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Westborough Councillor to resign – by-election likely on May 22

Cllr. Martin Terry has issued a Press Release confirming what I have believed for a matter of months that he will be resigning his position as councillor for Westborough ward and fight for a seat on Southend Council in another ward. That ward will be Thorpe.

He believes that his position as Westborough councillor is untenable following the breakdown in relations between himself and another independent councillor, Dr. Vel. It has been brewing for some time and is genuinely not a surprise. Not just for this reason but because Martin I think is a pretty smart man and he knew that defending his seat come 2015 in Westborough would not be easy, not because he isn’t a good councillor, I happen to think he’s relatively decent, but because for any independent it is hard to defend a seat on a General Election day when the turnout is extremely high.

His best option was always to get one of the three Thorpe independent seats, as Thorpe is the one ward where the independents can have some confidence about holding on to the seat even in a General Election year. His problem was they weren’t going to deselect anyone but then last year Cllr. Kaye announced she was leaving the independent group to join the Tories and the Thorpe/Terry marriage was seemingly a fait accompli (although in reality it was far more bumpy than expected).

Cllr. Terry came out quickly and strongly saying that he believed Cllr. Kaye should stand down and force a by-election because the people of Thorpe hadn’t voted for a Conservative councillor. I even penned (well, typed) a letter to the editor of the Echo for its letters page detailing that I thought it was very clear what was happening at the time. Here is a copy of the letter I sent that was subsequently published:

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…

Some might say I can read between the lines pretty well or that it was obvious to anyone with half a brain cell what was happening. I always found the fact he didn’t call for Cllr. Morgan to resign after he left the Lib Dems to join the independent group slightly unedifying but apparently leaving a political party to join a group of independents is completely different to the vice versa. Who knew?

I expect the Echo to be running this story tomorrow. The Council I presume will set the by-election for Cllr. Terry’s Westborough seat for May 22, so the people of Westborough ward will be choosing two councillors on that day. Cllr. Collins will be defending his seat for a full four-year term and they’ll be one other seat up for grabs for a one-year term.

Having been at the forefront of planning for this eventuality, I know who the Lib Dems have lined up and I believe he’s a man who can get things done. I won’t announce who it is yet because no by-election has been called (and the candidate therefore hasn’t been confirmed by the local party) but I can confirm we’ve been planning for this and Westborough will be a top priority for the Lib Dems come May.

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In defence of the now ‘truly independent’ independent councillor Dr. Vel

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.

westborough ward ballot paper
Westborough ward Ballot Paper

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.

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What is the difference between the Southend independent group and a true independent?

Well seemingly we are about to find out. Independents are meant to be just that but here in Southend we have a gaggle of them who are classified as the ‘independent group’ on the Council. The independents have ten members and they formed a group so that they could get offices at the council and other perks that alone they weren’t entitled too. However this also meant in practice they were a party and weren’t truly independent. It is something that has never really been transmitted to the electorate across the borough.

Well the independent group is about to go from ten to nine as Westborough independent Dr. Vel has made it clear that he wants to secede from the group and sit as a true independent albeit one that is Conservative minded and has already stopped sitting with his independent colleagues.

With the Thorpe Bay gang of three deciding to go into a deal with the minority Tory administration to get perks for Thorpe Bay to the detriment of some of the other independents the group as a whole is starting to look fractured. Cllr. Ron Woodley has masterminded a move that gives him and his Thorpe Bay colleague the balance of power at the Civic Centre although with Dr. Vel also now set to potentially vote with the Tories it weakens his position slightly.

From what I hear through the grapevine the goings-on at the Civic Centre are very interesting under the surface but on the surface not a lot seems to be happening. The independents are at a point where one section of the group are getting better treatment for their constituents compared to other members of the same group. Independents such as Brian Ayling (St. Lukes) and Martin Terry (Westborough) are most certainly not Tory sympathisers unlike the Thorpe Bay three.

It would always come to a point where the independent group would split apart and that moment is set to come. When 2014 comes around the Labour and the Lib Dems can very strongly point to the independent group in part keeping a minority Tory administration in power. The Tories when they are facing the independents can say that they are Tories in sheep’s clothing so why bother voting for them when they could just vote for the real thing? They’ll say that Virgin Cola is coke but it’s not Coca-Cola.’

