Today is VE Day. But it should also have been ‘the morning after the night before’. Yesterday should have been Polling Day for Basildon Borough Council, which would normally have meant my annual ‘Runners and Riders’ blog, plus the months of pounding the pavements, designing, writing, printing and delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, speaking to electors, the late night pizza and policy discussions, ‘war gamesing’ results, analysing canvass data, and all the associated fun, stress, camaraderie and frenzied action of an election campaign trail. This morning, I would normally have been writing my ‘Results’ blog , with fourteen of the Council’s forty-two seats up for grabs (including that of the current Labour Leader of the Council). Six we were defending, six were being defended by Labour, and two Independents were seeking re-election. Despite being the largest single party on the Council, we have been in opposition for the past year, thanks to a coalition between Labour and Independents. We only needed two more seats to gain a working majority and I was hopeful that this morning I would be marking a glorious Conservative victory and Basildon Council returned to Conservative control.
Alas, it was not to be.
The elections have been postponed untill next May because of the coronavirus outbreak. Next year will now see the fourteen Basildon Council seats contested alongside our nine local Essex County Council seats, some parish councils, and our Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is also seeking re-election. So, it is certainly going to be an ‘interesting’ year and a busy one, for those of us in who are in the business of fighting elections!
Although frustrating, this was undoubtedly the right thing to do. The country is in the grip of the biggest public health crisis of a generation, requiring completely unprecedented emergency measures and restrictions on our way of live not seen probably since the dark days of curfews and rationing and air raid drills 75 years ago during the Second World War. So it is perhaps fitting that today, the day after the Polling Day that wasn’t, is VE Day – a national day of remembrance and thanksgiving, that reminds us, however bleak and difficult things become, this country always emerges united and strong at the end.
Your Conservative councillors, and our candidates, will still be working hard for you, maintaining local democracy and supporting efforts to tackle the virus outbreak. I cannot pretend that I was happy about the postponement of the elections. I appreciated, of course, that the priority has to be the maintenance of the public health and protecting our NHS. Nonetheless, postponing local elections for a year felt like a gut-wrenching, albeit necessary, suspension of democracy.
I am, obviously, bitterly disappointed that Basildon Council will continue to be led by Labour and their motley assortment of hangers-on but I recognise that now cannot be the time for partisan politics and, whether I like it or not, they are in power and, for what it’s worth, they largely seem to be doing an OK job and I know that, as they always do, our hardworking council officers are pulling out all the stops to maintain the vital services our residents rely upon. I will continue to play my part, as a representative of Billericay East Ward, to ensure that I am holding the Administration to account. The regulations authorising the Council to hold flexible meetings, remotely, are now in place and, increasingly, the normal democratic functions of the Council will resume. Roll on May 2021.