Well, that is all she wrote. It is 3:30am on Friday 6th May and I have just got back from the Count after what was a mixed night for the Conservatives. Heaven only knows why I am typing this up now but it is all swimming around in my head. Ultimately, the Tories won six of the fourteen seats that were up for grabs (Billericay East, Billericay West, Burstead, Crouch, Langdon Hills, and Wickford North), which was all of the seats we were defending, and secured 37% of the popular vote. Labour did better than expected, winning five seats. They retained their seats in Fryerns, Pitsea North-West, St Martin’s, and Vange and also gained Lee Chapel North from UKIP. Overall, Labour secured 27% of the vote. UKIP, meanwhile, netted three seats, taking Laindon Park and Pitsea South-East from Labour and Nethermayne from the Liberal Democrats but, as mentioned, they also lost Lee Chapel North. They were the only party to increase their number, however. Tories and Labour broke even.
The loss of Phil Rackley brings to an end his lengthy political career on Basildon Council (mostly as a Labour councillor) and also removed the only Green councillor on the Council. Likewise, the failure of Ben Williams to retain Nethermayne for the Lib Dems means that there are now no Lib Dems on the Council. This also necessarily brings to an end the existence of the Lib Dem/Green Group on Basildon Council.
The new composition of the Council is 18 Conservatives, 10 UKIP, 9 Labour, 3 Wickford Independents, and 2 Independence from EU. This means that, whilst the Tories remain the largest party, the Council is still in No Overall Control. The detailed breakdown of results is as follows.
Billericay East – Con HOLD
- SULLIVAN, Stuart (Conservative) 1,716 (60%) ELECTED*
- McCAFFERY, Susan (UKIP) 616 (22%)
- REID, Patricia (Labour) 523 (18%)
As predicted, there were no big surprises in my own ward, where my ward colleague Stuart Sullivan was successfully re-elected with a majority of 1,100 votes. This is only seven votes more than Stuart won when he was last re-elected in 2012 but represents a considerable improvement on more recent Tory showings in Billericay East, most notably the election in 2014 of some drongo named Schrader, who only secured a measly 51% of the vote.
Billericay West – Con HOLD
- TURNER, Philip (Conservative) 1,865 (66%) ELECTED*
- FERGUSON, Jack (Labour) 538 (19%)
- HAMMANS, Cliff (UKIP) 442 (16%)
Again, no political earthquakes in neighbouring West ward and our dear Leader, Phil Turner, was re-elected with an absolutely stonking majority of 1,327 votes (increasing his share of the vote from 2012 by 9 points), the biggest majority of the night. Perhaps the only really surprising result in Billericay West was that the UKIP candidate, Mr Hammans, came last. Clearly the Labour candidate, Mr Ferguson, was the main beneficiary of the absence of a Lib Dem candidate here.
Burstead – Con HOLD
- MOORE, Richard (Conservative) 1,717 (62%) ELECTED*
- PIPER, Kevin (UKIP) 620 (23%)
- KIRKMAN, David (Labour) 416 (15%)
Richard Moore was comfortably re-elected with a majority of 1,097 (a slight decrease on his 2012 score).
Crouch – Con HOLD
- ALLEN, Stuart (Conservative) 959 (54%) ELECTED*
- PETCHEY, Richard (UKIP) 480 (27%)
- MUYLDERS, Sally (Labour) 326 (18%)
Stuart Allen was re-elected with a majority of 479, which although slightly down on his previous score the last time he was re-elected in 2012, is a considerable improvement on the most recent 2014 result.
Fryerns – Lab HOLD
- BROWN, Adele (Labour) 983 (44%) ELECTED*
- WAINE, Rhyan (UKIP) 771 (35%)
- LOW, Tony (Conservative) 462 (21%)
Labour Deputy Leader Adele Brown was re-elected to this traditionally staunch Labour seat in the Basildon New Town with a majority of 212. Although this is substantially down from the majority she was defending from 2012, it was a significant improvement on the 34% vote share achieved by her ward colleague, Allan Davies, last year. Her victory marks a restoration of the fortunes of the Labour Party in this ward, following the shock loss of the seat to UKIP in 2014. I was privately quite relieved at this result. None of us expected Tony Low to win (including Tony) but there was a clear threat from UKIP and I would have been sorry to see Adele go, as she and I get on quite well and have always enjoyed a playful relationship with each other on the Planning Committee. So I was pleased she won. Tony put in a reasonable showing but down 9 points from last time, so it does not look like the Tories will be making a political breakthrough here any time soon. But we shall keep plugging away!
