It is now officially Polling Day and chronic insomnia allows me this opportunity to make some election night predictions and speak briefly about the elections before us – not just the General Election to Parliament but also our own local borough council elections.
Every politician says at every election that it is “the most important election for a generation” but this one really feels like it and I have never felt more tension about the outcome (and never has the outcome been as uncertain as in these elections). Firstly, a few notes about our own runners and riders and my predictions.
Basildon & Billericay
- John Baron (Conservative)*
- Gavin Callaghan (Labour)
- George Konstantinidis (UKIP)
- Martin Thompson (Liberal Democrat)
My own local constituency, where John Baron is seeking re-election as the Conservative MP for the third time, John was first elected MP for Billericay in 2001 and was re-elected in 2005. He was subsequently re-elected to the new Basildon & Billericay seat following boundary changes. His challengers are Gavin Callaghan (currently a borough councillor for Pitsea South-East) for Labour, George Konstantinidis for UKIP, and Martin Thompson for the Liberal Democrats. The seat falls entirely within the Borough of Basildon.
Mr Callaghan is a rather smug and entitled 26-year-old, who has a reputation as a political pit-bull locally. I dislike him intensely, as I think he is a bully and a self-promoting creep. I know next to nothing about Mr Konstantinidis other that he is a heavily-accented Greek, which begs the question of whether or not, if we had an Australian points-based immigration system, as advocated by UKIP, he’d have been allowed in. I gather he’s some kind of regional UKIP bigwig, based in Bedford. He’s actually their second PPC for Basildon & Billericay, the previous candidate, Anne Marie Waters, having been mysteriously turfed out in favour of Mr Konstantinidis. I know absolutely nothing about Mr Thompson, who was parachuted in at the last minute as a Lib Dem ‘paper candidate’. Up until the day the Statement of Persons Nominated was produced, no Lib Dem PPC had been announced. John is defending a majority of 12,398.
Prediction: CON Hold – John has been a great asset and has a proven track record over the last fourteen years in Parliament as a principled and hardworking campaigner. To be honest, it was expected that when the boundary changes came in the new seat would not be quite as safe as the old Billericay constituency but, actually, John increased his majority. He is a man of great moral courage and conviction and I have every confidence that he will be receive a resounding endorsement from the electorate tonight.
*NB: Disclaimer – I am Mr Baron’s election agent
South Basildon & East Thurrock
- Stuart Hooper (Independent)
- Mike Le-Surf (Labour)
- Ian Luder CBE (UKIP)
- Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative)*
- Kerry Smith (Independent)
- Geoff Williams MBE (Liberal Democrat)
- None Of The Above X (Independent)
Our neighbouring constituency, where Conservative Stephen Metcalfe is fighting for re-election, having been elected as the first MP for the new SBET seat in 2010, beating Angela (now Baroness) Smith, who had been Labour MP for Basildon since 1997. He faces a stiff challenge from Mike Le-Surf (currently a Brentwood councillor) for Labour, former Lord Mayor of London Ian Luder for UKIP, and veteran councillor Geoff Williams (currently a borough councillor for Nethermayne) for the Lib Dems. There are also three independent candidates, including disgraced former UKIP councillor Kerry Smith (who yesterday publicly asked his supporters to back Steve Metcalfe), Stuart Hooper and ‘None Of The Above X’ (boxer Terry Marsh, who has changed his name by Deed Poll in protest at the lack of an abstention option on the ballot). The ‘South Basildon’ contingent of the constituency fall within the Borough of Basildon – namely the two Pitsea wards, Nethermayne, Langdon Hills and Vange. The remaining East Thurrock wards fall under the Borough of Thurrock.
