Saturday, 31 May 2014

Do We Have Ourselves To Blame?

Having looked closely at the European election results, I could not help but think in some way that the Conservative Party only has itself to blame for the rise of UKIP. This thought also belonged to professor Tim Bale who this excellent article on the rise of UKIP:

The Conservative Party only has itself to blame for the rise of UKIP – not because it ignored the pet peeves that drive Nigel Farage’s ‘people’s army’ but because, in the electorally-desperate early 2000s, it pushed the populist button itself (‘foreign land’, fuel-protests, Tony Martin, travellers, ‘are you thinking what we’re thinking?’), then suddenly vacated that ‘nasty party’ territory after 2005, only to end up in 2010 making an unrealisable promise to the electorate about reducing immigration to the tens of thousands.
In short, the Conservative Party couldn’t have teed things up more beautifully for UKIP if it had tried. That doesn’t mean, however, that Tories should vote for it.
One thing you’ll often hear from those who have done and say they’ll continue to do so is that UKIP is the party the Conservatives used to (and still ought to) be.  I beg to differ – big time.  If we look at what this government has been doing since 2010, the party that the Conservatives used to be is – surprise, surprise – still the Conservative Party.   Just look at the evidence.
You believe in making the nation’s books balance?  You’ve got a Chancellor in George Osborne who’s pursuing the single most ambitious fiscal consolidation this country has ever seen – and doing it for the most part by cutting spending rather than raising taxes, and by rolling back the welfare state but in such a way as to protect the nation’s senior citizens.
You want to preserve law and order?  Does anyone seriously think it’s at risk with Chris Grayling and Theresa May at the helm?
You believe in traditional rigour and teaching methods in education?  That’s exactly what you’re getting from Michael Gove.  And from David Willetts you’re getting a higher education system where the money follows the student and where the cost is borne by those who benefit most directly – a system that hasn’t, by the way, put people from lower income backgrounds off following their dreams.
You want to preserve the integrity of the UK?  David Cameron knows that he’s not the most popular man in Scotland and leads a party for which independence would be a positive, electorally speaking.  Yet he’s still going into bat for the Union.
You care about Britain’s national sovereignty?  Fewer governments have pursued more opt-outs and said no to more initiatives from Brussels than this one, and no-one else has a chance of delivering an in-out referendum so the country can make up its own mind.
And finally, you want to know that the UK is back in control of its borders but doesn’t cut its nose off to spite its face by denying entry to people who will make a vital contribution to the country’s future?  This government, subject to its international obligations (and, yes, such things should and do matter), has done everything that’s practically possible to balance control and Britain’s long-term economic interests.
Given all this, the only small-c conservative voter who might still be tempted by UKIP is one who believes that the proverbial man (or woman) in the street really does know better than people with experience and expertise, who prefers direct over representative democracy, and who believes in privileging the principles of libertarian non-interference over the government considering matters case-by-case.
Whatever you think of these ideas, no-one could seriously argue that they are conservative.  Indeed, any true Tory should be highly suspicious of a party which privileges ideology over facts, which dismisses the value of knowledge and judgement, which can’t admit the inevitability of historical change, and which defies the common sense on which it continually (but erroneously) claims to have some sort of monopoly.  Parties that do that end up denying climate change, wanting to do away with the NHS,  the minimum wage, and health and safety, and campaigning to bring back grammar schools – none of which are supported either by evidence or, for that matter, by a convincing majority of the public.
No, the essence of conservatism lies not in rejecting but in coming to terms with realities rooted in social change and changing popular preferences, the better to ensure that we preserve what’s worth preserving.  Not for no reason is Edmund Burke a Tory hero: it was he, after all, who warned that ‘a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.’
Conservatism, unlike what’s on offer from UKIP is and always will be a living, breathing governing philosophy rather than a kneejerk, nostalgic response to whatever it is about contemporary life that people don’t like. ‘We’ll stop the world, and help you to get off’, is UKIP’s central message.  To pinch a phrase from a famous Labour politician, Nye Bevan, who spent the last few years of his left battling populists who likewise wanted the impossible and wanted it now: ‘You call that statesmanship?  I call it an emotional spasm.’

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Rainbow Coalition

It would appear from reading the Echo this morning that my predictions on Monday of a rainbow coalition seem to be about to come true. It will be fascinating to see the eventual outcome on the 5th June and who get the coveted cabinet positions.

What I did notice with some amusement from the article, was how it appears UKIP have been sidelined - even by the Independent Party with whom they announced a coalition with in December.

