When I was the Leader of the Conservatives at Cambridgeshire County Council one of the hardest things to sort out was a fellow councillor, often a friend, always hardworking, who had made a serious error of judgement. Loyalties are always tested.
But bad behaviour by any politician always ends up discrediting all politicians in the eyes of the public.
That is why I always took swift action to suspend any councillor, caught up in something unsavoury, pending the outcome of investigation. This gave reassurance to the public, who we served, and gave some formality to the process without causing further harm. It is important that if someone is innocent that they have the opportunity to clear their name but whilst all that is happening the public need to be protected particularly if it involves violence or children.
I feel sorry for the Lib Dems at the moment. For years they have tried to portray themselves as “nice, open and democratic people”. It now seems that that might be a thin veneer, at least where some are concerned. And all the good ones are going it seems. We learn today that Former Mayor Sheila Stuart is quitting the city council.
Cyril Smith and his outrageous activities with children, whilst in office, are completely unacceptable to anyone. You would have thought. Yet for years his behaviour was allowed to continue unchecked. Other Lib Dems seem to have had grave suspicions but did not act. It might be that having a Liberal attitude was more important than protecting our children.
And now we have another case, local to Cambridge. I must stress that Lib Dem Councillor Colin Rosenstiel has not been found guilty of hitting a seven year old child that will be decided at trial.
What he is guilty of, it seems, is not keeping his group leader informed. As a consequence, at the coming elections he will appear as a Lib Dem candidate despite the Lib Dems suspending him from their group because of the trial. This is not good. It deceives the public and makes fools of his party. Not good.
Why did Colin not do the decent thing and step aside for the good of the party? This will cause so much embarrassment for the Lib Dems just at time when their fortunes are plummeting. There is a real danger of them losing all their MEP’s and they are only able to field about half the number of council candidates they ought.
I am sad that Colin’s long and distinguished council career has come to this and just wish he had stood down earlier to help preserve what is left of politicians reputations as well as his own.
I congratulate the Lib Dems on taking early action on suspending Colin. Right and proper.