I don’t know much about Mr Le-Surf other than that he is a senior Labour councillor in the neighbouring Borough of Brentwood, where he was until recently the Labour Group Leader on Brentwood Council. Mr Luder I know a little better, as he was until recently the Chairman of Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, of which I am also a governor. I was surprised when he resigned from the Trust prematurely to stand as the UKIP PPC for SBET, not least because Ian was previously a Labour councillor in Bedford of some thirty years’ standing. Ian was, of course, selected by UKIP following a truly disastrous local selection process that saw Kerry Smith – then a UKIP Essex county councillor and Leader of the UKIP Group on Basildon Borough Council selected, de-selected (to make way for a ‘big beast’), re-selected (after the aforementioned ‘big beast’, disgraced former Tory MP Neil Hamilton, pulled out of the running) and finally de-selected again after a tape recording of a telephone conversation emerged, in which Mr Smith made racist and homophobic remarks. Mr Williams – or ‘Uncle Geoff’, as he’s sometimes affectionately known, is also well-known to me, as he is a fellow Basildon borough councillor. Geoff is currently the longest-serving Basildon councillor and was awarded the MBE last year. Steve is defending a majority of 5,772.
Prediction: CON Hold – This is going to be a very tight race and Steve faces a tough challenge from both Messrs Le-Surf and Luder but I believe Steve will hang in there. He has been a fantastic and hardworking MP and I have always admired him for his dedication and commitment. He is a lovely guy and thoroughly deserves to be re-elected.
Rayleigh & Wickford
- Mark Francois (Conservative)*
- John Hayter (UKIP)
- David Hough (Labour)
- Linda Kendall (Independent)
- Mike Pitt (Liberal Democrat)
- Sarah Yapp (Green)
Only the three Wickford wards of this constituency fall under the Borough of Basildon, Rayleigh and the rest of the constituency falling under the District of Rochford. Consequently, I actually know very little about the runners and riders in this one, though I do know a fair bit about the Tory incumbent Mark Francois, who has been MP for the current seat since it was created in 2010. He had previously been MP for the old Rayleigh seat since 2001 but cut his political teeth here in Basildon, when he was a borough councillor for Langdon Hills. Mr Francois is currently Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He is defending a majority of 22,338.
Prediction: CON hold – all the polls seem to indicate that Mr Francois will be comfortably returned.
Moving to the borough level, we have fourteen seats on Basildon Borough Council up for grabs to determine who will take charge of the currently hung council, which is presently led by a minority Tory administration. There are 42 seats on Basildon Council, of which currently 17 are Conservative, 10 UKIP, 9 Labour, 3 Independence, 2 Independent Labour and 1 Liberal Democrat. Here are the runners and riders locally. I will not make any predictions on these ones, as I don’t have any polling data to hand on which to reliably predict the result and, anyway, while I think there are some seats we’ll definitely win and some we’ll definitely lose, it would violate the well-established political mantra of never conceding defeat before an election and would be unfair for any colleagues who read this beforehand and saw me predicting them not winning!
- David Dadds (Conservative)*
- Nigel Horn (Liberal Democrat)
- Patricia Reid (Labour)
- Herbert John Webb (UKIP)
I am not expecting any big surprises in my own ward, where my ward colleague David Dadds is seeking re-election. David has been a councillor since 2002 and is cerebral and very able. He is currently Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission on the Council. Mr Horn has stood here as the Lib Dem candidate at every local election since 2010. Mrs Reid has been the Labour candidate here since at least 2003. The only slight surprise was that the infamous Terry Gandy – he of the blazer and big hat – does not seem to be standing for UKIP this time. Instead we have the never before heard of Herbert John Webb. David was last re-elected in 2011 with 65% of the vote and a majority of 2,059.
- Andrew Ansell (Labour)
- Daniel Lawrence BEM (Conservative)*
- Susan McCaffery (UKIP)
- Alan Richards (Liberal Democrat)
Likewise, I doubt we will see any political earthquakes in neighbouring West ward, where my colleague Danny Lawrence is seeking re-election, having won a bye-election in West in 2012, following the sad death of Stephen Horgan. Danny is a hardworking councillor and has served a term as Deputy Mayor. His background is in community radio and he was awarded the British Empire Medal by the Queen last year. Mr Ansell stood here for Labour last year, largely it would seem as a paper candidate. Miss McCaffery is a Billericay town councillor for UKIP and previously always contested Billericay East but stood in West last year too. Alan Richards stood for the Liberals in Langdon Hills last year. There are no elections there this year, so now he’s standing here. Danny is defending a majority of 1,114.