Laindon Park – UKIP GAIN from Lab
- GREEN, Hazel (UKIP) 902 (38%) ELECTED*
- MAYLIN, Gary (Conservative) 668 (28%)
- BLANEY, Lewis (Labour) 647 (27%)
- RACKLEY, Phil (Green) 113 (5%)
- RICHARDS, Alan (Liberal Democrat) 75 (3%)
I cannot lie; this one was a kick in the teeth. This seat had been vacated by Labour’s John Scarola, so was nominally being defended by Labour. The seat was won for the Tories last year by Cllr Andy Barnes last year, so we had very high hopes of winning this one and our candidate, Gary Maylin, fought a campaign unlike anything I have ever seen. We delivered five leaflets, had two Cabinet-level ministerial visits to the ward, knocked on doors, and generally threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. We felt very optimistic (using the hashtag #ItsMaylinTime throughout the campaign) and it is bitterly disappointing that ‘Gazza’ finished 234 votes behind Miss Green (down 7 points since Andy won the seat last year). Gary seriously deserved to win and, having introduced himself to the voters of Laindon Park this time, I sincerely hope he will go back and try again. As previously mentioned, this vote also brings to an end the decades-long political career of die-hard socialist Phil Rackley, who, after a political odyssey that saw him abandon the Labour Group of which he had formerly been Deputy Leader, sit for some time as ‘Independent Labour’, finally saw him become the Council’s first and only Green councillor. This will have been a bruising loss for Labour, who now have no seats in Laindon and have come third here for the second year running. Mr Richards was one of only four Lib Dems contesting seats in the Borough this year and, as can be seen, his presence on the ballot paper seems to have been entirely negligible.
Langdon Hills – Con HOLD
- HILLIER, Stephen (Conservative) 942 (39%) ELECTED*
- GIBBS, Philip (UKIP) 940 (39%)
- HARRISON, Alex (Labour) 344 (14%)
- GRANT, Liz (Liberal Democrat) 84 (4%)
- DRUMMOND, John (Green) 83 (3%)
This was easily the most nail-biting result of the whole night, taking us way past 2am as we awaited the result of the latest recount. After so many I lost count (some said there had been four, some said as many as six – doubtless it’ll be one of those results that goes down in Basildon folklore), Steve Hillier eventually emerged as the victor by just two votes! The runner-up, Dr Gibbs, certainly put in a brave showing after an occasionally bitter campaign (in which, I did feel personally, Steve’s position and voting record on Dunton Garden Suburb and the Local Plan were somewhat willfully misrepresented). Needless to say, this is a considerable drop in support since Steve was last re-elected in 2012 with a majority of 228 and a 43% share of the vote, so the message has been heard loud and clear and the Tories recognise that we have a degree of ‘making up’ to do with the residents of Langdon Hills. Honourable hat-tip to the Green candidate, Mr Drummond, for having easily the best facial hair of the entire campaign.
Lee Chapel North – Lab GAIN from UKIP
- GORDON, Andrew (Labour) 1,003 (45%) ELECTED*
- JAMES, John (UKIP) 814 (37%)
- YATES, Stephen (Conservative) 363 (16%)
- ZWENGUNDE, Clarence (Independent) 26 (1%)
This result represented UKIP’s only nominal loss of the evening, as Mr James failed to retain the seat vacated last year by the resignation of former UKIP councillor Trevor Malsbury. The result sees the return to the Council of young Andrew Gordon, previously Labour Councillor for Nethermayne (2011-15). Mr Gordon now has a majority of 189, which is still not quite back to the levels his aunt, former Labour leader Lynda Gordon, achieved when she was re-elected to the seat for the last time in 2012 (when she had a majority of 689 and 54% of the vote) but it is an improvement on the score his ward colleague Alan Bennett achieved last year (up 8 points) and reinstates Lee Chapel North’s former position as the safest Labour seat on the Council (following its dramatic loss to UKIP in 2014). Our candidate, Steve Yates, put in a respectable showing, though down 6 points from when my wife stood here last year, showing that (as with Fryerns) a political breakthrough here continues to elude the Tories.