Unless the independent group collapses then the independents are set for a hard time in 2014. Those who aren’t part of the Thorpe Bay trio will be tainted by their association with them. If the independents want to grow then they need to kick-off the Thorpe Bay trio from the group and go forward with the six of them with Dr. Vel sitting on his own as a true independent. The problem with independents is you don’t know what you are voting for if you vote for one and in the case of Southend the independents all have a different viewpoint and sit under one banner.

The independent group is not going to grow as presently constituted. They either make the Thorpe Bay three go alone and set up their own ‘Thorpe Bay First’ party (which actually would be a great way for them to go if they wanted to ensure they won their seats for another decade) but would Cllr. Woodley be happy to do this and essentially give up his hopes of ever being leader of Southend Council?

Say what you like about the three main parties and how they are doing in Southend. One thing is for sure and that is the independent group is more fractured than all three of them put together. Now all three of the main parties have ammunition to prove that the independents are a party (albeit one with no cohesive direction) and that by voting independent you aren’t voting for anything. You are just voting against something.

The independents have had a great run in Southend but they now face their most uphill battle yet – and this is one that can only be resolved by something drastic – so lets wait to see what drastic move happens.

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Lib Dems tell Southend Tories to clean up their own mess

Following on from an earlier post the Lib Dems in Southend have issued the following Press Release which I have re-posted ad verbatim. Make of it what you wish:

Lib Dems tell Southend Tories to clean up their own mess

Southend Liberal Democrats Council Group told the Tories today that they must take responsibility for clearing up their own mess and refused to join what would be an unstable bid to seize control of Southend Council.

Cllr. Graham Longley, leader of the LibDem group said that the Tories had not been beaten out of sight in the local elections but had been sent a warning by Southend’s electorate that they needed to pull their socks up and improve the way they were running the town or they would suffer the full consequences in the elections in two years time.

The LibDem group had decided that the best course of action for the Town was to abstain from the election for leader today which was effectively being turned into a personality contest between the Conservative and Independent leaders but made it clear that their members were free to act independently if they wished to. This was not the time for gesture politics by the Independents or others he said.

Abstaining did not mean that the Lib Dems did not want to see change but the numbers making up the groups (Tory 25, LibDem 10, Independent 10, Labour 6) which would need the three opposition groups to join together for a majority of 1 (one) which would leave the council in an unstable situation which would be bad for our town. A Tory lead minority administration where decisions could be challenged and the Tories held to account would be better for the Town and allow all other parties to have a say. The Tories had to accept that they would need to involve people of all parties in running our Town and not cling to a tight grip on the towns development themselves.

Cllr Longley went on to say that leaving the Tories in control would be a disappointment to some but the low turnout (30%) in the local elections were inconclusive and although the Lib Dems and other parties had done well the number of changes were not high enough to allow significant changes to the way the council was administered. Lib Dems will be keeping a close watch on the Tory’s and looking for major concessions on the way the town is run.

This is a realistic approach to achieve stable local government for the town at the same time as forcing the Tories to clear up their own mess and involve others in our town.


I must say that the moment Dr. Vel abstained it put the Lib Dems in a tricky situation as even had they voted en masse for Ron Woodley the casting vote would have still gone the other way. Also the Tories running the show but not being able to push through everything and listening to the other members in the chamber is probably in reality a more realistic probably than the Labour, Lib Dem and Independent groups all working cohesively together.

However as I said earlier. Perception and reality are two very different things…

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Lib Dems and Dr. Vel allow Tories to retain control of Southend Council

Today was the day when Southend Council voted on a new leader after last weeks election took the Tories out of a majority. The logical conclusion would be the Tories forming a minority government at the Civic Centre with the help of one or two independents but things didn’t exactly go down like that. The local rag reports the story behind this link

The choices were simple. Either independent Ron Woodley leading a coalition of independents, Lib Dems and Labour or Nigel Holdcroft leading a minority Tory government. There were no other names on the table. The 25 Tories voted for the Tory in a move that probably didn’t shock anyone. Labour all voted for Ron Woodley. All the independents voted with Ron Woodley bar one – Dr Vel – who in a move that shocked no-one abstained as deep down he’s a fan of the Tories despite being a former Labour councillor. This meant the scores on the doors were 25-15 with ten Lib Dems to vote. What would the Lib Dems do?