- Kevin Blake (Conservative)*
- Paul Downes (UKIP)
- David Kirkman (Labour)
- Ben Williams (Liberal Democrat)
Kevin Blake is seeking re-election and is currently Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Leisure & Arts. Mr Downes is a UKIP Noak Bridge parish councillor who stood in Burstead last year. Mr Kirkman, son of former Labour council leader Paul Kirkman and himself a former councillor for Fryerns, is standing here for Labour. He stood in Nethermayne last year but the incumbent Labour councillor is defending his seat there this year, so Mr Kirkman has been drafted in here. Likewise, Mr Williams (son of Geoff) is a former Lib Dem councillor for Nethermayne ward but has stood as a paper candidate for the Liberals in Burstead since 2012. Kevin is defending a majority of 1,715, which he won in 2011.
- Allan Davies (Labour)*
- Colin Grant (Liberal Democrat)
- Cliff Hammans (UKIP)
- Sandra Hillier (Conservative)
- David Murray (Trade Unionist & Socialist)
Allan Davies is defending this traditionally staunch Labour seat in Basildon but can be guaranteed of nothing, as UKIP’s David Sheppard won it last year, costing veteran Labour councillor Bill Archibald his seat. Sandra Hillier (a former Tory councillor for Langdon Hills, who lost her seat last year) is fighting a spirited campaign for us and Mr Davies will also be nervous about the Trade Unionist & Socialist Alliance candidate splitting his vote. This one may be a close call!
- Andrew Barnes (Conservative)
- John Barnes-Challinor (Liberal Democrat)
- Stephen Gillan (Labour)
- Pat Rackley (Independent)
- Anne Marie Waters (UKIP)
Andy Barnes is defending this seat for the Conservatives following the retirement of Jilly Hyde, who held the seat since 2007. Jilly was last re-elected in 2011 with a slim majority of 152 over Labour’s John McCrea but the seat went Labour in 2012 when Frank Tomlin lost his seat to John Scarola and then in 2014 it was won by UKIP’s Mark Ellis, costing John Dornan his seat. However, this is a seat we can win and Andy has been fighting a vigorous ground war there and may be aided by the fact that newcomer Mr Gillan may see his vote split by the Independent candidate, Pat Rackley. Mrs Rackley is currently an Independent Labour councillor for St Martin’s ward, having left the Labour Group along with her husband and fellow St Martin’s councillor, Phil. She is up for re-election this year but has chosen to contest Laindon Park rather than St Martin’s. Andy may also be helped by the fact that the UKIP candidate, Miss Waters, is a rather controversial and rather unsavoury character (she is a prominent Islamophobic bigot) and also apparently thought nobody in Laindon would notice that she is also standing for Parliament in Lewisham East, thus making her commitment to the residents of Laindon somewhat doubtful.
Lee Chapel North
- Alan Bennett (Labour)
- Arthur James (UKIP)
- Steve Nice (Liberal Democrat)
- Nicole Schrader (Conservative)
Incumbent councillor and former Council Leader Nigel Smith is retiring at this election and Labour’s candidate to succeed him is former councillor Alan Bennett, who lost this hitherto seemingly unassailable safe Labour seat to UKIP last year. Mr Smith’s retirement gives Mr Bennett an early opportunity to try and win it back. UKIP’s Arthur James will be hoping to repeat his party’s success of last year, when they captured both the Lee Chapel North seats then up for grabs. Steve Nice is standing here for the Liberals, as he has done every year since 2006, but our candidate has the benefit of being smart, hardworking, stunningly beautiful and with an incredibly good-looking husband. 😉
- Mark Coker (Conservative)
- Andrew Gordon (Labour)*
- Stephen Hodge (UKIP)
- Phil Jenkins (Liberal Democrat)
- Pauline Kettle (Independent)
Andrew Gordon is the incumbent Labour councillor in this previously staunch Liberal stronghold. Until 2011, all three ward councillors here were Liberal Democrats. Indeed, until the year before it had been a personal fiefdom of local Lib Dem dynasty, the Williamses – Geoff and Linda and their son, Ben. Ben had to resign his seat in 2010 when he went to work for Nick Clegg in government and, although Phil Jenkins won the subsequent bye-election for the Liberals, he lost the seat the following year to Mr Gordon. I stood here myself in 2012, against ‘Uncle Geoff’ Williams, who won a dramatic re-election, but his wife Linda was not so lucky in 2014, when she lost the seat to Kerry Smith, who subsequently became UKIP Group Leader on Basildon Council. Mr Smith has since parted company with UKIP but they are fielding Stephen Hodge, husband of current UKIP Group Leader Linda Allport-Hodge, to try and repeat his success. Mr Jenkins is also back, seeking to restore the Lib Dems to glory. Mark Coker will be fighting in the Conservative interest and we also have an ‘Independent’ candidate, Pauline Kettle, whose agent just happens to be a certain ‘K. Smith’. This one could get bloody.