Nethermayne – UKIP GAIN from Lib Dem
- FELLOWES, Derrick (UKIP) 733 (27%) ELECTED*
- HERBING, Graham (Labour) 567 (21%)
- WILLIAMS, Ben (Liberal Democrat) 495 (18%)
- ALLEN, Chris (Conservative) 428 (16%)
- KETTLE, Pauline (Independent) 412 (15%)
- HALL, Dean (Green) 54 (2%)
In another rather disappointing result, the victory of UKIP’s Derrick Fellowes here brought to an end both the long-standing family association between the Williamses and Nethermayne Ward and also means there are now no Liberal Democrats remaining on Basildon Council. Mr Fellowes romped home with a majority of 166 over Labour runner-up Mr Herbing. Ben Williams’ name recognition was enough to secure him third place and push our candidate, Chris Allen, into fourth. This is a bitter pill, considering we came within 26 votes of winning the seat last year and Chris worked the ward like a Trojan. We are down a massive 13 points since then. This may be due to a number of factors. Last year, it was a General Election year, so turnout was far higher. The Lib Dem candidate was not a Williams and came fourth. Also, on that occasion, the Independent candidate, Mrs Kettle, only secured 176 votes (3% of the popular vote). This year she is up a massive 12 points! This is an unusually impressive result for an Independent candidate and is probably reflective of the fact that Mrs Kettle is in fact the placeman of Independence from EU councillor and former UKIP leader Kerry Smith, who fields a candidate here essentially to wind up his erstwhile colleagues in the UKIP Group. Labour’s fortunes in this ward have not revived. Indeed, they are down 6 points since Andrew Gordon lost the seat last year. So it would seem that Williams the Younger and Mrs Kettle between them took a significant number of votes from us. All told, the fact that this seat has now been won by UKIP for the last three years running means I think we can now safely call this the first official ‘UKIP stronghold’ in Basildon Borough. It may be too early to call it a ‘safe seat’, as such, but I do find it depressing that this was once thought to be a notionally winnable three-way marginal between us, the Lib Dems and Labour but it would appear that the ‘Kippers have well and truly dug their claws in here.
Pitsea North-West – Lab HOLD
- CALLAGHAN, Gavin (Labour) 955 (44%) ELECTED*
- REGAN, Michelle (UKIP) 720 (33%)
- BLAKE, Ann (Conservative) 480 (22%)
Somewhat to my surprise (and mild disappointment), the Labour Leader Gavin Callaghan held on to this seat with a very respectable majority of 235. Whether Little Callaghan was deliberately ratcheting down expectations, I don’t know, but certainly everyone I spoke to over the last month or so told me that Callaghan has pretty much conceded that he had lost his seat. But instead he has romped home and apparently reversed the deleterious decline in the Labour vote in the North-West Ward, which saw them lose the seat the last two years in a row to UKIP. The campaign was marked by particularly bitter exchanges between Cllr Callaghan and his ‘Kipper opponent Miss Regan, whom the former accused of having ‘far-Right links’. The result represents a complete reversal of fortunes for Labour in this ward, with an 11-point increase in their share of the vote from last time. Miss Regan, meanwhile, oversaw a 2-point drop in UKIP’s share of the vote. Our vote was also down, as Mr Callaghan seems to have benefitted from taking votes from us and the non-existent Lib Dems.
Pitsea South-East – UKIP GAIN from Lab
- CARRION, Jose (UKIP) 811 (36%) ELECTED*
- ADENIRAN, Kayode (Labour) 791 (35%)
- DWYER, Ian (Conservative) 668 (29%)
In another bruising defeat in this seat – which Labour were nominally defending following the decision of Aidan McGurran not to seek re-election but which we had high hopes of winning ourselves, following Amanda Arnold’s victory last year – the seat was won by UKIP’s Jose Carrion by just 20 votes over Labour. Our candidate, Ian Dwyer, came a very disappointing third with a 6-point drop on what Amanda achieved last year. The result represented a mild improvement on Labour’s last showing, with a 5-point lift in their share of the vote but not enough to secure retention of the seat.
