Unlike Julian Ware-Lane who mentions on his blog that he was unable to to make the hustings yesterday evening, I did manage to attend and see the whole of the debate. Credit where credit is due, the debate was well chaired and all the leaders were given equal time and opportunity to debate the issues. On the whole though I was very disappointed with the overall lack of debate on local issues within Southend and the lack of residents who were not affiliated with any of the parties.
It was a shame that Graham Longley the Lib Dem leader wasn't there, but as he is probably fighting like a ferret in sack to hang onto his 19 vote majority in Blenheim I can understand why he wasn't.
I am going to avoid the temptation to rank the leaders in order of performance but give my honest assessment as to how each performed.
Julian Esposito - Green Party: Whilst I do care about the environment, I have to confess that I do not believe in Green Party politics as it like listening to a 1970's Labour Party manifesto. Julian did come across as a pleasant chap but it was clear he didn't have much knowledge on local issues as was misinformed on national issues.
Nigel Holdcroft - Conservative: Whether you agree with Conservative politics or not, even his detractors will all agree that he is an accomplished speaker and performed and debated well. Along with the Mayor David Norman these are two best orators in the council chamber by far. Nigel's knowledge on local issues was the best of all the leaders and was true to his beliefs.
Ian Gilbert - Labour: Ian spoke on predominantly national politics but did talk a little on local issues as well. What I would say, whilst I vehemently disagree with Ian on the majority of issues he was consistent and did stick to his beliefs. Where he agrees with Nigel he agreed, where he disagrees with Nigel he disagreed.
Martin Terry - Independent Party 'spokesman' come leader who receives a leaders salary of over £7,000 but claims he is an Independent: Over the past few months, Martin's comments and rants have almost become farcical as the Independent Party campaign unravels. On the night some of his comments were to the extreme right of UKIP and to the left of Genghis Khan. The same usual lines were trotted out.
What I was really looking for were the big revelations, the talking points and Cllr Terry didn't disappoint. Cllr Terry did reveal that he and the rest of the Independent Party supported a rise in Council Tax this year and would advocate rises in Council tax in future years. To his credit, Ian Gilbert did say that whilst he didn't like the council tax freeze, he couldn't justify a rise in Council Tax to his residents when families are hard pressed during the tough economic times.
Also one other area of note was the Independent 'Party Line' had changed from Wednesday as they now wanted to work with all the political parties. This is hardly surprising as in the not to distant past he belonged to the Labour Party, led his own political party until 2007 and supports the UKIP candidate in West Shoebury!
With five more days of campaigning it is anybodies guess when the next incoherent message will be.