Time To Regain Democracy

BACK IN JULY, last year, you asked me to provide coverage of our MP and local politics, and I fulfilled that request.

Now is your chance to use that information, which I uncovered, to restore Democracy to this island and its borough by rejecting Bob Spink and his two ‘independent’ parties at tomorrow’s polls.

Few residents, it seems, were surprised to find that their parliamentary MP, Bob Spink, was actively engaged with the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) in a concerted bid to destroy Democracy in the borough; but their suspicions lacked positive proof.

Similarly, they were concerned that their MP was lining his own pockets with taxpayers’ money; but lacked the proof that this was the case.

All that proof is now documented throughout this blog as a matter of public record.

Bob Spink is both dishonest and a serial liar. Moreover, the former quality is shared by members of the CIIP.

Residents have been seriously misrepresented and manipulated by Spink and his close associates to create an artificial air of incompetence and corruption surrounding the borough’s Conservative majority – in order to have themselves installed in lucrative civil posts by fuelling public protests.

The political strategy is not new. It is the same as adopted by the far-right in Spain in 1936, and in the successful rise to power of Hitler four years earlier. But the new dimension added by Spink and Blackwell, drawn from the success of Labour’s militant tendency to infiltrate that party, is to conduct a clandestine campaign in which their objectives are not publicly declared. Moreover, both individuals have taken to adopting online aliases in public forums to mislead the public over their individual support.

Their dishonesty knows no bounds.

Such people and political organisations are unworthy of your support and represent a direct threat to Democracy; both on the island and in its borough. And there are those otherwise honest individuals, like Colin Letchford, Tom Jea, and Liz Swann, who are unable to face up to the fact that they are being personally manipulated for political ends.

It is time to face the facts: there is serious corruption in Castle Point and island politics – but it does not lie in the Conservative majority or that party.

If there is any justice, Castle Point residents will reject Spink in the polls tomorrow, along with his two local parties; but the point to consider, in the local elections, is whether an apologist or sympathy vote for the harassed Conservative party is a suitable reason upon which to base your selection.

During the past year, the Canvey Beat has been pursuing the Spink story; his relationship with the local press; and allegations against the ruling Tory group. It has left no time to cover the local Labour party, which has hardly featured in its articles at all.

Residents would be forgiven for thinking that the only two parties fighting local elections on this island are the Conservatives and the CIIP.

At the Castle Point level, of course, only one Labour councillor holds a seat – and that has put Brian Wilson (of St Mary’s Ward) in an unenviable situation. The presence of the CIIP and its argumentative, blocking tactics, have prevented the calm, inquiring voice of democratic socialism to be heard in the chamber.

For Democracy to work, it is important that all views be appropriately represented. And, in the circumstances now facing this country, and this borough, residents need to ensure that they do not overlook the opportunity of electing the best minds that the borough offers to guide them through the desperate times ahead.

In these local elections, please reject Spink and his parties; but, before you vote, take a close look at your local Labour candidate.

A 25% cut is planned (by all parties) to local council budgets after the general election – and that will mean very hard decisions being taken by council. We are not talking tidal pools here – or corruptly managed local transport ‘charities.’ We are talking severe cuts to residential housing budgets; youth facilities; school transport; meals on wheels – the vast gamut of local services that we have all become used to and upon which many rely.

This is not about more protests – although that is the route down which Spink and his cohorts will take you. This is about bringing the best minds to bear upon an impossible situation that we will all have to endure.

The Conservatives have proved that theirs is a safe hand on the tiller; that they are prepared to suffer criticism when unpalatable decisions must be taken; but what council lacks is a moderating voice that is able to point-out alternatives, whilst accepting the majority’s decision.

Neither the CIIP, nor the Independent Save Our Green Belt Party, can offer voters an intelligent opposition that is prepared to work with others to ensure suitable compromises can be made. But Labour are fielding some excellent candidates in this local election whom would.

So before you place a cross against the local Conservative candidate, this year, take a close look at your Labour candidate and ask yourself: who is the most experienced? And who would represent my family’s interests best in the wake of extensive cuts?

