Friday, 18 September 2009

Titter Ye not!

In those far off times when Terry Wire and I shared the same party,if not always the same politics,Terry was the Chief Whip on the Labour group.
He had many fine qualities,he was utterly brutal and no member would ever have been allowed to abandon an old Astra in the Guildhall carpark for102 days and he was also a fine mimic.

Terry could do anyone,he was especially good with old tory buffers and did a mean Frankie Howerd.
I wonder if he did his Frankie to entertain David Milipede,the Foreign Secretary at the Ex-Servicemen's Club last night?
I bet they needed a few laughs.

Ions ago when I was a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate it was impossible to persuade the Regional labour Party to send a big name speaker.
Frankly it was almost impossible to get a small name speaker, the shadow Under Secretary for paperclips was usually as good as things got!
I'm sure after special pleading we once got the shadow Minister for the Health of Retired Greyhounds (East Midlands Region) and that was bliss!
How times have changed, yesterday Sally Keeble had harriet Harman,Deputy Leader of the Party in the afternoon and Clyde Loakes(who he?) had the Foreign Secretary no less to grace a 'fundraiser' for the Loaksey parliamentary fiefdom.
Mind you, the much vaunted 'big gun' was only allowed to speak to a private fund raising meeting(prop.T Wire impresario) and one suspects the audience was imported from other constituencies to make up for the glaring spaces caused by the suspension of senior CLP members.
I expect however Cllr. Tess Scott had recovered from her sudden illness that coincided with Monday's Council meeting and I expect she had her autograph book with her.
It is of course probable that in the crush she got Terry's signature instead of Dave's.
And very wise too, for the only public evidence of the state visit was a press photo of Milipede and a grinning Wire.
Of Loakes, the McCavity of local politics-not a trace.
So it raises two questions-is Terry the real Labour Party candidate in Northampton South? and secondly, given that Regional Office always handled important front bench visitors was this secret debacle down to Little Emillie?
As we are told proudly that the Regional Office are now running the CLP we must assume that the invisible visit of the Foreign Secretary is the first triumph of the dynamic duo-scarcely visible Emille and the totally invisible Clyde.
The Labour Party once stood for something worthwhile in this town and attracted the sacrifice of generations of fine and committed people.That it has been reduced to this shambolic performance once may have been a tragedy-now it is simply a farce.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The job of an opposition is to....well oppose

It can be grim in the Council Chamber.There has always been a fanciful notion tthat it's best not to bring politics into local politics.
The current(although maybe not for much longer) leader of Northampton Borough Council cewrtainly does not like 'politics'.He refused to attend a meeting in the Guildhall that was called to discuss Sixfields and the Market Square and other issues because he said that it was'political'.
He then decided that complaints against him storing his untaxed car in the Guildhall car park was trivial and 'political'-the complaint initiated by a couple of us who were not 'bona fide' and indeed were'political'.
Leaving aside the fact that Tony Woods is the leader of a Liberal Democrat administration and last time I looked the Liberal Democrats claim to be a 'political' partyit is all rather strange.
Pete Seeger once said that everything is political-try singing the wrong hymn in the wrong church or try to persuade a child to eat his greens!

Nursery rhymes were often filled with political comment,'Mary Mary quite contrary' was an allegory about Mary Tudor and her attempt to rstore Catholicism just as 'Little Jack Horner' was a rhyme about her father Henry's closures of the monestries.
And if your ever tempted to croon the old ballad 'My bonnie Moorhen' remember your campaigning for the Jacobite cause.

Persuasion, discussion, arguement are all political processes that need to take place inorder to demonstrate that places like local councils are not monolithic bastions of little grey people who all agree with the supreme being in control.
The most important function therefore of the opposition,whether within the ruling administration or outside it is to test the executive,to challenge their ideas and to question their decisions.
As a callow young Labour councillor I was first an administration, but after one term became part of an opposition and remained that for many years.
With large Tory majorities we recognised that we had few opportunities to present an alternative view that the public might get to hear about.The press rarely if ever attended committee meetings and even Council meetings were sparsely attended.
But every six weeks or so the full Council meeting was the public platform that an effective opposition could use creatively.
In those far off days we had 'shadow' chairs of each committee and it was the job of the shadow to know their brief and to try and put pressure on the chair.It was especially true at budget time when Geoff Howes had gone through every budget and ensured that no stone was left unturned.
For many years I was shadow leisure spokesman and every meeting I relished roughing up dear old Fred Evans-who once his chief officer brief was used up he was on his own!
Council meetings are where the opposition can do the job it is supposed to do.Now I know the smaller the group the harder being effective can be,but Tony Clarke as a group of one has been more effective than all the others put together.
On Monday however the depths were reached.There are only five Labour members and on that day only two were present! The Leader was away, his deputy was away and the group whip was absent too!
Bad planning perhaps-maybe they were all at the TUC-oh no, they couldn't have been, for Councillor Tess Scott had agreed to second a motion put forward by a Liberal PPC attacking the local rail unions for their actions the previous Sunday.
Now apart from the fact they got the union wrong, they thought it was RMT when in fact it was ASLEF, and apart from the fact that it was none of the business of the local authority,and apart from the fact Cllr Scott hadn't discussed it with her colleagues it was all a bit tragic.
Luckily for Councillor Scott she fell ill at about 4l15pm that afternoon and was unable to second the Liberal's opportunistic motion.

But then I'm sure she will be able to explain her political rationale to her other group members at their next meeting to discuss tactics and I'm sure Keith Davies will be encouraged by Tess's political initiative,he was after all a staunch union activist in another rail union for many years(TSSA)
I'm sure also that when the crafty political brain that Tess so obviously has she will enjoy explaining her stance to Comrade Loakes and Brother Miliband when the Foreign Secretary addresses the assembled multitude(by invitation only) of Northampton South Labour Party at the Ex-servicemens Club in Sheep Street this Thursday. Perhaps Milipede will bring back tales of fraternal discussions from the TUC to regale the assembled brothers and sisters.

PS. When Loakes approaches ASLEF for an election bung will he take Tess with him as his political advisor?
PSS Is ASLEF still affiliated to the now suspended Northampton South CLP?