With nearly 70% of Southend residents deciding not to vote, the democratic process is barely fit for purpose in its current state. Regardless of the reasons, the biggest winners, by a landslide, were the political group known as ‘no vote’.
People are familiar with the main parties and have rejected them.
Given that Confelicity received 4% of the vote, it could be argued that we are just as much part of that rejection as everyone else.
Having said that, it is likely that a couple of months may not quite be enough for a political party to be a political force. With this in mind we happened to have viewed 4% a raving success!
Our expectation for 2023 will remain realistic as building trust takes a long time, even 10% of the vote share would be an achievement. However, we have already elected many candidates who are ready to knock on doors and discuss what Confelicity is all about.
Reaction to New Local Independent Party in Southend
Overall we have been amazed by the positive reaction as we knocked on doors looking for signatures for our candidates. However, we have been met with some hostility in some quarters, which, whilst not wholly unpredictable, still came as some surprise.
Locally, it is likely many of us want the same thing: a thriving economy with quality jobs; minimal queue time in the NHS; small school class sizes; clean air and water and a safe environment. As a resident of Southend all my life I know that very little progress has been made on these fronts.
We 'educate' our young people up for 11 to 13 years, but where are the quality job opportunities that connect with their skills? Many occasions ambulances have to wait outside the hospital as there are not enough beds; waiting times for operations are the longest on record; and it is near impossible to speak with a GP. Class sizes hitting 35 where many children are struggling to learn the material, much less learn vital social skills. Our sea is often polluted with sewage. And we have suffered a perennial shortage of police across the whole of Southend, not just the high street. And now we reach the stage where we are debating whether we can afford weekly bin collections. That's aside from the pot holes an cracked pavements across almost every street.
So why is this so?
I watch the council meetings and the councillors from all parties seem to care to the point that sometimes it gets out of hand!
The crux of the issue is that Southend Council itself has so little power to change the things we need that it ends up spending hours of debate over bin collections and tree planting. While important, they are not the life-changing areas.
Local people who walk the streets and experience the services know exactly what needs to change. Therefore, it ought to be local people who decide how we run the city. It sounds obvious so the question is why has this not happened?
It is because the main parties represented locally, are national.
Their agendas have to bend towards the will of the small number of people dictating play at the very top – and more likely those that are not even in the parties.
And it is understandable that the people in Westminster wish to continue to rule centrally. The consequence is that gaining more needed powers is not on the agenda of local councillors. The best they have in their armoury when something is not right is to say “it is not in my remit”.
And that is the single most important difference in having a local party represent local people. We can shout as loudly as we wish about any of the issues without fear of fitting in the national narrative.
They also have the major problem of being behemoths! Running organisations of those sizes means the level of bureaucracy is inevitably high. It has to be because chaos would ensue otherwise.
It means simple decisions take months and years to decide. All in the meantime the people that are affected by a particular issue are left to suffer while they are told to be patient. And patience doesn’t even guarantee anything will happen.
Our Perceived Achilles Heal
Our main weakness at the moment is the perception that we are a Stockvale party, and for this I must address.
It is true that I, myself am a Director of Stockvale, the company that owns Adventure Island, Sealife Adventure, Radio Essex and numerous restaurants. But I did not start the party as a political arm of Adventure Island!
I have been interested in politics ever since the days of Spitting Image in the 80s! Gradually I expanded my political sources to further afield and watched as an outsider as the years have worn on.
When I was in my teens I had assumed without even thinking that decisions taken were always in my best interests and the people around me. As all of us know, who get to a certain age, discover that this could not be further from the truth! The levels of corruption are likely to be much deeper than we could imagine, but based on the what we see and read, the stories we are exposed to is heinous and they get away with it every time.
I was tired of it, as I suspect millions of people across the country are, and I wanted to make a change.
Our Deputy Leader, Jon Humphrys, and I had been talking about creating a political party for over a decade when finally I was personally outraged over the lack of debate, transparency and the dictatorial nature of all the parties surrounding the last 2 years.
I could not believe that we were simply to follow and not ask questions. And if you did, you would be alienated and cast aside.
It is this that really put the fire in my belly.
I believe more than ever in democracy – but I mean real democracy. Not the kind that relies on manipulating people’s mind to vote a certain way, but real discussion, listening to all side regardless of their stance.
I believe in bringing people together, acting as a bridge between warring factions.
I believe in being valued as a human being, and that my experience and opinion counts as equally as it does anyone else.
And so Confelicity is born
It is alive and it has a spirit. It is idealistic. It starts at the best end result and works backwards with pragmatism to achieve it.
We don’t care that it might take longer than expected. All I have wanted is to know and feel confident that we are heading in right direction. Where genuine opportunities do exist in Southend for people to make a living doing what they love. Where the attitudes of Southend people our positive because they are running on foundations of a society that they know cares about them and wants them to do well.
Why we Chose Our Candidates
Starting from scratch really is starting from the people you know.
Having worked for Stockvale for 26 years my pool was perhaps not as wide as I might have hoped.
At the same time I have been so fortunate in the people I have met, and the people that were finally selected to stand for us were indeed some of the most caring, supporting, knowledgeable, experienced, passionate, highly competent people you could ask for.
They would have brought a new energy onto the council and a new way of thinking.
Stockvale is one of the most successful companies in Southend and Essex and there is good reason - the people!
And it should be noted that we did have many candidates not connected with the company and they are in their own right brilliant people! Business people, record breaking fundraiser, and social enterprisers.
Over the campaign we have been in contact with more and more people who are interested in joining, which means the pool of people will expand from the horizons of the seafront. And we look forward to welcoming as many as Southend’s citizens who share our locally focussed movement.
So the 2023 election will be an interesting event. We will be fielding serious candidates who have pounded our cracked pavements for 10 months and more.
Regardless of the result, it doesn’t matter.
Whether it takes 1 year or 10, Confelicity are here to stay on the local political scene making comment and commentary on what our local parties are doing.
We are the local political arm for Southend people to voice their concerns and put forward their ideas.
Confelicity may or may not be the local party that Southend is looking for
Yet we would encourage more people in Southend to start their own parties.
It takes some time to put together but it is not inherently difficult.
The Electoral Commission, who make the decision to make you a legally recognised party, are very helpful and will guide you.
We may only fill 10% of the 70% who didn’t vote. It may be that your party will fill the rest.
We believe democracy works when all people are represented, and right now it is clear there are many that are not.
In the meantime we do hope to be that movement that does house the politically homeless, and would welcome all who wish to know more.
We are proud to say we are the Southend party for Southend people.