BASILDON LOCAL ELECTIONS 2019
Well, here we are once again. The wheel has turned and I am sitting down to write my annual ‘Runners & Riders’ blog for our seemingly ceaseless cycle of elections. Normally the main problem is ‘voter fatigue’ and apathy but this year’s local elections will be like none we have witnessed before. For now we have a new more pernicious phenomena – ‘Brexit distress’. Never in my lifetime have voters been more dispossessed and disillusioned with politics, the political process and the political class as a whole. This is a major kick in the teeth for those of us who are active locally and feel we have a good story to tell. Sadly, local politicians are often hostages to fortune; helplessly buffeted by the ever-changing winds of public opinion. We are at the mercy of how voters feel about the Government of the day. I have seen many a good, hard-working local councillor lose their seat through no fault of their own but because the electorate chose their fight for re-election as an opportunity to send a message to Westminster. But, with Brexit, we are seeing nothing short of a maelstrom of public discontent over the shambolic failure of the entire Westminster establishment and I have no doubt it will see an end to many a good councillor’s career.
Irrespective of the shenanigans in Parliament, we have fourteen seats in play this year on Basildon Borough Council (NB: there are no elections in Crouch or Langdon Hills) and the fate of each one will help determine who controls the Council. For the past year, the Conservatives have been in control with a slim majority of four. Previously, the Council was in No Overall Control for four years and spent a year under a coalition of Labour, UKIP and Independents, during which they hiked taxes to squander on their boondoggles and pet projects whilst simultaneously cutting funding to all projects for Billericay. Over the past year, the Conservative Administration has restored funding to Billericay whilst also making major investments in EVERY part of Basildon Borough. We are hoping to retain control of the Council and continue the good work this Administration has done over the last municipal year.
The first thing to note: One again, Basildon Conservatives are the ONLY political party in Basildon Borough fielding a full slate of candidates in EVERY SEAT. The Labour Party, for some reason, are not contesting Wickford Park. We have seen a return of the Liberal Democrats, who had all but disappeared for the last couple of years. Last year, they fielded no candidates at all. This year they are contesting eight of the fourteen seats. The Wickford Independents are standing in the three Wickford seats. We also have a Nethermayne Independent seeking re-election, appropriately, in Nethermayne and a Kerry Smith-backed Independent standing there too. There are two other Independent candidates and one lonely Green.
There are 42 seats on Basildon Council in total, of which there are currently 24 Conservatives, 14 Labour, 2 Independents (Kerry Smith and his mother), 2 Nethermayne Independents and 1 remaining UKIP. The magic number here is 22 – this is the number of seats a party needs to command a majority on the Council. So, for the Tories, if we lose three seats, we will lose administration. And, because we elect Basildon Council by thirds and 2015 was a successful General Election year for us, it is just a quirk of the system that this year we will be defending more than usual (meaning that we necessarily have more to lose than the other parties). This year we are defending nine of those fourteen seats. Here are the runners and riders locally:
- DADDS, David (Conservative)*
- MANTERFIELD, Karen (Liberal Democrat)
- PALMER, Gillian (Labour)
- READ, Sarah (Green
David Dadds (pictured) is seeking re-election in Billericay East. He is currently the Mayor of Basildon and has represented the ward since 2002. Miss Materfield would appear to be a first-time candidate for the Liberals, so I know nothing about her. Likewise Miss Palmer for Labour and Miss Read, the lone Green candidate in the Borough. David was last re-elected to Basildon Council in 2015 with 61% of the vote and a majority of 3,009 votes.
- HILTON, Tracey (Labour)
- LAWRENCE, Daniel (Conservative)*
- SAINSBURY, Edward (Liberal Democrat)
Daniel Lawrence (pictured) is seeking re-election in Billericay West. Danny has represented the ward since 2012 and is currently Deputy Mayor. Miss Hilton is another first-time candidate for Labour, likewise Mr Sainsbury for the Liberals. I could find no information on Miss Hilton but a cursory Google suggests Mr Sainsbury may be a politics lecturer, who formally stood for the party at council elections in Southwark. He is serving as the agent to all the Lib Dem candidates in the election, so is presumably the person attempting to revive the local infrastructure of the Basildon Lib Dems, which had rather atrophied since the departure of the Williams family a couple of years ago (the Williamses previously held all three Nethermayne seats in Basildon, almost like a ‘pocket borough’ or personal family fiefdom). Danny is defending a majority of 3,353 (64% share of the vote in 2015), which was the largest majority of the night.
