Local Elections: Let The Games Begin….

Introduction

THIS should be one of the most fascinating local elections that Thurrock has ever hosted. It has been two years since the Tories held onto power and since then it has been a rollercoaster of political intrigue and controversy.

Over the next six weeks, yourthurrock is committed to bringing you the most comprehensive coverage possible.

From tuesday april 6th we will be up on the wards every night, interviewing candidates but more importantly interviewing the voters.

As they say, in 2004, relatively few people had heard of Barack Obama and youtube. By 2008, he had conducted a large part of his campaign through the social media hub.

These are very early days. Candidates haven’t been declared yet and until we see the runners and riders, it will be hard to give a proper assessment however here is a list of the seats up for grabs and a personal view of how we felt the councillors up for re-election have performed.

1. Aveley and Uplands: Wendy Herd (Cons)

The thing about the three Aveley councillors is that they have the community at heart. We see them up in the constituency all the time and are very much at one with the community.

Whether it has been planting bulbs in the forum planters, campaigning against the Green Belt or concerns regarding Basildon Hospital (Wendy is the Chair of the Health Committee) she has done everything you could ask of a councillor.

It won’t help that there will be a plethora of candidates standing on May 6th and some very able ones. We have already seen UKIP’s Tim Aker in action but the trouble may also come from former Tory Mayor Colin Churchman, who is expected to stand as an Independent.

In many ways, the splits and disaffections in the Tory Group could cost Wendy her seat.As a member of the fondly titled “Ikea 6” she may have to ponder whether she was part of the problem or part of the solution.

2. Belhus

Peter Maynard (Lab):  Not Standing

3. Chadwell St Mary

Marion Canavon (Lab):  Not Standing

4. Chafford and North Stifford:    No Election

5. Corringham and Fobbing:  No Election

6. East Tilbury:  No Election

7. Grays Riverside

Carl Morris (Lab): Not standing

8. Grays Thurrock

Peter Harris (Lab) Not standing

9. Little Thurrock Blackshots

Ben Maney (Con)

Cllr Maney has retreated more and more into his shell over the last year. His presentation of the Street Traders licence report at council was the first time he had uttered anything in months and a recent presentation at a committee was noted by outsiders for his lack of confidence.

His political philosophy seems to be based on being against stuff as opposed to having a coherent political belief system. It can’t help that in holding the post of Portfolio Holder for Public Protection he is confronted by forceful personalities that may intimidate him.

Part of the Tory cabal down at the Titan Works who many Tories complain about.

Still,as a footsoldier, with time on his hands, he is handy for calling upon to stick leaflets through doors. £20k a year of taxpayers money for that. As they say, it’s not what you are worth, it is what you negotiate……..

10. Little Thurrock Rectory

Rob Gledhill (Con)

A few years ago, Cllr Gledhill had the cut of a future Tory leader. Today, many are not so sure. Always there for the benefit of his residents and assiduous at launching a campaign but whereas four years ago he appeared to be the working class Tory, the group so desperately needed, he appears to have turned into a glum whip who again is defined by what he is against.

Makes many many good points in council but many good points are lost by poor communication skills.

Another one tipped (should he retain his seat) to challenge for Garry Hague’s leadership should they retain power.

Ockendon

Barrie Lawrence (Lab):  Not Standing

Orsett
Mike Revell (Con)

You can’t help but warm to Lord Bulphan. To his credit, Mike has nurtured the Conservative Party in Thurrock since the late seventies and as the pater familia of the party, has no intention of letting it go.

Mike’s key asset is that he has fundamental political beliefs. Everything is tied up in Tory philosophy whether it is waste contracts or educational attainment. Never afraid to take on Labour and has at his fingertips what he believed were the key failings of Labour administrations.

His new lease of life as Portfolio Holder for Environment has brought a spring to his step and it is clear that the council officers have been enthused by his charm and drive.

South Chafford
Tunde Ojetola (Con)

Tunde is the quintessential “good man” and if there is someone who embodies the spirit of 21st century Thurrock then it is Tunde. Whether it is his portfolio of housing or the many issues that abound in his ward, you can be sure that, come rain or shine, Tunde will be there.

Personable, hard working, erudite and enthusiastic. He is everything that a councillor should be. While many of his right wing colleagues give the impression that they became councillors “in order to sack people” Tunde looks like he got into politics to serve people.

Sometimes you wonder if there is a danger that by trying to stand in the middle on many issues that there is a danger that you get run over but that is a minor point.

Stanford East and Corringham Town

Phil Smith Lab

Phil has to realise that everything suggests that he will go the way of the Tony Benson in 2007 and Gordon Gambier in 2008. If he thinks that good old fashioned old labour sticking a few leaflets in the houses is going to work then he is in for a big disappointment.

They have the “you win nothing with kids” Tories to contend with and there ability and willingness to campaign could be the difference.

Again, a loyal party man who seems to know a lot about procedure but doesn’t really have the fire and enthusiasm to mount a campaign. It was embarrassing last year when it appeared that Carl Morris, like dad coming up the school, had to come to Corringham to sort out the car parking campaign. Indeed, butcher’s wife Sharon Jarrold  was far more in tune with the issues than floundering Phil and low-key Roisin.

Stanford-le-Hope West: No Election

Stifford Clays

Maureen Pearce (Con):  Not Standing

The Homesteads

John Everett (Con)  Not Standing

Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park

Bukky Okunade (Lab)

There are real dangers in this seat and Labour know it or at least you would hope they do. Defending this seat will be difficult as the incumbent Bukky just appears a little semi-detached. While you cut fellow councillor Lynn Worrall and she bleeds Tilbury, politics seems to be a flag of convenience for Bukky or simply something to add to the cv.

Bukky has been missing without trace on the Save the Tilbury Ferry campaign. You genuinely believe that she may not know there is a campaign going on. Tilbury may need someone wired into the needs and aspirations of the community.

Tilbury St Chad’s

Richard Bingley Lab:  Not standing

West Thurrock and South Stifford

Andy Smith Lab

Andy has had something of a resurgence over the last year or so. Up to 2008, he appeared to be the faded leader who had nothing to say and was going through the motions but recently he has perked up and been a stalwart for many of the needs, campaigns and issues that effect West Thurrock and South Stifford.

Of course, a member of the notorious planning committee and we are still unsure if he and Brother-in-arms Gerard Rice are part of the problem or part of the solution.

Andy has been out with the community pay-back teams and defending the local playgroups. An experienced campaigner who clearly has a few political campaigns left.

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