John's Jottings for November 2003

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

It Might Have Been Funny...

...if it weren't so serious.

The standard of behaviour of some elected members of Medway Council seems to have sunk to an all-time low. This does no-one on the council any credit, and indeed tends to tar all members with the same brush in many people's eyes—and who can blame them for making such judgement?

However the more attentive observer of proceedings in the Council Chamber would have realised that all of the despicable behaviour comes from only one political group (and it isn't my group!) and just a few members of that party.

A lot of really vitriolic attacks, scare tactics to create a public lobby, misrepresentation of facts, abuse of the way meetings are conducted to give particular members vastly more speaking time than the rest of us (by pretending to raise so-called points of order that turn out to be nothing of the kind) and a whole range of disruptive tactics that probably would not be recognised as such by the casual observer—all of this has become standard fare at council meetings.

So why has some members' behaviour degenerated so much?

Well, in one or two instances all that has happened is an intensification of the way they have operated all along. They cranked up a few notches during the local election campaign period, it didn't work, and now they have nothing else left to offer except more of the same.

They're getting desperate. It's obvious to anyone now that the opposition groups are in serious danger of wiping themselves out through becoming ever less electable. Personally I am not in favour of that happening as it would not be healthy for Medway to be too one-sided politically. A complete wipe-out of non-Conservative members would not be in Medway's best interests, although a modest shift in that direction would bring some benefits, both tangible and intangible.

Oh, the frankly loutish activities of these few are not confined to full Council meetings: it is not uncommon to witness at least some of the same at various committees and even in such very public situations such as planning site visits.

We have even seen strenuous attempts to have minutes of meetings changed to suit an opposition party's own agenda, skirting very close to the line at which they would be referred to the appropriate disciplinary body (the Standards Board).

All this (and there's even more!) must surely make the tax-paying public wonder just what sort of individuals they have representing them—or at least claiming to represent them.

In truth, of course, there is nothing new or particularly unexpected in what I have reported above—many people think that is how politicians always behave, and probably always will. This, however, is no excuse.

There is an oft-stated saying that "politics is a dirty business". Well, it can be, but there's no universal law of nature that says it has to be. It is the way people in this area of work conduct themselves and their business that makes politics dirty, but equally they can rise above what they perhaps perceive around them, and set a good example. It will not stop us all being tarred by the same brush in many people's judgements, but they shall know that their behaviour at least is above reproach. That's the way I operate, as has been witnessed many times, and I shall never change.

When it comes to the next local election, there is a question you can usefully ask yourself: why would anyone feel the need to behave atrociously? There just has to be something very wrong and untrustworthy about anyone like that, no matter what excuse they might offer. Remember it's your life they'll be affecting if elected, and your council tax money they'll be spending on who-knows-what...

Next time: Let Go With Labour!