St Martin’s – Lab HOLD
- BURTON-SAMPSON, David (Labour) 688 (47%) ELECTED*
- ALLPORT, Leslie (UKIP) 450 (30%)
- HENRY, Jeff (Conservative) 341 (23%)
This was a nominal Labour hold, as although the incumbent councillor, Phil Rackley, was a Green, he had actually been elected in 2012 for Labour and only defected later to the Greens, having quit Labour after being ousted as Deputy Leader. David Burton-Sampson has retained the seat for Labour with a majority of 238, making it absolutely clear that this New Town seat remains effectively safe as houses for Labour. Although not in any sense an unexpected result, it was still a melancholy one for us, as our candidate Jeff Henry (#JeffWeCan) really captured the hearts of all of us with his plucky and determined campaign. Jeff was not just a paper candidate, standing in an unwinnable Opposition seat as a favour to the Party or as ‘sufferance’ or ‘time-served’ in hope of gaining selection in a more favourable ward. Jeff purposefully and deliberately sought out the candidacy for St Martin’s because he was adamant that the Tories should be actively fighting for the hearts and minds of the New Town. His campaign in St Martin’s energised local activists and we poured into the ward to the battle cry of “Jeff We Can!” Jeff is one of the heartiest campaigners I have ever come across and I really hope he will continue to work for this ward and articulate the Conservative vision for the New Town. Although his share of the vote was slightly down on last year during the General Election, it is considerably up on what was achieved in 2012, the last time before the GE that this two-member seat was fought. Jeff, We Still Can!
Vange – Lab HOLD
- BLOCK, Kayte (Labour) 616 (41%) ELECTED*
- LATCHFORD, Terry (UKIP) 557 (37%)
- RAINFORD, Tamara (Conservative) 321 (21%)
Kayte Block successfully held this seat for Labour following the retirement of former leader Byron Taylor, albeit on a significantly reduced majority of just 59 votes (although her share of the vote was up on what Melissa McGeorge achieved last year, by 5 points). No great surprises here.
Wickford North – Con HOLD
- MORRIS, Carole (Conservative)* 1,186 (41%)
- BROCKMAN, Eunice (Wickford Independent) 1,112 (39%)
- McGURRAN, Dolores (Labour) 375 (13%)
- RADLEY, David (Liberal Democrat) 210 (7%)
This seat nearly gave us another scare but ultimately Carole Morris narrowly retained her seat, albeit by just 74 votes. Mrs Brockman did rather well thanks to the clear run she was given by the somewhat suspicious disqualification of the would-be UKIP candidate’s nomination paper owing to the mysterious disappearance of the man needed to sign off on her permission to use the UKIP logo. I gather that person, incidentally, was Essex County Councillor for Wickford Crouch, Nigel Le Gresley. Cllr Le Gresley was also formerly a borough councillor for Wickford Castledon and a close associate of Cllrs Holliman, Harrison and Ball but lost his seat before they broke away from the Basildon UKIP Group and formed the Wickford Independents. Cllr Le Gresley remains a UKIP councillor on ECC but where his true loyalties lie in Wickford, one can only speculate. In any case, he was apparently uncontactable when UKIP’s Anne-Marie Waters tried to get in touch with him to get her nomination paper signed off. I am sure it was an unfortunate inconvenience. Of course, it is entirely possible that the fact Miss Waters was quietly removed from UKIP’s list for the London Assembly due to her unsavoury links to some pretty nasty anti-Muslim groups may also have been a factor.
So, all in all, it was not a disastrous night for the Tories when one considers that the backdrop is a ‘mid-term’ Tory Government, and if one factors in the proximity of the EU Referendum as well. It could have been much worse. Many parties suffer losses in local elections when they are in government but, both here in Basildon Borough and around the country nationally, we have actually stood firm and held our ground. We have also had a blinding result in Scotland! Nonetheless, it was deeply disappointing not to gain in those target seats here in Basildon, where our candidates and activists worked so hard, especially those seats that we won during the General Election year but failed to win this year. It certainly was not for wont of trying and I salute the campaigns fought across the Borough by Tory candidates seeking election to Basildon Council.
Labour will have been hugely relieved by their performance, despite dire predictions. They have, however, once again been relegated to the position of the third party of Basildon politics.
This election marks, definitively, the status of the Liberal Democrats as an entirely negligible force in Basildon. The three Green candidates also failed to make any impact.
But there is no getting away from the fact that the night’s big winners were UKIP, netting three seats and retaking the mantle as the official Opposition on Basildon Council. It is just worth pointing out, however, that even with their three gains, they are still down by two on what they had in 2014.
The next step now will be for the Conservative Group to hold their AGM and elect a Leader and Deputy Leader and select our candidate for Mayor. With the Council remaining in No Overall Control, it will then be at the upcoming Basildon Council Annual Meeting that we will see who will actually get to form an administration. I shall, of course, keep you posted, dear readers.