The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council

It’s the little things…..

05.23.08 | Comment?

Full Council rituals the other night were as hair tearingly dull as usual (it’s only my second but it feel like my 50th).  It was a night of self-congratulatory Tory in-jokes and it’s just a question of growling and bearing it for a couple of hours.  What keeps me awake is listening out for those little throw-away comments from the Tory leadership which, in their unguarded complacency, reveal them for who they really are.  Here are three from the other night. 1) Tory deputy leader, about to be made leader, congratulating the soon-to-Chairman and talking about his career: “He was in

Kenya during the Mau Mau problem” (or at least I think that’s why he was talking about

– I’d drifted off a bit). Now, I know one woman’s/man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter and all that, but the insouciant way in which he referred, from an explicitly colonialist perspective, to what others refer to as a valid armed struggle against appalling colonial repression, seemed rather odd.  Had it been about

south Africa
, would he have said the ‘ANC problem’?  I suspect not, as he’d have known that to be unacceptable (he’s not stupid) but in this instance he could get away with an unthinking superior attitude which sets real people in a real struggle as a ‘problem’. 2) The leader, soon to be ex-leader, talking about the deputy leader-about-about-to-be-leader “He’s unique within the [Conservative] party because he’s a lawyer with a social conscience”.Does that mean that Edward Timpson, MP, a lawyer, has no social conscience?  Well, strictly speaking the leader appeared to be saying so.  Perhaps more importantly, he was expressing a clear view that you don’t have to have a social conscience to be a politician, and that indeed his own local party doesn’t really see the need to have them – they’re a nice add on but you can be a Tory without.  Well, from my experience to date he’s dead right. 3) Leader-about-to be-ex-leader L: “The local press has played a part in shaping some of our decisions”.Yes, that’ll be the Advertiser, part of the right-wing Trinity Mirror group, then.  At least it’s clear who’s making the policies.  This may explain why, three weeks after the election I’ve tried to get a briefing from officers about my new shadow portfolio (community services) only to be told that the Tories haven’t quite worked out who’s going to do what yet and they’ll get back to me when they have as they have to brief the ruling administrators first.  No need, just call the newspapers and ask them what the current policy is. 4) Leader- about-to be-ex leader: “The last administration (i.e. Labour to 2001) ran the Council somewhat inefficiently”, though apparently we were ‘respectable’ in some way I can’t quite fathom.   There we go again – it’s efficiencies that count – saving money where you can – rather than ‘effectiveness’ what actually gets done with the money and how people’s lives are affected.  Of course that’s the big problem with the delivery of leisure services round here – no focus on outcomes in planning, implementation or reporting, just the acceptance that Serco will make a decent profit.  That’s the problem with the junior football pitches at
Liverpool Road

– a nice pavilion built with someone else’s money, albeit delivered months after the start of the season, but not enough spent on the pitches themselves, so that a big portion of the season gets cancelled because they are waterlogged. Ah, I look forward to another year of saying these things and the Tories not really understanding what I’m getting at.  As one Tory said about Serco when I started to challenge their performance, “Well, they’ve got to make a profit”.   

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