Saturday, 20 September 2014

Och Aye The NO

It was a relief yesterday morning to wake up to the news that I was still British as I knew it and that relatives of mine would not be considered as foreigners in their own land. For me, there was no joy in the result but sheer relief.

Relief in that despite of piss poor NO campaign and the shambles in the way the terms of the referendum were negotiated that the good people of Scotland rejected the break-up of the UK and the anti English bile of the SNP.

The terms of the referendum should never have been as they were. I accept that a referendum was the right thing to do as the SNP government elected to Holyrood stood on a manifesto pledge to give a referendum on independence but as a vote for independence would have had massive implications for the whole of the UK I believe all the UK should have had a vote.

It is absurd that an EU national living in Scotland had a vote but a Scot living in the rest of the UK did not. I believe the referendum question should have been 'Should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom'. This would have allowed the pro Union cause to campaign for a positive YES vote on all the good aspects of being British.

The only aspect of the subsequent Referendum Act in 2012 for Scottish independence that I agree with was allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote. From the campaign that I saw it could be argued that this age group were making more informed decisions on the way they would vote than some the adults! I believe it will not be before long when 16 and 17 year olds will be given the vote for all elections.

You can see why David Cameron allowed the referendum all on Alex Salmond terms. He thought it would be a walk in the park and that subsequently Alex Salmond would be finished. OK, Alex Salmond resigned as SNP leader and First Minister yesterday. There were always going to be casualties following the outcome. It there had been a yes vote, let's be clear, it would have been curtains for David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

The NO campaign was hopeless. This campaign has been disastrous not only for the PM but Labour too. The NO campaign was run by Labour and funded by the Conservatives. This was dry run of the Labour 2015 election campaign. What was quite revealing as the results were coming through was that it was the Labour heartlands that voted yes to Independence. Glasgow, the UK's third largest City and Labour heartland voted for independence. Yet Alex Salmond's own constituency voted against!

When the opinion polls two weeks ago showed the YES campaign ahead, it sent the three main party leaders into panic as they rushed to Scotland effectively offering the voters a bribe of Devo Max and the retention of the Barnett Formula without asking parliament or the English public who would be funding the bribe.

The disaster for Labour here is that the English Devolution and so called West Lothian question genie is now out of the bottle. If Labour go into the election not supporting these constitutional reforms, I believe it will be electoral suicide.

The Scottish referendum is not the end of the matter, it is merely the end of the beginning. I hope the PM makes good his promise on resolving the West Lothian question. What I do not want to see is the idea of regional governments resurrected. I accept devolution is also asked for when there is distain for the national political class but we do not need another layer of politicians. What we do need is further powers being devolved to local government.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Do As I Say Not As I Do

This week, the local Rotherham Star newspaper ran a story that a local Labour councillor will face internal party disciplinary action after he was caught checking the cricket score of the war of the roses county match between Lancashire and Yorkshire during a debate on the Rotherham sex scandal.

The story was picked up by the website bloggers4UKIP outraged at the actions of Cllr David Barker. We can only therefore assume that UKIP councillors are above this sort of behaviour. Well, not quite. At the last full council meeting before the summer recess, local Labour blogger and my fellow opponent in West Shoebury, Matthew Dent, broke the story that newly elected UKIP councillor for Kursaal Lawrence Davies, was organising a game of Monopoly whilst the council was discussing the closure of care homes - a sensitive local issue.

Unlike Labour who are taking action over Cllr Barker's actions, local UKIP leader James Moyies has done exactly nothing. A bit like what he has done for the residents of West Shoebury since being elected really.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Hate Mail

From time to time councillors are in receipt of some nasty communications from residents. I was not immune from this and in March last year received a pretty vile email suggesting that I should line my family up against a roundabout and let cars skid into them following some bad weather.

This is nothing compared to the unpleasant letter that my colleague Cllr Derek Jarvis received upon his return from holiday. The matter is now in the hands of the Police.

The Somewhat Bizarre

I was recently given a copy of the most bizarre leaflet recently produced by Labour Cllr Judith McMahon in Kursaal.

It was bizarre in the fact that there is no mention of Labour or her fellow ward colleague Anne Jones. When leaflets are published like these from time to time it normally suggests that all is not well and a defection from the party is on the cards.

We have already seen a spat between Shoeburyness Independent Party councillors Anne Chalk and Mike Assenheim, Cllr Terry getting his knickers in a twist because fellow local blogger Julian Ware-Lane tried to hold him to account, UKIP effectively announcing that Labour and the Lib Dems are keeping the seats warm before they jump into bed with their Independent Party bedfellows and now this.

As I suspected, the coalition is somewhat fragile and will require a Herculean effort to hold it together. If this is the appetiser, I can not wait for the main course when more testing decisions have to be made.

Keeping The Seats Warm

Whilst the summer months can be a quiet time on the local political scene, there are sometimes the odd little nugget that pops up.

I always suspected that the Independent Party leadership team of Ron Woodley and Martin Terry were power hungary and would sell their soles to the devil in a bid to get their hands on power in Southend.

Following the electoral maths after the local elections in May, they both dumped UKIP, their coalition partners in Southend, to form an administration with Labour and the Lib Dems in sheer desperation to get power.

Not wishing to upset their plaything in James Moyies, last month they made 'encouraging noises' to ensure UKIP's support for the remainder of the Civic Year. Local Labour leader Ian Gilbert and local Lib Dem leader must be furious knowing they are being used and can do very little about it.

Leadership Material?

Just before the schools broke up for the annual six week summer break, Ofsted, the schools watchdog, published its report on the current state of education at Thorpe Greenways Junior School. The report was not great requiring that the school improves.

An area highlighted by Ofstead was the failure of the governing body to hold the leadership of the school to account. A member of the governing body at Thorpe Greenways is the Independent Party's new leader of the Council Cllr Ron Woodley.

At the last meeting of the Full Council and in a recent press article we have been assured by Cllr Woodley that no expense or resources will be spared on Thorpe Greenways. One has to wonder if these announcements have been made to spare the blushes of Cllr Woodley. Never in my memory have I seen a school given such treatment when given by Ofsted a notice to improve.

Shoebury: The Forgotten Part of Southend

It would seem that under the new administration Shoebury is once again out of sight out and out of mind. When I was first elected in 2006, during that campaign many residents thought that Shoebury was the forgotten part of Southend - the end of the line.

During my time as a councillor I fought hard for Shoebury roads in most need to be resurfaced, pavements to be repaired, verges to be maintained and parking to be safer in our streets.

At the first cabinet of the new rainbow coalition, the annual list of money to be spent on the towns roads and footpaths was published.

Gone is the pledge to resurface Maplin Way and Maplin Way North. Gone is the pledge to make Delaware Crescent a one way street. Gone is the pledge to put a yellow box junction by the bus stop in Caulfield Road near Ness Road and gone is the pledge to harden the verges on Blyth Avenue to allow more room for vehicles to pass. It is worth reminding that this administration is rabidly supported by UKIP in Southend and Shoeburyness.

One item in the capital programme listed below which has gone un-noticed is the commitment to spend £250,000 on the Council's preferred option for flood defences at Shoebury Common in this current financial year. As the new administration has announced that the preferred option is to undergo a review, could this mean that the new administration are planning to still go ahead with the current preferred option?

Or is the quarter of a million pounds earmarked for what would be a costly review when two thirds of the new administration support the current preferred option.