he is out in his garden every night looking up at the sky searching for a shooting star and has his ‘Please let UKIP stand here’ wish ready to go. The Tories got just a tick over 19,500 votes last time around, if UKIP took 20% of that vote (which is entirely possible and might even be a low estimate) then that is 4,000 plus votes. Now of course UKIP would also take votes from Labour, certainly in places like Kursaal but not to the same degree.

Strangely the key ward may actually be right here in Thorpe Bay, where Labour are nowhere and will get very few votes. The Tories should sweep this seat in a General Election and this ward votes. If UKIP (or heck how about an ambitious independent?) could make serious inroads into the Tory vote here then it is really game on.

All sounds good for Labour, no?

Well, yes and no. To win they have to throw every resource they have at Rochford & Southend East. They need to run a skeleton campaign in the west and put all their eggs in the one basket. They have a straight choice whether to go for first in the east and finish third in the west, or settle for second in the east in an attempt to finish second in the west. Personally a shot at first and settling for third seems like a no brainer.

Yet they have chosen a man who will certainly go and try to win in the west in Cllr. Ware-Lane. Admirable yes, good politics, most certainly not. Good strategy wins elections often just as much as good policy. I just cannot see Cllr. Ware-Lane being a paper candidate who would spend his time in the east trying to get Cllr. Gilbert elected, which would certainly be the best decision for them strategically. Of course I could be wrong and whilst Cllr. Ware-Lane is saying all the right things publicly, he knows the best thing for Labour would be to hit the east and support Cllr. Gilbert to the fullest of his abilities.

In 2010 the Lib Dems had the most votes in Oxford yet won neither seat, they came a close second in both seats. Had they concentrated on one seat, either seat, they would have won. There are many stories similar to this. If Southend Labour want to gain an MP then they know all their eggs have to be in the east because they have a shot of winning. If they decide to fight both seats to any significant degree then it is highly likely we’ll end up with two Conservative MP’s again across the two seats.

If I was a betting man I’d back Amess and Duddridge to both be returned to parliament next May but on a very good day for the Labour party, they have a shot at dethroning Duddridge. Amess is safe as houses but Duddridge, whilst looking safe could go if the dominoes all fall the wrong way for him and the right way for Labour. So it should be full steam ahead for Labour in the east but you just get the sense that by selecting Cllr. Ware-Lane in the west that they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket and on this occasion, that would have been the most logical strategy if their end goal was to return an MP to parliament in 2015.

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August 22nd, 2014 at 11:55 am

Vote Green, Get UKIP. What uninformed bull-plop from local Labour bloggers

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A month or so ago Cllr. Ware-Lane wrote the blog post entitled Vote Green get UKIP and I shook my head in despair. It was utter bollocks and he knew it but I thought I would let it pass. I have come to understand that Julian’s knowledge of basic maths and reality isn’t the best. He uses one example where had the Greens not stood a candidate in Kursaal ward then Labour may have won and therefore concludes that if you vote Green then you get UKIP. One example folks. One example.

He decided to ignore other examples of where the maths would have been different had certain other parties not won. For example the January West Leigh by-election. Did we see a plethora of ‘Vote Labour, Get Tory’ blog posts? I don’t think so, even though had Labour not stood a candidate in that by-election then the likelihood is that the Liberal Democrat candidate would have won. This happens everywhere. In every council and in every parliamentary constituency. Certain parties will win or lose not because of the strength of their support but because of how the support against them is spread. If it is focused on one party then there is trouble, if it is spread amongst several parties then there is not. That is FPTP politics folks.

So anyway Matthew Dent weighed in recently on the same topic. Splitting the vote: Vote Green, Get UKIP where he comes to pretty much the same conclusion. That being that voting for the Green Party is pointless in a ward where they have no chance of winning and if they don’t want a UKIP councillor then they should back the party in the best position to stop UKIP. All well and good but Labour don’t do that so why should other parties fall in line?

There is an argument that parties should do reciprocal deals within boroughs to help get the most hated opposition out, whoever they are. In Southend that could mean Labour agreeing to not standing candidates in places like West Leigh, Prittlewell and St. Laurence where they are not winning any soon soon and can only help split the vote in the favour of the Tories and UKIP. In return this could mean Liberal Democrats could choose not to run in places like Kursaal, St. Lukes and Victoria, places where they aren’t winning any time soon. This would help both parties gain councillors but it would also stop potential Labour and Liberal voters in those wards from voting for who they actually want to vote for but is that fair or right?