- BLAKE, Kevin (Conservative)*
- BUXTON, Andrew (Labour)
Kevin Blake (pictured) is seeking re-election in Burstead, having represented the seat since 2002. He is currently Deputy Leader of the Council and serves as Chairman of the Leisure, Culture & Environment Committee. This is a particularly odd contest, as the Labour candidate, Andrew Buxton, is currently a sitting councillor in the safe Labour ward of St Martin’s. It had been announced that Councillor Buxton was standing down from the Council, so to see him pop up in Burstead makes it so brazenly obvious that he is a ‘paper candidate’, with no realistic expectation of winning, that it rather suggests to me that Basildon Labour have struggled to find candidates this year. There is no Liberal candidate. Kevin is defending a majority of 2,742 (62% of the vote in 2015).
- DAVIES, Allan (Labour)*
- HOWARD, Vivien (Liberal Democrat)
- TAYLOR, Perry (Conservative)
Labour’s Allan Davies is defending this traditionally staunch Labour seat in Basildon New Town. He currently serves on the Audit and Risk Committee, Policy Oversight and Strategy Committee and the Regeneration Committee. He is very much ‘Old Labour’ and, rumour has it, challenged Gavin Callaghan for the leadership of the Labour Group and came close to beating him. Partly for that I reason, I have a lot of time for him. I do wish he would replace Callaghan because it is genuinely not healthy for political parties to have such a toxic relationship. We can disagree fundamentally but should still be able to work together where we agree. Allan is a guy you feel would play a straight bat with you. Callaghan is not. Nonetheless, although I like him, I will be hoping that our candidate, Perry Taylor (pictured), unseats him. Perry is a keen guy with a good head on his shoulders. He would make a very effective councillor. Mrs Howard is standing for the Liberals and is one of the few names that rings a
bell. I think she stood for them before, back in the good old days, before Sir Nick Clegg made them hopelessly unelectable. Councillor Davies is defending a majority of just 83 (34%) but that was just a year after they lost the seat to UKIP and, since then, Labour have been winning the seat by rather more comfortable margins. They ousted UKIP’s David Sheppard last year and now hold all three seats in the ward.
- ALLEN, Christopher (Conservative)
- LOW, Tony (Independent)
- SCAROLA, John (Labour)
Laindon Park will be one of the key battlegrounds of this election and a bittersweet campaign for us, as the sitting Conservative councillor, the popular Andy Barnes, should have been seeking re-election but, having received a promotion at work (which is obviously great news for him personally), he has had to retire from Basildon Council. Since his election in 2015, Andy has become a valued and senior member of the Conservative Group, most recently serving on the frontbench as Chairman of the Communities Committee (as well as a great personal friend to me). I am genuinely gutted that he is retiring but hope that once he has settled into his new role, he may be able to seek to return to the Council. We are extremely fortunate, however, to have a candidate of the caliber of Christopher Allen seeking to hold the seat for the Conservatives. Chris has previously stood for us in Fryerns and, before that, Nethermayne, and has proven himself to be a dogged and hardworking campaigner. He is a chartered financial adviser by day but is also active in the community as a volunteer and charitable fundraiser. He would make a superb councillor.
He faces a strong challenge from Labour’s John Scarola, who was previously a serving councillor for Laindon Park from 2012 until he retired in 2016, allegedly because he had not enjoyed being a councillor and could not stand the Labour leader, Gavin Callaghan. As recently as a few months ago, a colleague bumped into him on the bus and he was adamant that he would never stand for election again, yet here he is. To what should we attribute this change of heart? My little birds tell me that Councillor Callaghan – a died in the wool Blairite – has been struggling to contain the factionalism that has taken hold of the Basildon Labour CLP and effectively lost control of the West Basildon side of the constituency. Some say his writ does not run much beyond Pitsea these days, as the Corbynite Momentum crowd rule the roost, with the charismatic Cllr David Burton-Sampson acting as a bridge between the two. Who knows? But it is odd to see Mr Scarola return.
