Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Grandees square up for battle

Before Brenda's Star Chamber

Arraigned soon before the Star Chamber we think may be three Councillors. Below we assess their loyalty and the chances of survival. It is hard to discern exactly what Dukes ward Councillor David Pearson did wrong recently but one thing is sure: under no other Conservative leader in history would he have been so brutally kicked out.

All our defendants are former leaders of the Tory group and all have demonstrated conspicuously more nous than the present leadership. That, of course, is part of their problem. They know what is going wrong and, to a greater or lesser extent, they have made public their concerns. That is far more than David Pearson has done.

It is unfortunate that some have argued that Paula and Brenda did not have the ‘bottle’ to take on the two Tory Grandees who, along with David Pearson, represent Dukes Ward. Instead, they have picked on their less-well-connected colleague. This has led to the attack on David being widely-perceived as a proxy for the ‘sins’ of the other two.

Star Chamber Candidate number one is Councillor Les Byrom, former Leader of the Sefton Conservative group and Parliamentary candidate in the Wirral by election.

Councillor Byrom is clever - maybe too-clever-by-half for some of the Tories. He was a victim of a ‘putsch’ which brought Cllr Parry the leadership. He is a big wheel in the Tory group on the Local Government Association and particularly a leading light amongst those concerned with Fire Authorities which gained him a recent CBE. Les is a long-term councillor and, as such, he has seen the Tories decline from overall control to be the smallest – and still shrinking – Party on Sefton Council.

Every time Councillor Byrom speaks he makes sure you all know how much experience he has and how well informed he is. To be fair, he does do his homework and I believe that he would not have made the elementary mistakes that Councillor Parry has made –what's more, so do his colleagues! Is it the case that each carefully-crafted phrase is like a stiletto accurately aimed to illustrate his competence and so expose the present leaders’ inadequacies?

To his credit Councillor Byrom stood up unequivocally for David Pearson in the Visiter last week. In the debate – held inappropriately in private – at the last Council meeting, he clearly outlined his reservations about Cllr Parry's course of action. But like any ‘putsched’ leader he demonstrated his loyalty in public by voting for his successor in the chamber.

Survival rating:

loyalty to Tory Party *****

loyalty to Cameron ***

ability as politican ****

loyalty to Sefton Tory leadership **

Star Chamber Candidate 2 is Cllr Sir Ronald Watson, Chairman of the Southport & Ormskirk NHS Hospital Trust, Former Audit Commission member, Former bidwig in the Local Government Association. Former Chairman of the Sefton Health Authority.

Cllr Sir Ron Watson, we suspect, heads the 'hate' list for many in Brenda's New Model Army. When they talk of 'dead wood' or 'things not being properly run in the past' or people who may 'once of been useful but are no longer' do they think of Ron? He has had the audacity to write to the newspapers and, in the eyes of Brenda’s devoted followers, his letter was a criticism of Councillor Porter. For anyone else that would be a capital offence, but Cllr Watson clearly is confident that his knighthood and loyal service to the party will protect him. We suspect he is well connected and respected in the higher reaches of the Tories.

Not only does he endure this disapprobation of Brenda but her devoted colleague Councillor Paula Parry would appear to consider him with less than sisterly affection. The saga of Sir Ron's expenses to the LGA drags on seemingly without end. It would be interesting to know how much energy and effort Cllr Parry has spent resisting his expenses claims and compare that with the amount of time she spent on her budget proposal before the last Council meeting. I guess it would be rather like that other time- consuming saga she has concerned herself with; namely the fate of the fish in foyer of Southport Town Hall. These are clearly the type of economic issues she can grasp. No doubt she has been told if she looks after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves. Sadly, in Mrs Parry's case they have both got out of control. What is £650 000 amongst friends anyway? Not an attitude I fancy Cllr Sir Ron Watson would take.

Sir Ron is a wily old bird. He has nous, coherent political convictions and is one of the best speakers on the council. We doubt he concerns himself with the shenanigans of Cllr Parry/Porter half as much as they worry about him. He has been poorly recently and it will be interesting to see how he reacts on his return. Will he have the courage and decency that Cllr Byrom has shown is standing publicly by David Pearson? We suspect he might and, certainly think he will not be happy with their (lack of) budget planning.

Survival rating

loyalty to Tory party *****

loyalty to Cameron ***

ability as politician ****

loyalty to Sefton Tory Leadership *

The final defendant is Councillor Tom Glover. Like the other two he is a former leader but from a far distant past. He is genuinely well liked although even his friends agree that he has been rocked by the defeat of his two former colleagues in Cambridge Ward. This has had the effect of making him act a tad unpredictably.

It is an open secret that at the 'secret' Council meeting he ask some perfectly sensible and pertinent questions and was the only Tory who failed to vote for the Parry/Dowd motion. While we have not heard all his reasoning, he was clearly sure that the Council members did not have enough information to make such a momentous decision. Which is precisely the opposite to what Councillor Parry thought unless, of course, they wanted the Councillors to make the decision without the necessary information. We are equally sure that it would have been his instinct to save £600,000 rather than to Spend, Spend, Spend!! in the Porter Parry fashion.

Tom has sought to redeem himself by writing to the press to have a go at Lib Dem Councillor Iain Brodie Browne on matters of football . Whether this desperate gesture is enough to assuage the Star Chamber, only time will tell. We fancy that the electorate will be allowed to make the decision about his future in May when he stands a fair chance of following the fate of his two erstwhile ward colleagues.

In common with the other defendants we can, with certainty, say that if he had been leader this is a fine mess the Tories would have avoided.

Survival rating:

Loyalty to Tory Party*****

Loyalty to Cameron(not applicable)

Ability as politician (taken over his whole time on the council) ****

loyalty to Seton leadership**