Nine of them would join Dr Vel in abstaining with only Ric Morgan voting for Ron Woodley. This means that Holdcroft carries on in the top job and forms a minority government using the cabinet system. Has he done a deal with the Lib Dems to give one of the cabinet portfolios to the Lib Dems? That I don’t know. We’ll find that out imminently.

What it does do is once more is show the Lib Dems as a party who are unwilling to challenge the Tories at a local level. Yes with Dr. Vel abstaining then the vote could have only gone 25-25 and then it would have come down to the mayor’s casting vote. The mayor is Labour up til now when Conservative Sally Carr takes over the position so the casting vote would have gone the way of the Tories and Holdcroft.

So it may be possible that due to Dr. Vel not voting for one of his own group it meant that no matter what the Lib Dems did they couldn’t stop Holdcroft today. When it comes out in the wash it might be the best thing for the Lib Dems in Southend but looking from the outside in you have to wonder. The perception is awful and the Lib Dems will get all the blame for propping up the Tories even though had Dr. Vel not abstained then it would have meant the Lib Dems votes actually mattered.

We’ll see how it all shakes out but the average voter will not care about Dr. Vel’s abstention as they’ll only see the Lib Dems letting the Tories get away with it. Someone no matter the reality the perception will always be the thing that resonates with voters. More on this as the cabinet appointments shake out etc…

One last thing. Here is one of the comments on the Echo’s story:

lol i dint evan bothervoteing dont see the point in wasting my time lol so basicly the toris lost power but got it straite back so everyone ho voted lose hahahah just like who the hell voted for a colition goverment did you did i no??? so they take it up on theres selfs lol its funny we are being controlled wake up lol we have no say in anything we are sheep bahhhh bahhh

I just don’t know what to say…

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I got 90 votes. 90. My initial Westborough Campaign Review

90 votes. Wow that is a stunner – and not in a good way. I knew I wasn’t going to win. We all knew that but to get just 90 votes. Still it could have been worse as originally I got just 65 votes but they had put one of my bundles of 25 votes in with the Greens. Sadly it was only one and not twenty bundles or so but hey such is life.

The most striking thing is the apathy in the ward. A turnout of 21.92% is just woeful. Yes the weather didn’t help but this wasn’t just about the weather. It was about the state of politics in the ward where people just seemingly couldn’t give a shit. They care about the closing of the SureStart enough to mount a campaign over keeping it alive, a campaign that is still up in the air but looks promising for it to still run on a reduced basid but they don’t care enough to go out and vote.

That readers may be the most depressing thing about the whole thing. My striking out was disappointing but the fact that nearly four in every five people couldn’t be arsed to go and vote is a blow to democracy. People will moan about everything the Council are doing but when they have a chance to do something they just think it isn’t worth it.

One thing that did enthuse me was the fact that five of the six candidates – the five who showed up to the hustings and the count all got on well and the campaign was positive. No nasty literature and no personal attacks between any of us. That is something that I am proud of and all of us should be. I never saw or spoke to the other candidate but heck he still did better than me. 90 votes in a ward where there is a sitting Lib Dem Councillor. Still shaking my head at just how bad I did.

Having said that we didn’t run a vigorous campaign at all. Even yesterday on polling day all the Westborough Lib Dems were in the neighbouring ward of Prittlewell helping out a defending Lib Dem Councillor held on by 85 odd in the end. So we knew where our priorities lay. On a personal level my time was limited to the extenuating circumstances of losing my dad and an extremely busy period in my day job.

I only put out one piece of literature – but that is one more than the Green and the second independent and yet they both still beat me. My literature stood strongly on the grounds of saving front line services and getting a younger voice on to the Council as the Council is made-up of professionals and retired people in the main. This obviously didn’t go down well as my approach to be the voice of the voiceless generation at the Civic Centre went down like a lead balloon and they voted in a 73 year-old doctor.

The result was a surprise to me. I had Kevin Robinson stealing it for Labour. I had for weeks and even last night at the count. After the first two boxes it looked like he was cruising to a victory but the third box and postal ballots must have been heavily against him. I had disappeared by this point to wander around and see how we were doing elsewhere. When I came back I was shocked to see them counting and it even being close.

