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:
12 Independent Group
5 Liberal Democrat
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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