Thursday, October 08, 2020

Local Tories break the code of omerta

It's fair to say that, traditionally, I've not been a huge fan of the local Conservatives. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that I'm not alone - many of the county's Conservative MPs had rather faint, if any, connections to Suffolk prior to being selected, which might lead one to guess that the locals aren't that highly rated within the wider Conservative Party. But, they tend to win elections regardless of the weight of talent available, or the campaigning zeal displayed - Suffolk is that kind of place, I fear.

Our own County Councillor, for example, doesn't campaign outside of election time, doesn't report back and probably could pass unnoticed by 95% of the population of Stowmarket North and Stowupland. If that's what the public want though, that's what they get.

But today's news that a number of senior Conservative councillors have been apparently defenestrated by their own members in advance of next year's County elections in favour of presumably fresh new faces does come as a bit of a surprise.

Colin Noble is something of a marmite figure in West Suffolk. Personally, I think that he's a bit of a bruiser albeit an occasionally thin-skinned one. He didn't seem to like the fact that, when he referred to me as the husband of Ros, I responded by referring to him as the husband of Lisa. He became leader of the Conservative Group on the County Council after what was described as a bruising contest, and lasted three years before being overthrown. And now, he's been deselected by his local Conservative Association, having lost his District seat in 2019. But, regardless of what I might think of him, he is a "big beast" in local Conservative politics, having held senior positions in the regional party structure.

Jane Storey has gone too from Thedwastre North in Mid Suffolk. Funnily enough, she lost her District Council seat in 2019 as well - to the Greens - just when she might have become Leader of the Council (the former Leader had lost his seat to us earlier in the day).

And last, but not least, as far as we know so far, Guy McGregor has gone in Hoxne and Eye. In fairness, he's been around for a long, long time, having initially lost his seat in the great Tory rout of '93. He hasn't exactly seen eye to eye (not an intentional pun, I hasten to add) with his MP, Dan Poulter, over the years, but then he's apparently not alone in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Conservative Association.

How do I know all this? Because it's all over the East Anglian Daily Times which, in turn, means that people have talked. And it's unusual, given that incumbent councillors normally go at a time of their choosing. And they certainly haven't chosen, if the story is to be believed, because they've all appealed against the decision.

Now, regardless of what I think of them individually, I have no idea how effective they've been at County level, although the bar isn't always set terribly high. And I also know how difficult it is to find candidates, even where you're likely to win without much effort - being a councillor is hard work in terms of the sheer number of meetings you have to attend, let alone casework, Parish and Town council meetings to attend, etc. etc. So, presumably, the Conservatives have found someone else, someone able to meet the criteria laid down by their selection process rather better than Colin, Jane and Guy. Or, alternatively, the Suffolk Conservative leadership have decided that they've got to go, and the local Associations have quietly complied.

But, regardless of what I think of their policies, they have attempted to serve the people of Suffolk to the best of their ability, and that should always be respected, regardless of who, and where. At a time when politics, and politicians, are pretty widely derided, those who are willing to give their time and energy to public administration should be thanked.

That said, next year's elections could be difficult for the Conservatives across Suffolk. In 2019, it seemed that voters would, if given a credible alternative, vote for it over the Conservatives. That was certainly the story in Mid Suffolk. And, with the impact of Covid-19 on employment, and the uncertainty of what happens after 31 December when Brexit becomes a reality, being a Conservative candidate could be a very uncomfortable experience.

This might turn out to be a very good election to sit out...

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