Friday, 9 May 2008

Counting thrice

As I’ve commented before, further discussion of the Mayoral Ball incident isn’t necessary as the Standards Board had decided to take no further action. It implied that the parties concerned should sort it out between themselves, as grown ups do.

Both sides have had their fill over this incident, which I remind readers, occurred over a year ago, and I assumed that after the open letters from Cllrs Hart and Watkins which made serious separate unsubstantiated allegations about Cllr Ezekiel, that would be it and normality could be restored with Labour returning back to looking at the issues facing Thanet residents. Last nights Annual Council Meeting proved I was wrong.

Cllr David Green led a Labour challenge to Cllr Ezekiel’s re-election as Leader of the Council on the basis of his behaviour at the said incident. If the challenge was made on the basis of policy, of if Cllr Ezekiel's behaviour was sufficiently bad for the Standards Board to recommend action should be taken against him, I might be minded to agree with Cllr Green. Unfortunately this was not the case. He had to be interrupted at one point by the Chairman of the Council and reminded that the incident was a matter for the Standards Board who had come to a final decision.

If Cllr Clark for example feels so seriously about Cllr Ezekiel’s behaviour that he is unsatisfied by the decision by the Standards Board he should launch a lawsuit for defamation of character. Since this does not seem to be forthcoming, I hope Cllr Clark will speak to his colleagues and try to persuade them to back down their campaign. Cllr Green does not appear to have been involved in the incident at the time and when challenging Cllr Ezekiel’s re-election last night seemed rather reluctant about doing so, perhaps as if he didn’t really want to do it. I’ve not known Cllr Green to be reluctant before so such behaviour is highly unusual.

Some may consider my comments in the past on this issue an example of my Tory bias, a view I do not agree with. Cllr Ezekiel’s behaviour, if what the Standards Board has said is accurate, was unprofessional and shouldn’t have happened. I don’t consider it cause for the sack though. He had an election three weeks later and was re-elected. Does Cllr David Green disagree with the decision of the voters of Cliftonville East? A sincere apology is good enough for me. If there is a repeat of this, then further action could be justified.

There have been three attempts to revisit the incident since the Standards Board made their final decisions, three attempts too many. Labour, while making these moves, have ignored the issues mattering to Thanet residents, showing that their priorities are askew. I would like to see Labour explain what their alternative plans for regeneration and tourism in Margate are or how their financial proposals add up. They proposed a 2.1% council tax increase, obviously funded by cutting the staff budget by 10%, which indeed would raise more money than needed for the Council Tax cut itself, but since the £2.3m would not just suddenly appear out of thin air, Id like to know when the council tax shortage would be paid off and how the cutting of staff would be dealt with. How would housing policy be different under Labour?

Id like to see a positive local Labour, with ideas on how to improve Thanet, without any pretence to gaining political advantage, or being cynical about it and just criticising ad nauseum without a coherent strategy. I say this as serious advice to local Labour. Stick to the core issues, ignore peripheral ones, show the residents what Labour stands for and how it would improve Thanet. Move on from the distractions of some time ago and get back on track.


Ken Gregory said...

Spot on James

Cllr David Green said...

Please find below, what I tried to say at Thanet Council in proposing Cllr Richard Nicholson as Leader of the Council. In trying to do this, I was constantly interrupted and prevented from speaking by the Chair of Council, Cllr Kirby. This partisan behaviour by the supposedly neutral Chair of Council is unprecedented when a member is proposing a candidate for a Council Office.

“It won’t surprise anyone in this chamber tonight that most members on this side have a very low opinion of the recent behaviour of the outgoing leader of the Council.

When we learnt that the Conservative Group was actually going to propose that he would continue in office, our reaction was one of anger, tempered only by the thought that the group opposite diminishes themselves in the eyes of the public by appearing to condone such behaviour.

Current voting strengths in the Council mean that we have only limited means to react.

We have chosen to propose an alternative Leader. One who’s public behaviour is in sharp contrast to the alternative on offer.

It is my pleasure to propose Cllr Richard Nicholson for Leader of the Council.

In encouraging you to support my nomination, I would suggest that in Richard we would have:

• A Leader who would be able to represent the Council at Civic functions without assaulting the representative of one of our major Towns.

• A Leader who would not react to legitimate criticism by lashing out with wild unsubstantiated accusations in an attempt to damage those critical of him.

• A Leader with more than a thread of credibility amongst those with an interest in improving Thanet.

• A Leader who would command respect by being prepared to listen to councillors on all sides with something legitimate to contribute on behalf of Thanet’s electorate.

There must be some of you in the Conservative Group prepared to put support of standards in public life above tribal loyalty. I ask you to support my nomination.”

James Maskell said...

I did catch some of your statement. I was the one who exited after a few minutes (I had commitments elsewhere and had to leave at 7.20pm). The first interruption was in order, since you were commenting on Cllr Ezekiel and the Mayoral Ball incident. Cllr John Kirby made it clear, without showing bias, that the Standard Board has dealt with it and that was it.

If you had a case in objection to Cllr Ezekiel as Leader on the basis of policy, then I might be minded to agree and to perhaps even support your campaign. But as you alluded to in your statement, its all about the incident a year ago. Labour's campaign against Ezekiel shows that for Labour to be ready to take back the reins of the Council, it must drop the distractions like this and stick to the core issues that the public actually give a damn about. Until then, Labour might as well be talking to a brick wall.