It would seem the leader in waiting and the self confessed 'Conservative at heart' Ron Woodley, would rather do a deal with Labour and the Liberal Democrats and cut adrift his UKIP election buddies to inherit his 'right' to become leader. It will be interesting to see at what cost. Still, it must feel like a happy homecoming for former Lib Dem Brian Ayling and the former Labour candidates Martin Terry and Anne Chalk.

A Banana Republic

Tales of arguments, threats, voter intimidation and chaos when counting ballot papers would lead many to think that these stories were from a despotic country. Unfortunately, this was the picture described by many in the borough of Tower Hamlets in East London.

This is not the first time we have heard similar allegations from Tower Hamlets, but on this occasion, things were so bad that the result of the local elections were not declared until 5 days after the poll. The Electoral Commission is the body which oversea elections in the UK.

Until rules were tightened, we had allegations of postal vote fraud on an industrial scale. We have farce which is Tower Hamlets and also the appalling decision to allow a political party called an Independence From Europe to be registered.

Now lets be clear, I do not have much truck for UKIP, but it was clear at the European Election count on Sunday that there was voter confusion between UKIP and an Independence From Europe. The Electoral Commission was established to avoid voter confusion between political parties when a candidate once famously put themselves on the ballot paper as a Literal Democrat.

Fortunately, both the European and Local Election polls here in Southend were conducted in exemplary fashion. I do however have to question whether the Electoral Commission is now actually fit for purpose.

Safe Zone

Whilst driving into work this morning there was an interesting feature on the London Assembly's plans for the creation of 'Safe Houses' in five pilot areas in London.

The scheme sounded very similar to the Safe Zone Scheme that I launched with the traders in West Road, in which shops displaying the Safe Zone sticker would provide a safe haven for anyone in need whilst shopping. Could it be that that the worlds greatest city was taking the lead from a mere local councillor in Shoebury?

West Road Vandalism

I was often told before I became a councillor that it is the little things that you do which make the greatest difference. Looking back on my time as a councillor these were never truer spoken words.

One of the local things that I took great pleasure in was helping the West Road Community & Traders Association in achieving funding for new planters in the West Road Shopping Area. Many often commented that these help spruce up the area.

I was disappointed to hear that for a second time in as many months the planters have been vandalised with the plants stolen. If anyone has anyone has any information, I urge them to contact the Police as it is a real frustration when the mindless few spoil things for the many.    

Monday, 26 May 2014

Vote UKIP Get Labour?

Vote UKIP get Labour. This was an often used line by the national party during the campaign, but upon reading the Echo today, this appears to be exactly what is happening in Southend.

When a council is in no overall control it is inevitable that the various groups will be having discussions to see if they can form an administration. With five different groups represented on the Council I think it is inevitable that the next administration will comprise of at least three different groups.

The reports seem to suggest that the next administration will comprise of the Independent Party, Labour and the Lib Dems. As I am no longer a member of the Conservative Group, I am writing this from a position without inside knowledge.

With 19 seats, the Conservatives still remain the largest group on the Council. I still take immense pride in that I played my part in taking a Council, judged to be failing, to being Council of the year. This has been achieved whilst having to make millions of pounds in budget savings way before the economic crisis without impacting front line services.

I can understand from a Conservative Group viewpoint that you do not want to see all the hard work be unpicked and want to speak to the other groups for that to continue. The message from Thursday's poll however, is that people want to see a change of administration here in Southend.

With 9 seats Labour will be the king makers. From the scores of messages and emails that I received over the weekend, the realisation is now sinking in that those Conservatives who flirted with UKIP will end up with Labour part of an administration in Southend. This was a thought distant from their minds when ballots were cast.

Southend European Election Results

Late yesterday evening the results were declared for the European Elections. The results for Southend were as follows:

An Independence From Europe 1073 - 3%
BNP 457 - 1%
Christian People's Alliance 375 - 1%
Conservative 11523 - 27%
Eng Dem 704 - 2%
Green 3387 - 8%
Labour 6711 - 16%
Lib Dems 2645 - 6%
No2EU 191 - 1%
UKIP 15967 - 37%

Total votes: 43033

There were also a high number of spoilt ballot papers. 337 in total. The majority of these were blank which fits with the stories that I was receiving at the polling stations where people only wanted to vote in the local elections but had to also be given a European Election ballot paper.

The West Shoebury and Southend Results - My Analysis

Firstly, I want to take the opportunity to thank the residents of West Shoebury for giving me one of the greatest experiences of my life over the past eight years. I also want to thank those residents who still after eight years put their faith in me by putting their cross by the side of my name.

