WHATEVER TOMORROW’S LOCAL ELECTION RESULTS, the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) will have proved that it is possible to cajole a significant proportion of the population into voting for them, by simply applying three familiar rules:-
- Always misrepresent the facts.
- Always seek to discredit your opponents, and
- Never answer any questions.
But the CIIP’s real masterstroke has been to recognise that the distribution of wards within Castle Point (six island and eight mainland) makes it virtually impossible for them to gain power from the mainland’s strong Conservative leanings - without fielding candidates off the island. As a consequence, the CIIP took the decision to only fight Canvey Island seats, ensuring that they could never obtain real power; but always remain in a position of safe opposition where they could continue to implement their three golden rules.
Unlike other political parties, theirs is not a plan for power. Instead, the CIIP is predicated, like many old Communist regimes, upon the idea of retaining its leading councillors’ positions at all cost – so that they might benefit personally, and financially, from increased local status and generous personal allowances.
The Canvey Island Independent Party (and, later, the establishing of Canvey Island’s Parish Council) was the brainchild of Dave Blackwell, the party’s leader, and his close friend and ally, Bob Spink, Castle Point’s once Conservative, and then Independent, MP. Four years ago, when the Parish Council was established, the CIIP took 10 of its 11 seats – and the tiny new entity was hastily re-designated as a ‘Town Council’ to add to its kudos. But, rather than using its new Parish powers to provide additional services and benefits to residents, the CIIP set about taking-over the responsibility for various island assets (like Canvey Lake) from the Borough Council to make the new body appear more like the old Canvey Urban District Council that last existed in 1974.
The CIIP was now in a position to consolidate its community position even further.
The establishing of Canvey Island Town Council led to public confusion over which councillor should be consulted when a resident had personal problems. Some CIIP members held Borough and Town Council seats, others Borough seats, and the remainder just served on the Town Council. It seemed logical to islanders that they could just pop into the Town Council offices to discuss their problems; but it soon became clear that Town Councillors had no powers to help. Residents were told, ‘Sorry. The Borough Council is responsible for that.’
And, when residents then consulted their CIIP Borough Councillor, they were equally told. ‘Sorry. We can’t do anything about that. The Tories outnumber us on both the Borough and County Councils.’
But: the CIIP was purposely committed to not redressing that particular balance.
That such a situation has persisted for so long is a testament to the success of the CIIP’s political campaigning on the island. They have successfully laid the blame, for everything that residents have complained about, directly at the door of the Tories. And, whenever the Conservatives have objected, the CIIP have replied to residents with their well worn catch-phrase: ‘You can never trust a Tory!’
Most journalists look upon all politicians with a jaundiced eye – waiting for that non-response or ‘No comment’ remark to their questions. But, whereas anyone with a modicum of journalistic training immediately recognises either of those responses to indicate where the story lies, local Echo reporters, it seems, are incapable of such simple detection.
The reason why the CIIP is so well established on Canvey Island has as much to do with the party’s local newspaper coverage as it does with its political campaigning prowess.
In this local election campaign it was, again, the Echo, which provided precious column inches to giving weight to Dave Blackwell’s unsupportable claims that the Government’s Localism Bill would provide more powers to Parish Councils. As usual, the Echo reworked a CIIP Press Release to fill its pages – without any close inspection.
If there were any justice, the CIIP would be swept from its seats tomorrow; but I am too long in the tooth to actually believe that justice always prevails. Sometimes it takes an awful long time for her to use her sword.
As to myself, I can at least rest easy knowing that the thousands of words I have written on the Canvey Beat will help to serve Democracy’s cause – and I can now move-on to other things.
Time to have the car valeted; throw my go-bag and camera equipment into the boot – and leave Canvey Island behind me for the rest of the year…
… (The Canvey Beat, 06/05/2011) – Canvey: The CIIP’s Island Fortress