South Tyneside’s five month election campaign!
No – honestly, it isn’t until May next year.
Surely this must go down as the longest election campaign in South Tyneside’s history, however the Labour Party is already out of the blocks and up and running!
Former Mayor John Anglin has announced in a letter to residents of the Beacon and Bents ward in South Shields that he’ll be contesting the seat that he so recently vacated in order to make a lengthy overseas trip, and being a bit mischievous I noticed a distinct similarity between Mr. Anglin and former BBC children’s’ TV presenter Johnny Morris. The man from “Animal Magic” might easily have been a long lost cousin of John Anglin, don’t you think? More than likely Morris ignored the best advice ever given to showmen, “never work with children or
monkeys animals”, and Anglin must surely be contemplating this advice too as he attempts to retake the seat for Labour. It is not yet known whether or not South Shields’ most controversial and outspoken councillor, Ahmed Khan, has decided that he wishes to defend the seat in May 2012.
Also out and about in the Fellgate and Hedworth ward was another new Labour candidate Alan Smith – no not this one - with council leader Iain Malcolm and Cllr. Bill Brady. They were there to say things to the effect that Labour does NOT forget about those wards that elect opposition councillors! Sounds quite funny really when the perception is quite the opposite, as I’m sure Cllr. Steve Harrison and his fellow independents will attest.
However there is a point to all of this, and that is that Labour is setting out an early marker that sitting Independent councillors are going to be targeted, and that they see opportunities of retaking seats which have “strayed” from Labour’s grasp in recent years. Make no bones about this, the current Labour leadership in South Tyneside sees a rosy future and believes that it can achieve overwhelming dominance in the council chamber as the Conservative and Lib-Dem brands appear “toxic” to the electorate. This new “Blue” Labour regime probably also sees some dividend coming from the tight budgetary controls imposed upon it by the coalition government, it is quite prepared to undertake the task of reducing council spending in exchange for the freeze in council taxes, they certainly don’t want to rock the boat by introducing proposals that call for increases in taxes when we are finding the economic climate “challenging”. The local Labour Party will be challenging the opposition parties to produce a well informed and costed alternative budget in the first quarter of next year, something which they have not been adept at doing with any great success in the past few years. It also offers Labour the opportunity of opening a “trap door” for the opposition if they attempt to produce a budget calling for a reduction in council taxes if it is accompanied by even larger spending cuts than those implemented by the ruling Labour group.
Now is the time for those Conservatives, Lib_Dems, Progressive, and non aligned independents in South Tyneside to come together with a united vision of how the borough can progress through 2012 without further affecting economic decline and without burdening the local electorate with additional taxation and service charges, in an effort to appear both sympathetic to the aims of the coalition in reducing the budget deficit and the debt mountain, and appealing to those who wish to see an effective and empathetic alternative to Labour whilst putting a firm squeeze on the Independent Alliance who have signally failed to prosper as an opposition with a real policy agenda or new ideas.
The long road to May 2012 starts here – today!