Cllr. Ware-Lane, himself a West Leigh resident chose to support the Labour candidate unsurprisingly in the West Leigh by-election even though he knew it was a wasted vote and would help ensure the Tories won. Did he deride himself for doing this or did he exercise his democratic choice for voting for the party he wanted to win instead of choosing to back the party most likely of toppling the administration party at the time? I think we know the answer to that and this Vote Green, Get UKIP bollocks is exactly the same but in this instance quoted potentially hurt his party, Labour.

It is an issue with our electoral system but it is what it is and people need to stop moaning about it. The country had the chance to move towards a system that would enable the voter to have more influence on that make-up of their parliament (and no doubt councils would have followed) but they decided that because it was a Lib Dem idea that they didn’t want it. I would bet a fair few quid that if we went to the polls in this UKIP surge era then the vote would be a hell of a lot closer but that ship has sailed for now.

So unless Labour (and other parties) want to do deals borough wide then this is going to be the norm. Parties are going to win with under 50% of the vote and when in all likelihood the majority of those who voted wouldn’t want them to win. As politicians, or activists, or just members of the electorate then we are just going to have to deal with that fact. If people want to go out and vote Green then fair do’s and they shouldn’t be blamed or have it insinuated that their vote is the reason a party like UKIP won Kursaal ward. Most people vote for who they want to vote for and some choose to vote for the party most likely to defeat the party they dislike the most.

In some places Labour voters help get in the Tories or UKIP. In some places Green voters help get in Tories or UKIP. In some places Liberal voters help get in Tories or UKIP. In some places UKIP voters help get in Labour. In some places Tories help the Green party to win. In some places the SNP help the Liberals win. This thing happens everywhere and in every direction. To claim that a vote for the Green party helps UKIP citing one or two examples and ignoring all the other examples from all parties across the nation is just pure politics and not reality and that disappoints me frankly. It is lazy and it is cheap but most importantly it is wrong to make sweeping generalisations based on such minuscule ‘evidence’ and I’d hope for better but sadly I don’t expect it.

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August 1st, 2014 at 9:14 am

What is Cllr. Flewitt’s end game?

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This morning (well this afternoon really…I would pretend that I was all up early and reading the blogosphere but that really isn’t my style) so anyway, this afternoon I read that Labour’s new young mouthpiece in Southend had composed a blog post entitled MARK FLEWITT, LAPDOG TO ATTACK DOG? (yes he used all caps) and if I’m actually being fair, it is a very pertinent question and one that has reared its head inside of my mind.

Because you see, I like certain things about politics and I hate others. One thing that I truly despise is people who say one thing when in power and when they get removed for whatever reason, suddenly say the complete opposite. Going the other way is something I find less deplorable as we can all be idealistic but sometimes the realisation of power and what you can and can’t do means you can’t do everything that you want to. It is bloody annoying still but going from power to opposition and moaning just rings hollow as my brain just screams, ‘well why didn’t you do that when you had the bloody power then…?

Matthew speaks about the possibility of building homes on a piece of land in St. Laurence, which is probably what Mark should be talking about as a councillor for the ward. However in yesterday’s Echo he also had another entry – a letter to the editor – entitled ‘Sort ghastly Greater Anglia line’ where upon he lambasts the line and tells Southend Council that they need to be on the side of the Greater Anglia commuter as they face frequent delays, old rolling stock and high price increases.

Now let me just double check something here, Cllr. Flewitt is a Tory councillor, right? The Tories have run Southend Council for all but what, six or so weeks of his 10+ year tenure on the council? What the fucking hell did he do for the Greater Anglia line commuters in the ten years when he had influence on the side of the majority and ruling parties? I’m guessing not a great deal considering he’s saying just how shit it is now and I’m guessing the quality of the line hasn’t suddenly plundered since May 23. The line has long been the poor cousin of the old Misery Line as c2c really has invested and will continue to do so. The Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria line certainly hasn’t seen such investment.

So whilst Cllr. Flewitt makes what is in fact a valid point, the fact he has wrapped it up in a shot at Southend Council leaves me shaking my head in despair. Why didn’t he and his fellow Tory councillors do something about it in their ten years they had with him as part of the administration if he felt so strongly about it? It is all well and good telling the council they should look at the line (fair comment) but when you’ve had ten years involved with the organisation who could help sort it and you’ve seemingly done bugger all then your words ring hollow. It galls me that politicians do this – and Cllr. Flewitt isn’t the only one, he isn’t the first and won’t be the last and lets be blunt, politicians from all parties do it and it stinks.