- Keith Bobbin (Labour)*
- Gary Canham (UKIP)
- Ian Dwyer (Conservative)
- Martin Howard (Liberal Democrat)
Stalwart Keith Bobbin is defending his 409-vote majority here against a concerted effort from both us and UKIP to dislodge him. Pitsea NW lost its last Tory councillor last year when Ron Livesey retired and the election was won by UKIP’s Imelda Clancy (Mrs Clancy has since left the party, along with her son, Kerry) in what must have been a major blow to Labour, who were expecting to retake the seat for themselves and put up a big hitter – Essex county councillor Melissa McGeorge – with that in mind. Ian Dwyer is fighting a plucky campaign to flummox them all by giving Pitsea NW a Tory councillor once more!
- Amanda Arnold (Conservative)
- David Burton-Sampson (Labour)
- Jose Carrion (UKIP)
- Vivien Howard (Liberal Democrat)
Amanda Arnold is defending this seat for the Conservatives, following the retirement of Mayor Mo Larkin, who was re-elected here in 2011 with a slim majority of 141 over Labour. Since then, Tory Ann Blake lost her seat to Labour’s Aidan McGurran in 2012 and last year our colleague David Abrahall lost his seat to UKIP’s Stephen Ward. Mayor Mo was an iconic figure, so Amanda has big shoes to fill but she is a seasoned political fighter and should be in with a good chance of restoring Tory fortunes in Pitsea SE, while David Burton-Sampson (who doubtless expected to win when he stood here last year) will be hoping not to get out-foxed again.
- Andrew Buxton (Labour)
- Liz Grant (Liberal Democrat)
- Stephanie Hedley-Barnes (Conservative)
- Andrew Morris (UKIP)
I cut my political teeth in St Martin’s ward – which includes Basildon Town Centre – when I stood here in 2011 in my first ever election. Then, Labour’s Pat Rackley was comfortably re-elected with a 447-vote majority over me. Today, we’ve both moved on. Mrs Rackley, now a member of the Independent Labour Group on Basildon Council (which consists of her and her husband and fellow St Martin’s councillor, Phil Rackley) is seeking re-election in Laindon Park ward instead and Labour’s Andrew Buxton will be hoping Labour’s vote holds. UKIP are untested here, as there were no elections in St Martin’s last year when they swept the board. In 2012, when Mr Rackley (then Labour) was re-election, the UKIP candidate came third behind the Tories’ Tony Low.
- Tony Ball (Conservative)
- Stephen Bennett (Trade Unionist & Socialist)
- Michael May (UKIP)
- Melissa McGeorge (Labour)
- Linda Williams (Liberal Democrat)
The incumbent councillor, Daniel Munyambu, is not seeking re-election. Mr Munyambu was elected in 2011 with a 535-vote majority for Labour. Certain legal difficulties in his native Kenya meant that he fell out with the Labour Group recently and has seen out the end of his term, firstly as a member of the Independent Labour Group and latterly as part of Kerry Smith’s ‘Independence’ outfit – sitting as Deputy Leader of that group, between Kerry and his mother, Imelda (I bet that was fun). Mr Munyambu has now moved over to Thurrock, where he is somewhat astonishingly standing for Parliament. Mrs McGeorge, thwarted in her attempts last year to get elected to Basildon Council in Pitsea North-West, is hoping to recapture Vange for Labour. As with St Martin’s, UKIP are a slightly unknown quantity in Vange as there were no elections here last year. In 2011, Kim Gandy (now also since fallen out with the party) stood for UKIP and came third. Former military man, Michael May, is standing for the party this time. Mrs McGeorge may see her vote split by the presence of a Trade Unionist & Socialist Alliance candidate and another fly in her ointment is the presence of former Tory Leader of the Council, Tony Ball, on the ticket. Tony lost his seat last year in what was probably the biggest upset of the 2014 local elections but he is leaping straight back into the fray and putting some stick about in Vange to give Labour and UKIP a run for their money. Mrs Williams, having lost her Nethermayne seat last year too, is gamely standing here for the Lib Dems.