Please use your votes wisely this year…

… (07/05/2010) – Bye, Bye, Bob – Hello, Rebecca

… (07/05/2010) – Canvey Island Votes For Independence

3 Responses

  1. Well written Ted, the only thing I would add is to get rid of the cabinet system so all Councillors can be heard and probably more importantly their votes will be recorded for all to see how they did vote.

    • I’m not convinced that the cabinet structure is a problem, Jim. After all, it works perfectly well in Government – and every administration is run more effectively by some kind of steering authority. But I do think the Borough Council has a problem in the way it has been officer-led.

      And I also think it has a problem when it allows an unelected officer the means to have an elected councillor suspended – for whatever reason. Officers are there to offer advice – and nothing more.

      To undemocratically deny residents the right to have their elected councillor represent them is an assault upon British Democracy itself. Criminal misdoings aside, it should only be up to voters to have their representative recalled – or for the individual’s party to discipline them.

      The problem is, of course, that residents have never been able to see the results of a representative cabinet-run borough. And the fact that we have an officer-led council is due to circumstances – not policies.

      Under normal circumstances, there would be a direct communication line between the cabinet and its MP. But Spink has always denied that particular dimension. For instance, in the matter of Canvey’s Concord pool, Spink made no attempt to raise the solution offered by Rebecca Harris (and the cabinet had no confidence in him being able to provide an alternative solution anyway). So the result was that the cabinet relied upon officer advice based purely upon legal issues.

      Actually, the tidal pool matter is a perfect example of how Democracy has been seriously damaged in this borough: by a prejudiced MP and an ineffective opposition…

      Under normal circumstances, those Concord pool reports would have been acted upon pretty quickly. In my experience, probably by ‘leaking’ their contents to the press, so that public reaction could be assessed. Within a few days, councillors would have known if Canvey residents thought it was worth preserving and whether the council should stomp-up the required funds to have it repaired. But how could the ruling group do that with such implacable opposition intent on misrepresentation and fuelling public protest given the slightest opportunity?

      Their alternative would have been to give Bob Spink a ring and ask his advice. Could he discover what other councils, if any, had been presented with similar problems – and what did they do about it? But that avenue was closed to them also.

      Their last resort, as usual given the circumstances, was to call upon officer advice, asking them to investigate the alternatives. But officers are not political animals, and the person chosen to compile the options report was the Director for Improving the Borough, Devinia Board, who, although doing a superb job, did not consider consulting local people and had no access to the bigger picture that Spink (and latterly, Rebecca) had. She was purely concerned with fulfilling her role which puts public safety first.

      Devinia’s report is excellent: it thoroughly investigates all the alternatives and the impact they would have upon the council’s budget and reserves. However, it did not get outside the box of legal and local financial issues. But then that is not her brief. That is the role that Spink should fulfil; but Spink is paranoid about any Tory and flatly refuses to assist on any matter at all.

      Safeguards exist in the Council’s structure in the form of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that has wide ranging powers to ‘call-in’ cabinet decisions; call witnesses; investigate and provide recommendations to cabinet – or pass the matter to full council. And the chairman of that committee, in this case Dave Blackwell, is the person to decide when an investigation has been completed; when to call a vote – and, in particular, how to construct the motion. There is no imposed restrictions on the amount of time that the committee is permitted to take; but, in the case of Canvey’s tidal pool, the matter was over in the time of a standard meeting – and the vote supported the Cabinet’s original decision for closure.

      There was no attempt to analyse the issue; no attempt to call upon Canvey Coastguard; no attempt to put together another report along the lines of Colin Letchford’s – and no attempt to call upon representatives of the business community whom might be affected. In short, there was no attempt to provide Cabinet with an alternative solution at all.

      It was a complete farce – purely designed to create a political issue for the forthcoming election.

      So, as far as the cabinet goes: let’s see what happens when the system is properly connected to the Borough’s parliamentary representative, and has a decent opposition whom can be trusted to represent the minority’s views.

      Depending upon tomorrow’s results: I have a feeling that there will be no need to dismember it…

      • It is a good example Ted because it also highlights how incompetent Spink was as an MP.

        He was perfectly aware of the issues surrounding the Concord Pool but never once did he raise the question of Health and Safety legislation being inappropriately applied to a facility that is inherently ‘risky’ because it forms part of the natural seaside environment.

        There is never a question or EDM when you need one!

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