John's Jottings for February 2007

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.

Toys out of the Pram

I sometimes wonder whether we are dealing with opposition members of the Council who have grown up, or who are just like babies who go into a sulk whenever they don't get their own way. The following story is worth reading to illustrate this very clearly...

There have been numerous examples of opposition members not playing their parts—for which the people of Medway elected them—when it isn't convenient for them. Most notably, when they recently tried to flood a meeting of the full Council with questions but found that my group had got there first with our own, they walked out of the Council Chamber when our questions were being asked and answered.

Why? Because it is a time-limited session, so their questions were likely to be mostly after the allotted period for such questions. Their questions would still be answered, in writing after the meeting, but there is the matter of the supplementary question.

The idea of this—voted in by the opposition members between them before the Conservative Group gained overall control of the Council—is to spring a question on us that isn't on the agenda document. Thus they have tried to wrong-foot the Administration and thus (they hoped!) gain some political points for themselves. We have taken this with good grace, and have done our best to deal with these supplementary questions on the fly—but of course they cannot be asked if there is no time for them.

Thus the political game is being played; and it is only because the opposition members have been so slow in getting their questions prepared and lodged with the council's Committee Section that they have been unsuccessful in playing it the way they had intended these past few months.

Predictably, they then tried to claim that we had rigged the system to exclude them. Of course, the record (and IT audit trail for those questions submitted via email) shows very clearly when questions were received at the council, and the order of questions on each agenda reflects that precisely.

Even so, in a spasm of sympathy for the opposition groups, I deliberately sent in my latest question just before the deadline for submission, specifically to give the opposition members a better chance to have their questions dealt with on the night.

What did I find? Oh, they hadn't submitted any questions at all. Instead, they had "loaded" the public questions agenda item by getting their friends and supporters to ask a large number of questions, effectively on their behalf. Although it isn't immediately apparent that this was in fact the case, it became obvious to anyone attending the last Council meeting that this had all been carefully orchestrated. It wasn't exactly subtle...

So, there you have it; and if you happen to have been keeping an eye on Council agendas and wondered why these apparently unaccountable changes had occurred recently—well, now you know.

All that is needed now is for someone to pick the Lab/Lib kiddies' toys up from the floor before someone has an accident treading on them. By now, though, I think you, dear reader, might feel more inclined to want to step on those councillors themselves, and I for one wouldn't blame you!

Next time: A Rose by any other name...