Tonight we had our AGM at West Suffolk Council. This is the first formal meeting since the elections on the 4th May. Since then I have become the Leader of the Conservative group and we are now officially in opposition.
The split of the votes means the Conservatives are the biggest party with 26 followed by the independents with 19 then Labour with 17 and one each for the Lib Dem’s and Greens. Somehow Labour have managed to convince everyone except the Conservatives to vote for them.
It seems that in West Suffolk a vote for independents is actually a vote for Labour.
I made a speech in the chamber pointing this out. I asked for a recorded vote so that the public can see what is happening.
“Chair, We find ourselves in a complex place. We have a council, with the Conservatives as the largest group but without sufficient votes for overall control. We have Labour putting up someone for the Leader of the Council despite having less votes than the conservatives or the independents. We have the independents forming a political group.
The independents are clearly the king makers. They can choose to remain truly independent, as the voters believe they are and abstain in the Leaders vote. Alternatively, the independents can vote for Labour or Conservatives.
This is a matter of respect for the electorate. It would be very strange, so early in a Council, for a vote for an independent councillor, turns into a vote for Labour. If that is to be the case then as a very minimum they’re voters and the general public must be informed. It must be clear that a vote for an independent is a vote for Labour.
This is not about playing political games but it strikes to the very heart of democracy and of political honesty. If, on the doorstep, we tell voters one thing and then immediately do something else no wonder politicians are so badly thought of.
We respect the independence of the independents. We are clear that on this important vote for the Leader of the council they should abstain. Propping up any other party risks losing their independence and they will be reminded of it in the future.
We must ask ourselves, as the electors will, what is the motivation behind propping up a minority Labour administration? Do the independents and Labour political strategies align? Is there a common bond? Or is it something else? Is it just possible that power is in their grasp and can’t be resisted what ever the cost?
I have always respected the independents, hardworking, focused on their wards, trying their very best to help those they serve. They have always fiercely defended their independence. Told me that they are not bound to one party or another. And yet today, are we too see all that thrown away?
A recorded vote will mean that each and every councillor will be required to state who they are going to vote for. I would be expecting, and so will those that elected us, that all the independent councillors will abstain rather than voting for either Labour or Conservative. I don’t believe in all good conscious they have a choice.
Of course this motion may not pass. It might be voted down. If that is the case we must all ask why? Is it to hide from the public record who is in fact propping up Labour. I commend the motion to suspend Council Procedure Rules for the purpose of having a recorded vote on the appointment of the Leader.”
Well said Nick, what ever your political leaning, the party should be true to their beliefs. The public take a very dim view of such behaviour and will always believe that there is something underhand going on. Not a good start for the council. This needs to be sorted before it really starts.
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I guess it’s not much different to the Lib Dem’s propping up David Cameron’s coalition way back in 2011….. and look at the damage that did to the LD party.
People most likely voted independent as they have had enough of the current “2 horse race” offering in Whitehall, and expressed their frustration at local level.
If the independent councillor’s suddenly take a side, those that voted for that candidate are indeed most likely going to be furious.
I for one have all but given up on modern politics – politicians, whether that is at local or national level need to be reminded that the only reason they are where they are is because of the voters – they are there purely to serve the interests of the electorate, and not themselves, their chums or party donors.
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Let’s be honest here, the Conservatives have spent so much time arguing amongst themselves in recent years that it is surprising that they have any seats left.
This perhaps shows that the other parties agree the country would be better led by anyone but the current clowns
Before I’m cut down on this, I voted for Nick in the recent election as I believe he is doing a great job – Conservatives in a general election? NO HOPE!