Regarding Mr Low. I shall be perfectly blunt with you, dear reader. Until very recently, Mr Low was a member of the Conservative Party. He is not – to my knowledge – a ‘Brexit rebel’ or anything like that. He simply announced that he was about to retire from his job and sought the Conservative nomination for Laindon Park, did not get it (at least in part due to the now vindicated fear we had that his commitment to the Party was weak and he would pose a significant ‘flight risk’ were he to join the Conservative Group), and so has decided to stand as a Independent (having sought to stand as a Kerry Smith-backed Independent and been rebuffed). I am sorry that he felt the need to do this. I think he is a bit naïve as to how things work. I fear he is quite parochial and, if elected, would end up being one of these councillors who thinks he only represents the street he lives on and its immediate environs. I wish him well but I hope he does not win. I genuinely think he would be a pretty ineffective representative for Laindon Park.
Chris Allen will be seeking to defend Andy Barnes’ 203-vote majority. The seat went UKIP again in 2016 but elected Tory Jeff Henry in 2018 with a majority of 156 and 44% of the vote. At the Essex County Council elections in 2017, the two-member Laindon Park & Fryerns Division returned one Labour county councillor and one Tory (Cllrs Allan Davies and Jeff Henry respectively) but Labour have not won the borough seat in six years. There is all to play for here. This will be a nail-biter on the night.
LEE CHAPEL NORTH
- ADENIRAN, Kayode (Labour)*
- ADESHILE, Yetunde (Conservative)
- CHANDLER, Michael (Liberal Democrat)
Labour’s Kayode Adeniran was only elected to Basildon Council a mere nine months ago, in the bye-election that took place in June 2018 to replace Alan Bennett, who retired due to ill health. Mr Bennett’s term of office would naturally have been up for renewal this year, so Councillor Adeniran must seek re-election. Since his election, he has served on the Performance Scrutiny Committee and on the Economic Development and Growth Committee, which is the committee I chair. He won the seat comfortably with a majority of 345 (57% of the vote). Our candidate, the wonderful Yetunde Adeshile (pictured), is something of a glutton for punishment.
On that same day back in June, Yetunde was fighting her own by-election in Pitsea South-East, losing by just eight votes. Then, just last month, she stood for us in the Vange bye-election – a relatively safe Labour seat – and came within 26 votes of taking it off them. Her participation in the bye-election, so close to selections, meant that she was unable to seek a seat for May and Yetunde had intended to take a well-deserved breather but the sudden decision by Andy Barnes not to seek re-election in Laindon Park meant we had a bit of a rejig and she applied for and was happily selected in Lee Chapel North. She is a long-time resident of Basildon, a mother, local author and community activist, who has delivered projects supporting underprivileged young people, families and women from all backgrounds. There is no doubt in my mind that she has the qualities needed to be a passionate, hard-working advocate for Lee Chapel North. Mr Chandler’s name does ring a bell but I am afraid I do not know anything about him.