The results for the Conservatives in Southend on Thursday night were a catastrophe. There is no hiding from that. It hasn't gone unnoticed by me that the Conservatives did not win one single ward which make up the Rochford & Southend East Constituency. There certainly is work to do before the General Election.

After much analysing of the data, I am comforted by the fact that I wasn't beaten by UKIP because of the national picture but purely on a single local issue, flood defences, in a very microscopic area. This is what local politics should be.

For those who are not political anoraks, let me take a few moments to explain. West Shoebury is made up of voters from four polling districts and those who vote by post. From the last elections in 2012, the share of the vote was up in three of the five areas and remained exactly the same another.

I am pleased that I fought the election on my principles. I feel that those who are prepared to compromise them for electoral advantage will ultimately be found out in the end. Sometimes the right thing isn't the populist thing.

That said, it was a hard fought campaign and no matter how bitter it was at times my congratulations goes to James Moyies on his victory.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Nigel Farage's Nick Griffin Moment

Before residents go out to cast their European Election ballot next week, residents will be well advised to watch the the following LBC interview with Nigel Farage on Friday:

The Sun newspaper were pretty damning of Nigel Farage in their leader column yesterday:


East Beach

I like many of the residents in Shoebury want to see East Beach open to the public as soon as possible. When the Council had to take the only sensible option available when live ordnance was found on the beach, my colleague Roger Hadley and I, immediately briefed James Duddridge MP to get pressure applied on the MoD.

To his credit, James immediately tabled four questions to the secretary of state. This beach needs to be open quickly. Local businesses rely upon it. Shoebury residents have been accommodating to the MoD for many, many years. It is time for the MoD to give something back to local residents and make the clearance of the ordnance an immediate priority.

Following pressure from Myself, colleagues, Council officers and James Duddridge, the MoD met eith the Council on Thursday where the following statement was released by the Council's media office:

“Following a constructive meeting yesterday afternoon, we have agreed jointly to accelerate the timescales for the surveying and sampling work that is already underway in the MOD owned area across both East Beach and West Beach. At the request of the Council, the MOD have today agreed to prioritise the assessment of the licensed public area of the beach in recognition of the importance of this beach to residents, visitors and businesses.

“The next steps of the survey require a two-day explosive ordnance reconnaissance led by the Royal Navy.  This is not a clearance operation but will involve the investigation of a number of sample areas identified by the ongoing surveying work. The MOD have already asked for this work to be done as soon as possible and have assured the council that it will take place by early June. Once exact dates have been confirmed, we will make a further public statement.

“In the meantime we have agreed to start work on a joint risk assessment of the area which will be necessary to inform decision making over the re-opening of the beach.  The risk assessment will be informed by the ongoing survey and the investigation works that will be undertaken by the Royal Navy.

“Once the investigation works have taken place, within two weeks the MOD will analyse the results from within the licensed area and a decision will be made by the council about the re-opening of the beach.

“Both organisations recognise the impact of this issue on the community and will continue to work in partnership on this matter.”

This is an issue which I will be keeping a keen eye on.

Tudor Gardens Street Lights

Whilst I have been out and about talking to residents about a number of different issues, One issue which had been raised by a number of residents in Tudor Gardens was the poor state of the road's street light columns.

I agreed to take away these concerns and following discussions with Council officers, I am delighted that officers were in complete agreement and have agreed to replace all the street lighting  columns in Tudor Gardens. It is anticipated that this work will take place within the next few months.

VOTE! Europe: You Decide

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Southend Conservatives Yellow Advertiser Advert

Say No To James Moyies Thames Estuary Airport

It Has Been A While

It has been a while since I last blogged, too long for my linking, but I have unfortunately had one or two issues with the blogger platform over the past couple of weeks. Finally, after a little bit of toeing and throwing with Google, I am back up and running.

Just to alley any fears from my Labour opponent, whilst I haven't been able to blog for the past couple of weeks, I have managed to fill the void by delivering 11,000+ pieces of literature and visiting thousands of homes in West Shoebury instead.

I understand from Matthew that he was surprised by my absence at the Shoeburyness hustings. I didn't attend as it was not for West Shoebury but for Shoeburyness ward candidates only. I believe there was some confusion on the hustings. This shouldn't really come as a surprise as anything that comes from Cllr Chalk usually results in a cock-up of seismic proportions!

From Matthew's conversation and the resulting surprise at my Ukip opponents assertion regarding my supposedly low profile, as one resident said to me earlier today, residents have seen more of Halley's Comet than the Ukip candidate in the past couple of years. As I have said previously, I work all the time. The opposition in West Shoebury only work at election time.