I read in today's 'soaraway' Thanet Gazette, that I'm now the 'Deputy Leader' of the council! I would of course like to thank the editor for my sudden promotion but have to ask if she's told my colleague, the real Deputy Leader, Councillor Wise yet or whether I should break the news over the bacon sandwiches at our regular informal cabinet meeting on Saturday morning?
In an election year, readers are bound to see a great deal of exaggerated coverage on what the council is or is not doing on everything from local development to council tax and litter collection. Inevitably, simple facts will be buried under a snowstorm of objections, petitions, letters and comments when invariably, the answer can be found at the end of a telephone line or simply by sending me an email.
Local Labour, I see, are already starting on a rather unpleasant campaign, with inflammatory press releases designed to manipulate the search engines.
Rather than attack the content of these statements, which are frequently at odds with my own recollection of events, I want to make it clear that nobody prevents the opposition from involving themselves in proper debate. However, most recently, the local Labour group have appeared at both Council and Cabinet with pre-prepared statements or indeed, short speeches, such as that delivered by Cllr Watkins on Thursday evening which rambled on extensively about 'Conservative Millionaires' and the number of 'luxury yachts' being sold at this year's London boat show.
In council, much like Parliament, one would expect the opposition to ask a question and then receive an answer. At Westminster, you will see the Speaker intervene if an MP wastes parliamentary time by launching into a prepared speech and the same is true here in Thanet. As I politely pointed-out to Cllr Johnston on Thursday: "I would be very happy to answer your question if you actually have one to ask." (sic)
What I would be very unhappy to see is local Labour, who lack political debating skills in any real sense of the word, turning-up to council meetings with speeches, that magically appear as press releases after the event. As such, the chair has every reason to ask the person involved to sit-down rather than 'Filibuster', which is what we have been seeing in recent months. Politics is a form of live entertainment and standing on a soapbox, delivering a speech, which frequently has little or nothing to do with the subject in hand, is not a good way of serving the people of Thanet. I hope Cllrs Watkins, Poole, Johnston and Hart in particular will take notice. I am pleased to say that Cllr Nicholson is uniquely capable of speaking lucidly without subjecting us to a lengthy and pre-prepared speech on the faded glories of socialism and the moral collapse of international bankers.