- GODDARD, David (Labour)
- HODGE, Stephen (Independent)*
- KETTLE, Pauline (Independent)
- NICE, Stephen (Liberal Democrat)
- SANDHU, Sandeep (Conservative)
Despite reports to the contrary, Cllr Stephen Hodge IS seeking re-election as a so-called ‘Nethermayne Independent’ in May. He is currently the nominal ‘deputy leader’ of the Nethermayne Independents (a group of just two) and serves on the Leisure, Culture and Environment Committee and the Performance Scrutiny Committee. It seems Councillor Hodge’s ‘leader’, Cllr Derrick Fellowes, got a bit confused at the last Full Council (at which Councillor Hodge was absent) and accidentally announced that Councillor Hodge was retiring. Stephen is the husband of former Basildon UKIP leader Linda Allport-Hodge and was himself originally elected in Nethermayne in 2015 as a ‘Kipper. At the time, Kerry Smith had won the seat for UKIP the year before and, although Councillor Smith was soon kicked out of UKIP, Derrick Fellowes won the seat for them in 2016 and it did begin to look like the former Lib Dem stronghold had actually become a UKIP stronghold! Against the odds, Councillor Smith has turned the area into his personal fortress. He holds both the Nethermayne borough seat and the Westley Heights county division, which includes Langdon Hills. He held his county seat in 2017 with an absolutely stonking majority and then held Nethermayne last year by an equally unassailable amount (77% of the vote). But, perhaps more significantly, Councillor Smith has gone into the franchising business. His mother, Imelda Clancy, who had also been elected as a ‘Kipper in Pitsea North-West in 2014, did the chicken run to Langdon Hills last year and, riding on her son’s coattails, was elected there with 53% of the vote. The question now arises, was that because she is his mother or can he simply endorse a candidate and get them elected? Miss Kettle stood as an Independent in Nethermayne back in 2016. Then, as now, she stood with Councillor Smith’s endorsement and he acted as her election agent. On that occasion, she received just 412 votes (a 15% share of the vote), coming fifth out of six candidates – more than 300 votes behind Councillor Fellowes. We came a very close second in 2015 but that was a General Election year and, since then, the Conservative candidate has come a distant third or fourth behind Labour. Our candidate, Sandeep Sandhu (pictured), is a local man who wants to represent the ward where he lives (unlike Smith who, ironically, lives in neither the ward nor the county division he represents). Deep stood there for us last year and I wish him the best of luck.
I am afraid I do not really know anything about the Labour candidate, Mr Goddard. Mr Nice, however, is a blast from the past, who previously stood for the Liberals many times, although I do not believe he has ever stood before in Nethermayne, their former nerve centre. Doubtless he will be hoping to revive the glory days when all three seats were held by ‘Uncle Geoff’ Williams and his wife, Linda, and their son, Ben. Steve’s wife, Clare, is standing in Pitsea. Councillor Hodge is nominally defending a majority of just 26 (30% of the vote) but that was as UKIP. He has sat as a Nethermayne Independent (“Nindy”) since last year, when UKIP lost more than half their number at the 2018 local elections. He and Councillor Fellowes both left the UKIP Group within a matter of days after the elections.
- CANHAM, Gary (Conservative)*
- HOWARD, Martin (Liberal Democrat)
- REID, Patricia (Labour)
Incumbent councillor, Gary Canham (pictured), is defending this seat as a Conservative, having recently ‘crossed the floor’ to us from UKIP last month. Gary was elected as a ‘Kipper back in 2015 but during the four years he has served on Basildon Council, did earn a reputation for being among the ‘saner’ more reasonable of the rather eclectic assortment of oddballs that made up the Basildon UKIP Group. After their number was halved at last year’s local elections, Gary became the nominal Group Leader but, of the five who retained their seats, one resigned almost immediately and triggered a bye-election and another two split off and have sat out the last year as Independents.
Only Gary and Cllr Hazel Green (UKIP, Laindon Park) have stayed true to their electoral mandate. It is hard to get anything done on Council without numbers to back you up and we have courted Gary many times over the last year but he was adamant, on a point of principle, that he would see out his term under the party he was elected for. However, now that the time has come for him to seek re-election, he has formally announced his move to the Conservative Party and we are very glad to have him in the team. His main rival will be Labour’s Pat Reid, who is the wife of former long-time Labour agent Malcolm Reid and cropped up regularly as a paper candidate in Billericay. However, Mrs Reid was spectacularly elected as a county councillor for the Pitsea Division last year. Mr Howard is the husband of Vivien and, like his wife, is a perennial past Lib Dem candidate being brought back into circulation. Gary will be nominally defending a majority of 120 (35%), albeit as UKIP. The Conservatives have not won the seat in nine years, so here is hoping that four years of incumbency can get Gary over the line.
- HARRISON, Alexander (Labour)
- NICE, Clare (Liberal Democrat)
- RIMMER, Craig (Conservative)*
Tory incumbent Craig Rimmer (pictured) was elected to Basildon Council last year at the Pitsea South-East bye-election that coincided with the normal local election. This was caused by the sad resignation of Amanda Arnold, who held the seat for the Conservatives in 2015 with a majority of 204, following the retirement of former Mayor of Basildon, Mo Larkin.