Whilst Dr Vel was the man elected to serve as councillor in Westborough the winner was clearly apathy and we can’t get away from that. Only 33% of postal ballots were even returned which is shocking.

As for me personally. First and foremost I am relieved it is over. It came at a bad time for me personally and I’m glad I can put political ambitions on the backburner for a while. If you were to ask me today whether or not I’ll ever stand again as a serious candidate then I’d say no but no-one needs to ask me that today and my answer may well be very different the next time I get asked that question.

I say that not because I’m disillusioned by my horrific and – to be quite frank – embarrassing result but because I was never sure I wanted to win anyway. I still rent and not sure if I will buy around here as housing prices are pretty high. When I buy somewhere and start putting roots down then I’m sure I’ll want to serve but by not winning it still gives me the option of flying my wings and putting my long-term roots down elsewhere.

Lastly I am still 100% sure that my natural home is in the Lib Dems. There is no debate and thoughts about that. My liberal roots and equality and fairness for all is what the Lib Dems fight for and what I believe in. I don’t think Labour have any answers to any questions except ‘we wouldn’t do that’ and the Tories will never be a home for a kid from a council estate. Sorry but that is just the way it is.

I’ll blog more about my overall thoughts on the night that Southend-on-Sea Borough Council moved from Tory control to No Overall Control later on today – or tomorrow – or sometime soon. For now it is leftover Indian take-away.

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More on the Westborough Ward hustings and the cost of attending them

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece entitled Westborough Ward Hustings – That’ll cost you £2 about my stance towards the public having to pay to enter the Westborough Ward hustings that I would be taking part in a few days later.

This morning I spoke with the chair of the Westborough Community Association who put on the hustings and she was speaking for several of the members and board in not being exactly enthused by my stance on the issue. I think we had a good conversation and I think we understood each other but I thought it best to lay out exactly my position on this issue.

In principle I do not think any political meeting should require an entrance fee. I will not change my opinion on this and never will. Politics – or access to it – should never be reliant on money.

What I was not aware of at the time was that it would have been a usual meeting for the WCA which was given over to the hustings. The constitution of the association as written is that for all meetings non-members are charged £2 which is of course fair and I have no issue with this whatsoever. The cost of hiring out these rooms for these events always need to be covered.

So there must be a middle ground going forward. From what I was told it will be recommended that they do not run hustings any more – due in large part to my comments. I hope this is not the case. I thought the evening was well run and gave the people who turned up the chance to ask good questions and I believe they probably took away an idea of what all the candidates stand for by listening to their answers.

I know that during election time the council open up rooms in its buildings across the town for free to candidates and this could potentially open up an avenue to hold these meetings somewhere at no cost to anyone which would allow the public to enter for free with the association not paying a penny. This is just one way that both sides of the debate could move forward. There is also a possibility that the candidates could pick up the tab and put it down as election expenses but that is something that would need further investigation.

So there are ways that hustings could still be done and put on for free to the public with no cost to the association. With no election in 2013 it will be the best part of two years before another hustings could be put on. I hope in the intervening 24 months or so the WCA can work with the councillors and the council to find a solution to this issue.

I think it would be a great shame is the hustings disappeared as I do think they were worthwhile. I do hope that the association did not take my stance as a personal slight towards them as it most certainly wasn’t. It is just a point of principle that I do believe in. Should I pull off the biggest shock since Buster Douglas I will go to the next meeting and speak with them and happily drop a £2 coin (or two £1 coins – I can’t predict the make-up of my wallet).

I think that is all I want to say on that issue. If the WCA want to speak with me further on this issue then they have my contact details. I wish the WCA every success for the future even if as expected I will not be a councillor for the ward.

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Doing something is better than doing nothing – A good philosophy for life as well as being a Lib Dem

Yesterday I wrote for a new political blog over at This website launched this week and has already seen an article from an MP and I know of some very exciting op-ed pieces coming next week. My debut piece was entitled Why the Lib Dems are still a force for good which I think is a good place to start.