- Nigel Le Gresley (UKIP)*
- Don Morris (Conservative)
- Jenefer Taylor (Labour)
Nigel Le Gresley was UKIP’s first ever councillor on Basildon Council, winning a shock victory in the 2013 bye-election caused by the death of Tory councillor Sylvia Buckley. Mr Le Gresley, who is currently Deputy Mayor of Basildon, will be hoping to retain his seat. Equally determined to deprive him of it, however, will be stalwart former Tory councillor, Don Morris, who lost his Wickford Park seat last year. Jen Taylor, wife of Labour leader Byron, is fighting for Labour. As with last year, there are no Lib Dem candidates in Wickford.
- Eunice Brockman (UKIP)
- Albert Ede (Labour)
- Michael Mowe (Conservative)*
Mike Mowe is seeking to defend his 1,035-vote majority here and should be safe, thanks to his strong record of working tirelessly for his residents. He will doubtless be mindful that this did not help Tony Ball last year when he lost this seat in one of the most shocking results of the night and is not resting on his laurels. Mike will be fighting tooth and nail to retain this seat.
- Derek Harrison (UKIP)
- Chris Jackman (Conservative)*
- Matthew Whaley (Labour)
Chris Jackman is undoubtedly one of the nicest guys on Basildon Council and is defending a majority here of 1,064. Like Mike, however, he will doubtless be mindful of the fate of his old ward colleague Don Morris and doing everything in his power to remind local residents of his strong record and make sure Wickford turns back blue.
Just enough time for some interesting factoids. We have three husband a wife teams standing this year: Colin & Liz Grant standing for the Lib Dems in Fryerns and St Martin’s respectively; Andrew Barnes & Stephanie Hedley-Barnes standing for the Tories in Laindon Park and St Martin’s; and Martin & Viv Howard standing for the Lib Dems in Pitsea North-West and South-East respectively.
In addition, we have an impressive six spouses of current councillors: Sandra Hillier, wife of Stephen Hillier (Con, Langdon Hills); Nicole Schrader, wife of yours truly; Stephen Hodge, husband of Linda Allport-Hodge (UKIP, Langdon Hills); Linda Williams, wife of Geoff Williams (LibDem, Nethermayne); Don Morris, husband of Carole Morris (Con, Wickford North); and Jen Taylor, wife of Byron Taylor (Lab, Vange).
We also have two children of sitting councillors: Ben Williams, son of Geoff; and Stephanie Hedley-Barnes, daughter of Tony Hedley (Con, Billericay West). In addition, David Kirkman is the son of former Labour leader, Paul Kirkman. Technically Tony Ball would also fall under this category, as I believe his father was also once a Tory councillor and a past Leader of Basildon Council.
There are four retiring councillors – Cllrs Jilly Hyde (Con, Laindon Park), Nigel Smith (Lab, Lee Chapel North), Mo Larkin (Con, Pitsea South-East) and Daniel Munyambu (Ind, Vange) – and a whopping eight former councillors are seeking to re-join the Council: Ben Williams (former Lib Dem councillor for Nethermayne, seeking election in Burstead); David Kirkman (former Labour councillor for Fryerns, also seeking election in Burstead); Sandra Hillier (former Tory councillor for Langdon Hills, seeking election in Fryerns); Alan Bennett (former Labour councillor for Lee Chapel North, seeking re-election there); Phil Jenkins (former Lib Dem councillor for Nethermayne, seeking re-election there); Tony Ball (former Tory councillor for Wickford North, seeking election in Vange); Linda Williams (former Lib Dem councillor for Nethermayne, also seeking election in Vange); and Don Morris (former Tory councillor for Wickford Park, seeking election in Wickford Castledon).