Like Laindon Park, Pitsea South-East is a ‘swing-ward’ that can go either way. It was won by UKIP in 2016 but Labour got one of the two Pitsea Division seats in 2017 and the Tories got the other. So, again, there is everything to play for in this seat. Craig will be defending a notional majority of 124. It is worth noting that there was actually another bye-election here just over a month later, which was won by Labour by just eight votes! Very much everything to play for. Mr Harrison is contesting the seat for Labour. He is a young guy and has stood for them several times over the last couple of years and seems to be somebody they are keen to find a perch for. Mrs Nice, as mentioned above, is the wife of the Lib Dem candidate in Nethermayne, Steve Nice.
- HILLIER, Sandra (Conservative)
- JENKINS, Philip (Liberal Democrat)
- YAQUB, Maryam (Labour)
Labour’s Maryam Yaqub is defending this traditionally safe Labour ward, which is being vacated by incumbent Labour councillor, Andrew Buxton, who won the seat in 2015 and currently sits on Licensing and the Performance Scrutiny Committee. Oddly, Councillor Buxton, having announced his retirement, has now pitched up as a paper candidate in Burstead. I am afraid I do not know much about Miss Yaqub other than she is quite young and a first-time candidate. Our candidate, on the other hand, is Party stalwart Sandra Hillier (pictured), who previously represented St Martin’s at county level and was a borough councillor for many years, serving as a Chairman of the Council.
Mr Jenkins is another Lib Dem blast from the past; a veteran of the Williams era, who briefly served as a councillor for Nethermayne after Ben Williams resigned. Mr Jenkins only held the seat for a year, however, as he had to fight re-election the following year and Labour won the seat off him (signalling the beginning of the end of Lib Dem dominance in Nethermayne). Miss Yaqub will be nominally defending Councillor Buxton’s 438-vote majority.
- BIDDLE, Mark (Conservative)
- BREEDON, Simon (Independent)
- McGEORGE, Melissa (Labour)*
Labour incumbent Melissa McGeorge is defending this seat and must be feeling that the 26 votes between her new ward colleague, Aidan McGurran, and the Conservative candidate at last month’s bye-election was a little too close for comfort. Councillor McGeorge has represented Vange since 2015 and currently serves on the Audit and Risk Committee. She was previously also a county councillor for Pitsea but stood down in 2017. It was widely rumoured that she would stand down from her borough seat too but has clearly chosen not to do so. It has to be said, I have always got on quite well with Mel and we actually live a few streets away from one another on the same estate. Our candidate, Mark Biddle, is a first-time borough candidate, though he has sat on a parish-level council for some years. Mr Breedon is now standing as an Independent but you may remember him from such disastrous election campaigns as his 2018 run in Nethermayne for UKIP, when he came last with just 3% of the vote and made it into the newspapers by slandering another candidate in his leaflets. Councillor McGeorge will be defending her 153-vote majority.
- BALL, Alan (Wickford Independent)
- CATLING, Louise (Labour)
- MORRIS, Don (Conservative)*
Don Morris (pictured), the one and only ‘Duke of Wickford’, is seeking re-election. Don has sat on the Council since 2002 (apart from a brief hiatus in 2014) and recently made a return to the frontbench as Chairman of the Housing Committee. His main opponent will be the Wickford Independent, Mr Ball, who previously held the seat from 2014 to 2018. Mr Ball was elected as UKIP but broke away with former Mayor, David Harrison, to form the ‘Windies’. Alan is,
to be frank, a fairly gormless fellow but as Chairman of the then Regeneration and Environment Committee, he was instrumental in cutting funding projects for Billericay (much of which he redirected to Wickford), so I dislike him pretty intensely. Mrs Catling is standing for Labour in Wickford Castledon for the second time, having stood there last year and for the Wickford Crouch county division in 2017. Don is defending a majority of 489 (48%).
