THURROCK politics as we all know, is a micro-climate. Tories get to form a national government, Labour get to form a Thurrock administration.
Tory leader defects to Labour; three Tory councillors split away and form their own party then one of them joins UKIP. It’s life Jim but not as we know it.
Whilst Labour are at a crossroads between the old guard of couples (Kent, Morris, Curtis, Rice) and a new young Labour coming through, the Tories are at a different stage of their Thurrock history.
The political climate in 2007 was somewhat different.
The Tories were three years into their rule. They ambled through the campaign, picking up seats through the political nouse of Orsett councillor Mike Revell who ensured they took Homesteads and ran Labour close in other wards in the west.
Labour also sleptwalked through the campaign and this was to lay the roots to them losing Homesteads in 2007 and also failing to take Ockendon, just about hanging onto Belhus. They would also see a series of seats being lost in the west over the next few years.
The Lib-Dems had Earnshaw Palmer who ran Neil Rockcliffe close in Chafford Hundred and after that, retired from the political scene.
Back then, the BNP made a big breakthrough winning 7,149 votes or 24.6% of the vote. Although they didn’t win any seats, there was a real possibility that they could, within a few years, win a number of seats.
The trouble with extremists is that they end up hating each other more than the “opposition” and so they have split, dissipated but may make a few ripples in a few wards.
YT will be looking at each ward in depth over the next six weeks. Needless to say, we will be making our usual spot on predictions (You mean, Carl Morris to beat Jackie Doyle Price by 1300 last year?-Ed). We will be out in each ward, interviewing the candidates and the voters to assess the political mood on the streets of Thurrock in 2011.
Aveley and Uplands: John Cowell (CON). Maj: 109
John Cowell is stepping down. Former Mayor Maureen Pearce is standing for the Tories and was out and about in the ward yesterday with the Tory campaign manager, Neil Pearce however she faces stiff competition from another former Mayor and “People’s Champion” independent candidate, Colin Churchman.
Let us not forget UKIP’s Tim Aker who whilst co-ordinating national and european campaigns will be running things locally and also having another tilt at Aveley.
Belhus: Charles Curtis (LAB). Maj: 27
The amiable grandad to the borough, Charlie nearly lost four years ago and with all the problems and division in the ward over the Howard Tenens lorry park, there could be a big Tory push. Expect fireworks.
Chadwell St Mary: Tony Fish (LAB): Maj: 135
He may be one of the poorest performing portfolio holders (adult social care) in a long time and he may well be sent to the back benches but this is a “Yellow Dog” ward and with the Gerard and Barbara Rice campaigning for him, this should be a straight forward win for Labour.
Chafford and North Stifford: Neil Rockliffe (CON): Maj: 117
Chaffrica did it for cllr Rockcliffe. Four years ago, he was a rising star in the Tory group. A portfolio holder and a combative enough councillor who, given the right guidance could have gone further. YT understands his replacement is Steve Wooton. Chafford remains a pretty safe Tory ward.
Corringham and Fobbing: Anne Cheale (TCC): Maj: 169
A fascinating ward where anything could happen. Don’t know if the Lady Mayor is standing again. A majority of 169 is hardly a thumping majority and again if this ward has a UKIP candidate and a strong Labour presence then anything could happen.
East Tilbury: John Purkiss (IND): Maj: 607
Cllrs Purkiss and Palmer are woven into the very heart of the East Tilbury culture. Go to any event and you will find them there. There voting behaviour in the chamber sees them most times voting with the Conservatives (whether in power or not) to the irritation of Labour. One would be keen to know what their philosophy is beyond “What is good for the people of East Tilbury” because the two just do not add up.
Grays Riverside: Val Morris-Cook (LAB): Maj: 305
We do wonder if cllr Morris-Cook can find anything to campaign on? It is not like there is a local park that is “under threat”. We think we might hear the words Grays Beach Park a few times in Va’s ward and the fifteen others. This will be a challenge for the Tory candidate.
Grays Thurrock: Cathy Kent (LAB): Maj: 464
See above for details.
Little Thurrock Rectory: Stuart St. Clair-Haslam (TCC): Maj: 136
YT understands that cll Haslam will be standing for UKIP in Stanford West. The Tory candidate will benefit from incumbent councillor Rob Gledhill’s popularity in the ward.
Ockendon: Barry Johnson (CON): Maj: 14
The Ockendon Three are often seen as a shining example of how three Conservative councillors can work well together in the ward which has a wide demograph. However, cllr Johnson’s decision to be Tory leader Garry Hague’s human shield for Grays Beach Park may cost him. Labour candidate Aaron Kiely has been very busy and heavily backed by the region.
Stanford East and Corringham Town: Roisin Hewitt (LAB): Maj: 71
YT understands that the Mrs Hewitt will be standing down and veteran Phil Smith will be having another crack. Both sides will be working very very hard here with councillors such as Phil Anderson and James Halden putting in the hours.
Stanford le Hope West: Eddie Hardiman (CON): Maj: 178
We will miss Eddie. He had a passion for local politics and worked very hard. Meanwhile, this could be a right tear-up with UKIP throwing a spanner in the works. Labour’s young tyro Gemma Robbins may face future Tory star Shane Hebb.
Stifford Clays: Diana Hale (LAB): Maj: 130
Diana and fellow ward councillor have nurtured a lot of good will in the area and so the 130 majority will be safe. Whether gaffe prone Diana hangs on to her portfolio is another matter. UKIP’s Clive Broad may stand here which should make it interesting.
The Homesteads: Pauline Tolson (CON): Maj: 200
Apparently, Pauline does a lot of work behind the scenes. We’ve never had a conversation with her in four years but that may not mean much. Labour had a presence here until they got lazy. Richard Speight is standing this time, putting in the hard work and may spring a surprise. Probably not though.
Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park: Emma Colgate (SI): Maj: 67
Ms Colgate declared on being elected that she would root out corruption and then didn’t declare any interests for nineteen months. Could have brought the BNP to a whole new level but as we said they turned into the Judea’s People’s Front. Still, there is still a BNP presence here and Labour are under no illusions as to the challenges here.
West Thurrock & South Stifford: Julieann Burkey (LAB): Maj 195
Before illness struck her down, Julieann had struggled with local politics. Labour will probably want someone in the mould of Oliver Gerrish as part of their new dawn of new Labour. Young Tory Ben Gadsby has a tough job but he will do his career no harm at all by bringing the Tory message to Purfleet.