I shall still be primarily blogging here but some pieces will appear over there. Obviously all my non-political pieces will still be homed here but some of the politics – certainly the national Lib Dem stuff may go over there depending on how I feel.

A few words about this piece. I really do think many activists get too wound up about what is happening in Westminster and forget about what is going on in town halls and council chambers up and down the country. We worry about the big issues and forget about the small ones. So many people have left the party because of national issues because things are not going as they hoped and they feel helpless to stop it.

In doing this they are walking away from the good stuff that they can be part of locally. No Lib Dem Council has closed any SureStart Children Centre and no Lib Dem Council has closed any libraries. That sounds good to me.

Would I like the Lib Dems in Westminster to listen and act upon everything I say or think? Yes of course I would. However life doesn’t work that way. Would I like to influence more Lib Dem goals at local level? Yes of course I would. However sometimes you do as much as you can and doing something is far better than doing nothing. Fighting hours on end to save a Children’s Centre or a Library or whatever and succeeding actually has a real impact on lives. Giving in and doing nothing doesn’t.

This is why I am a Lib Dem. I’m not enamoured with a lot of what the national party is doing but I can’t influence that. At a local level I can still fight and do something and in all honesty I truly believe that doing something is far better than giving in and doing nothing.

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The Westborough Hustings Report

Last Friday the Westborough Ward Hustings were held at the Royal British Legion in Northview Drive in the ward and myself along with four of the other candidates were questioned on a variety of subjects from our thoughts on reducing the number of councillors in the ward to what our biggest priorities are should we be elected to represent the ward on May 3.

Sadly one of the candidates didn’t show up. David John Glover one of the two independents didn’t make an appearance and no apologies were given but the incumbent independent was there as well as the Labour candidate who had been on the council before in another ward. The other three (Labour, Green and myself) would all be first timers.

I have to say I thought it was run pretty darn well. I didn’t like the £2 entry fee and I have said as much before but the actual questions were all pretty distinct and did have a lot of variety involving things that affect the people of the ward. I won’t comment on how I thought everyone did as that wouldn’t be right but I will say the Green’s line about the Tories having been in control in Southend for longer than the Communists had been in charge of Russia was a great line. His opinion that Southend-on-Sea Borough Council could dissolve and once again join Essex County Council didn’t go down as well.

I have no idea if anything any of us said would have changed any minds but I thought all the candidates were fair and there was nothing personal. Something that has in the main been the case across all of our literature. This is something I have been impressed with. I have seen leaflets from all over the country from all parties and some of them are horrible. In the main in Westborough all the leaflets talk about what the candidate does/believes they can do and that is nice to see. I’m very much pro positive politics.

The attendance was probably just shy of 50 and once you take out people who came in from outside who just like hustings there were probably 30-35 people who will vote on May 3. Hopefully they all got something out of Friday night. All I’ll say from my perspective is I hope people vote. I hope they take 30 minutes one day and read through all the literature and vote with who they think will represent them best, whether it is me or not.

Local elections do affect people and every vote really does matter. Westborough might be an extremely close ward come May 3. It could realistically go any of four ways. So just take time out and decide who would best represent you. That is all that I say.

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Westborough Ward Hustings – That’ll cost you £2

On Friday evening between 7:30 and 9:30 the Westborough Ward Hustings will be taking place at the Royal British Legion on Northview Drive. With six candidates for the ward – and as far as I know all are expected to be there – it could be an interesting evening. If you want to go and ask a question then you need to submit it before hand to ensure no overlap etc… but the most interesting bit is that if you aren’t a member of the new Westborough Community Association then it’ll cost you £2 to enter.


I mean really?


Yes really.

So there we have it. If you want to hear the candidates speak you either have to drop a £2 coin (or any other ways to put together £2) or before a member of the WCA. I have to say I have an issue with this. Politics should not cost a penny. If people want to go then they should be free to enter and ask questions to the candidates without spending a dime.

For full details please visit the WCA website where you can submit your questions. By the looks of it all the candidates will have the opportunity to answer every single question.

So if you are around and want to hear the six of us – or however many of us turn up speak then go for it. The bar will be open and they’ll also be a raffle. I’ll also probably make a Sophie Ellis Bextor reference. Who doesn’t want to see how I can get a Sophie Ellis Bextor reference into political hustings…?

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