- BROCKMAN, Eunice (Wickford Independent)
- MOWE, Michael (Conservative)*
- TOWLER, Peter (Labour)
Mike Mowe (pictured) is seeking re-election in Wickford North. He has represented Wickford North since 2002 and is currently Vice-Chairman of both the Licensing and Policy Scrutiny Committees. Once again, standing for the Wickford Independents, is
the former ‘Kipper, Mrs Brockman. I cannot say I know much about her other than that she is like a bulldog chewing a wasp and, whenever I see her, she appears perennially furious about something.
Mr Towler is standing for Labour and I am afraid I have never heard of him. Mike is defending a majority of 843 (48%) over Mrs Brockman from 2015.
- HARRISON, David (Wickford Independents)
- HEDLEY-BARNES, Stephanie (Conservative)
Incumbent Conservative councillor Chris Jackman, who has sat on Basildon Council for nearly 20 years, is standing down and Stephanie Hedley-Barnes is our candidate to succeed him. I am particularly pleased about this, as Steph is a good friend of mine. She is an extremely astute politician: a mum, a teacher, a no-nonsense, sharp-elbowed ‘bloody difficult woman’, who knows how to get stuff done. Steph has been a district councillor before when she lived in Worthing, so she knows how government works. She is full of new ideas and is just the fresh broom that Wickford needs. Her opponent is the 80-year-old former Mayor.
Mr Harrison is seeking to regain the seat he held between 2014 and 2018 (though he was also a Labour councillor back in the ’70s). I for one hope we will not see a return to the kind of constant political gamesmanship in which Mr Harrison likes to indulge – all the while claiming he is ‘free of party politics’. It is a straight two-horse race in Wickford Park. Last year there was no Labour candidate in Wickford North and, this year, they are shy a candidate in one Wickford ward again but this time a different ward. There is much speculation as to why this is. It is, again, the only seat in which Labour are not fielding a candidate. The speculation is that Gavin Callaghan may have done a deal with Mr Harrison, his former coalition partner, to give the old Windie a free run. Personally, I reckon it is just the second year running Labour have fluffed their paperwork in Wickford. Steph will be nominally defending Chris Jackman’s 881-vote majority (52%).
As previously mentioned, the Conservative Party are, once again, the ONLY party fielding candidates in EVERY ward, all over the Borough.
For the first time in recent years, we have no UKIP candidates anywhere in the Borough. I gather their Basildon Branch has been wound up. Last year we had no Liberal Democrats but now they are back.
We have a couple of husband and wife teams this year, both Lib Dems: Martin & Vivien Howard (Pitsea North-West and Fryerns respectively) and Steve & Clare Nice (Nethermayne and Pitsea South-East respectively). Don Morris (Con, Wickford Castledon) is also a spouse, as his wife is Cllr Carole Morris (Con, Wickford North). Likewise, Sandra Hillier (St Martin’s) is the wife of Cllr Stephen Hillier (Con, Langdon Hills), whilst Steph Hedley-Barnes (Wickford Park) is both the wife of an outgoing councillor, Cllr Andy Barnes (Con, Laindon Park), as well as the daughter of a sitting councillor, Cllr Tony Hedley (Con, Billericay West). Cllr Stephen Hodge (NI, Nethermayne) is the husband of former Langdon Hills councillor Linda Allport-Hodge.
We have at least five former councillors seeking to re-join the Council: Mr Scarola (Lab, Laindon Park), Sandra Hillier (Con, St Martin’s), Mr Jenkins (LD, St Martin’s), Mr Ball (WI, Wickford Castledon) and David Harrison (WI, Wickford Park). I guess technically also Andrew Buxton (Lab, Burstead), who is nominally still a sitting councillor for St Martin’s.
We have around ten first-time candidates.
There are also three retiring councillors this year – Cllrs Andy Barnes (Con, Laindon Park), Andrew Buxton (Lab, St Martin’s) and Chris Jackman (Con, Wickford Park). Cllrs Barnes and Buxton were both from the 2015 intake. Since the 2018 local elections, we also lost three councillors who triggered by-elections. First Jose Carrion (UKIP, Pitsea South-East) followed shortly hereafter by Alan Bennett (Lab, Lee Chapel North) and most recently Kayte Block (Lab, Vange).