Most of the more vocal and well known Tory councillors have either left or been removed by the electorate. It is probably fair to say that Cllr. Flewitt is now the most vocal member they have left in terms of name recognition and media presence. It does seem as though he is setting himself up to be the voice of the opposition but I personally feel as though he should focus his critique and time on things that he didn’t have influence over for the past ten years (i.e. things the new administration are doing that the Tories didn’t and things they continue to disagree with) and not just to make political capital out of things that he could have influenced for the past ten years but for whatever reason, chose not to.

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July 3rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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It is time for Labour to step up and put Southend above politics

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Oh maths, electoral maths, it has been a while since we have met but the future of Southend is up for grabs and it is time to turn to you to work out what is feasible. The Tories went down big on Thursday night and unsurprisingly lost the majority in the Civic Centre. So the big question is now, ‘who will run Southend Council?’ and the realistic possibilities bring about a rather unlikely coalition.

The composition of the chamber is as follow with the number to yet a majority at 26:

19 Conservative
12 Independent Group
9 Labour
5 Liberal Democrat
5 UKIP
1 Independent Independent (yes that is as funny as it sounds)

So the easiest answer is the Tories do a deal with the independent group. 31 seats. Simple. End of blog. But wait there are two issues at play here, John Lamb has already stated that he won’t work with ‘some independents’ and also that loose UKIP/Independent alliance that meant they didn’t challenge each other in any seat across Southend, does that alliance go as far as becoming a package deal in coalition talks? To answer that then the leaders would need to speak but both have hilariously denied there was any form of alliance and it just happened to be coincidence that they didn’t stand against each other, yeah and its a coincidence that women run away from me when I start talking about my care bear collection that live on the headboard of my bed, get real people.

So lets for now say that a Tory/Indy deal is problematic.

Next up is the juicy one and if we are being 100% non-partisan then what would make the most sense for the people of Southend – a Tory/Labour coalition. This results in 28 seats of the 51 and would provide the stability that Southend needs at this point when budget squeezes are making budgets harder and harder to put together. Of course there is one huge problem and that is Labour would not want to go into coalition with the Tories politically nor philosophically.

I suspect the Tories would do the deal as they are rather pragmatic and know that a two party coalition is more likely to hold together than any potential three-way. Labour though would have to stop throwing rocks at the council and would have to deal with the real issues of power and taking the tough decisions is a difficult climate for local councils, are they ready for that?

The local rag on the front page yesterday said that an Independent, Labour and Lib Dem three-way was the most likely outcome. That would be tough to do. I firmly believe that the voters of Southend spectacularly rejected the Liberal Democrats last Thursday and therefore they should not be part of any ruling coalition on principle unless there really was no alternative. Also Labour have been more vitriolic towards the Lib Dems than any other party and working with them would be at best an uneasy truce and I’m not sure the Lib Dem five would back Ron Woodley as leader of any coalition considering we’ve abstained on this issue before (note to Lib Dem councillors – abstaining is weak).

I think the Lib Dems are out of this and this of course depends on whether this Indy/UKIP alliance goes forward beyond last Thursday. If it does then an Independent, Labour, UKIP coalition would achieve the same goal mathematically. We can pretty much take it as fact that the Independent group would work with UKIP and those parties could gain control of the chamber if Labour follow them.

The Tories and the Lib Dems do not have enough seats to form a deal on that front, even with Dr. Vel and would need in all likelihood the Thorpe three to go with them. It doesn’t seem practical and nor would it be right that the two parties that were rejected by the electorate form a coalition.

There are only two coalitions that make sense mathematically and would seemingly form a cohesive group of councillors who could lead Southend and both involve the Labour party. One is a straight up coalition with the Tories and the second is a coalition with the Independent Group and UKIP.

So it is time for the nine Labour councillors to decide whether they are prepared to put politics aside for the good of Southend or whether politics comes first. If they want a better Southend then it is time for them to step up and form one of these two coalitions. If they decide that they would rather sit on the side in opposition and throw rocks at whoever leads the council then it would be disappointing and disheartening, albeit not surprising that they put ideology and politics first and the betterment of the people of Southend second.

I implore Cllr. Ian Gilbert and his team of councillors to do one of the two deals above. Swallow your pride and work with either the Tories or the Indy/UKIP alliance and put Southend first. If you don’t then the door is wide open for the independent group and UKIP to gain enough to win an outright majority in 2015 and that is something that I personally would not like to see.

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May 27th, 2014 at 1:47 pm