Could Labour be wiped out in Stanford and Corringham?

BACK in April of 2014. YT was standing outside Ramos Cafe in Corringham with a number of Labour activists.

They were chatting to two residents, who talked about their profile in the Stanford and Corringham area.

One said: "We are Labour voters but all we know is that a councillor such as Shane Hebb in Stanford seems to be very high profile whilst we just don’t hear from the Labour councillors."

It was something that we ruminated on then and we continue to dwell upon now.

Sure enough, UKIP won the ward of Stanford East and Corringham Town. Labour had won the seat in 2011 and 2012 but here they were beaten into third place.

The local councillors, Phil Smith and Richard Speight won in 2011 and 2012 but since then it looks like they haven’t been doing enough to maintain and indeed augment the presence of Labour in the area.

Sure, there is the work that Mike Le-Surf and his team does as he fights for the constituency on May 7th. That might be enough to ride on the back of but it surely may be a worry.

Cllr Phil Smith is also the portfolio holder for public protection but has, due to work commitments in Russia, disappeared off the local political map.

Sure he might reply with a "working quietly behind the scenes for the benefit of the residents and not laying prostrate at the feet of uppity journalists" (not a quote from Phil) but we personally find it galling that he seemed to be happy to rank in the £20,000 a year of taxpayers money whilst raking it in working in Russia.

You would have thought that from the depths of Siberia, he would have commented on the Essex Police Federation campaign on the "Cuts Have Consequences". Evidently not.

Cllr Speight now seems to have a monthly ritual with us. He comes over to the press bench and tells us that he has missed our call…….And then moves on…

Meanwhile, the most impressive councillor in the area appear to be Ukip’s Roy Jones. Quietly and without fuss, he just gets on with the local issues. He has his surgeries at Corringham library. He is out and about in his ward. He attends all his meeting. He contacts all his departments on behalf of his residents. No fuss, no grandstanding. Just a humble councillor acting in a humble way.

Over in Stanford, the excitable, energetic, committed Ella Vine is standing for Labour on May 7th.

Former Polish chess champion, Ella is committed to get stuck into local politics.

Here recent foray into the world of the Stanford and Corringham Facebook page has received a mixed reception.

Diving into a community Facebook page is a tricky business. Introducing yourself to the people, telling them you are campaigning on a number of issues from car parking outside schools to possible library closures can be welcomed by some but also be greeted with the cyber equivalent of the frosty look you get in village pubs on a cold night when you walk in for the first time.

Challenging likeable and popular Tory councillor Shane Hebb is brave but may get more backs up than votes in. Still, you can’t win. You try and encourage debate and awareness and you get treated with scepticism at best.

Labour may have to face not gaining Stanford. They just have one councillor left, former Tory leader of Thurrock Council, Terry Hipsey (maj 30). He fought a canny campaign in 2012 but was greatly aided by three Tories standing in various guises.

Of course, they could all be voted in or out on the basis of national issues on May 7th by thousands of people in Stanford and Corringham who have never heard of the people we have just mentioned. That is the beauty or the beast of local politics.

But, either way, it may have an overall impact on the make-up of the council come May 8th.

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