What did Labour learn from May 2014?

IF there was one vote that surprised and concerned the Thurrock Labour group it was the Stanford East and Corringham Town result.

In 2011 and 2012 they had polled between 895 and 1100 votes. In 2014, their candidate polled 653. Funnily enough, the Conservative candidates vote went up from 652 in 2012 to 804 in 2014.

Labour put a lot of effort in. Big hitters such as Chuka Ummanu came to visit and east of england troops poured in as well.

They may well put it down as just one of those things or they could use it as an example of the frustration that Stanford and Corringham people feel. Perhaps, the UKIP candidate (and now councillor) Roy Jones was much more in tune with the zetigeist which seems to be “DP World: What is it doing for me?”

What Labour will be happy with is the fact that they fended off UKIP in both Tilbury wards, both Grays wards and West Thurrock and South Stifford. They also have a new councillor in Martin Kerin who will be a real asset.

They could learn a lot from the way Barbara Rice successfully defended her seat in Chadwell. It may have only been a majority of just over 100 but that could have gone to UKIP.

They will also miss Angie Gaywood who would have taken losing Stifford quite hard.

They may want to reflect on why they lost Belhus and performed poorly in Ockendon. In Ockendon, Terry Brookes polled nearly 400 votes fewer than the Labour candidate in 2011 and 250 fewer than the candidate in 2012. Ironically, in Belhus, Labour councillor Wendy Curtis polled 67 more votes than the Labour winner in 2012 but unlike the 2012 winner who won by 273, she lost by over 400.

It was all down to turnout and those people who did, in the end, turn out for UKIP.

For John Kent there will be the bad national publicity of losing control of the council. There will also be thorny question of whether he will be able to retain power whether as a minority administration or with some form of agreement. He is a canny operator and so we will watch the events leading up to the key annual council meeting (June 11th) with interest.

As for the prospective parliamentary candidate, Polly Billington, there is much to consider. Many have praised her for being totally in touch with many of the key issues that concern Thurrock but how can she get some of the 1,085 UKIP voters from Aveley, the 1,169 who voted for UKIP in Belhus, the 909 in Chadwell and 1203 in Ockendon back. Will she be forever associated with Ed Miliband?

Time and time again, you saw the UKIP stalwarts walking the hard yards in those wards. Weekend in and weekend out, we saw UKIP tweeters letting us all know they were out and about. They also were so so visible in those wards as well. Compare that to the Labour campaigns that had Terry Brookes on his own for long periods of time in Ockendon and the Belhus 3 vastly overstating their personal popularity to the extent that is alleged that one said: “I don’t do campaigning.”

All the South Essex Labour campaigners need to realise that they have to campaign over the next eleven months like nothing before. They have to raise their game and reflect upon the last few weeks. We will end where we started and say beware the voting pattern in Stanford East and Belhus/Ockendon/Aveley. If you don’t you could end up with a UKIP MP. Couldn’t you?

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