Sunday, 13 September 2009

An Elected Mayor for Sefton, and two interesting views of democracy

A strange letter in last Friday’s Southport Visiter gives me the opportunity to share the 'quote of the week .

The letter was anonymous (aren’t they always-though for the life of me I can’t see why the Editor agreed to preserve the anonymity of the writer. I’ve a hunch that the writer didn’t even attend the meeting.) The letter complained about the Southport Area Committee meeting held earlier this month on Wednesday 2nd September.

The letter suggested, in a non-specific way, that councillors should have been reprimanded for “trying to pull down various members of the public”.

Councillors of all parties thoroughly are thoroughly confused, as September’s Area Committee meeting was both brief and thoroughly good-natured.

There were only six questions from members of the public and two of these were about the recent consultation exercise on the possibility of an Elected Mayor for Sefton – this is a matter which falls in my area of responsibility as the Cabinet Member for Performance & Governance.

We have all been racking our brains and can only assume that the Visiter letter relates to one of these two questions.

“Does this Committee and the separate Parties consider that the consultation about the Elected Mayor has been a success?”

As Cabinet Member responsible, I can tell you that the consultation period lasted 10 weeks, and was advertised via the local press, the Council’s website, reports to all 7 Area Committees and through leaflets and information in local Libraries and ‘One Stop Shops’ and a letter to every household in the borough.

Despite this, in her response to the question Southport’s leading Conservative councillor said that what she thought was needed was yet more consultation!

This was countered by another Conservative, who pointed out that this suggestion was on the level of requiring that residents of the Irish Republic should keep having referendums on the European Constitution until they come up with the right answer!
Or as I remarked on the way to the pub afterwards, it reminded me of a line in a Bertolt Brecht play where a totalitarian politician concerned that an election might produce the 'wrong result' muses that perhaps they should 'dissolve the electorate and choose another'

We can only assume that the Visiter letter was prompted by one of my Lib Dem colleagues who, in his response to the question, had the audacity to quote verbatim from the submission made by the Southport Party. And now here is the quote of the week direct from that submission:

“Whilst leaning towards the proposal of a democratically elected Mayor by the residents of the Sefton MBC area, the Southport Party are very reluctant to commit to public opinion without knowing who the eventual person would be and where he/she would be from.”

See the original on pages 45 and 46 here

Certainly an interesting view of democracy.

Mind you it was a daft question to ask. Contrary to what New Labour fondly imagine there is not wild enthusiasm for elected mayors and the question has little relevance to Sefton which has evolved its own political settlement. Now if we had asked the residents whether they wanted Southport to get out of Sefton there would have been an avalanche mail. The trouble is New Labour aren’t really interested in what the people think-only if the can be brow beaten to agree with them. The bludgeoning of the many by the few-to misquote Oscar Wilde.