Practice what you preach

The pre-Christmas meeting of full council was not the IPPG’s finest hour – five hours to be precise.

Not only did the Leader fail to persuade his troops to reject Cllr Jacob Williams’ proposal to webcast cabinet meetings, but he also failed to fill the vacant planning committee chair with one of his own gang.

With regard to the webcast, he suffered by far the biggest rebellion ever when Jacob’s notice of motion was approved by 41 votes to 15.

The IPPG’s loss of the planning committee chairmanship (SRA £9,000) was an even bigger blow because, as was reported elsewhere, Cllr Adams told the group’s secret pre-council meeting that if Cllr Peter Stock was elected to the post it would be a disaster for the council.

It seems that some of his foot-soldiers must have rejected this advice because rumour has it that Cllr Stock was elected by a significant majority.

From where I was sitting there was a clear view of the count, and, though it wasn’t clear enough to give an accurate figure, I can say that one of the three bundles was exceedingly thin.

By a process of deduction, it must have been that of Cllr David Pugh who was eliminated on the first round.

It was heartening to see that very few councillors took issue with my argument that the man responsible for the catalogue of misrepresentations that has become known as the “Don Quixote affair” wasn’t a fit and proper person to take control of the quasi-judicial planning committee.

Even worse from Cllr Adams’ viewpoint is that, coming as it does on top of the election of an opposition member to the vice-chairmanship of council, this further demonstration of his inability to maintain the IPPG’s monopoly of SRA-bearing positions must have some of his supporters asking what’s the point of him if he can’t command enough votes to secure them a first class seat on the gravy train.

Near the end of the meeting the bold Jacob asked the Leader if pressure had been put on Cllr Alison Lee to join the IPPG.

You may recall that, in order to provide a democratic fig leaf, when Cllr Lee – elected under the Labour banner – joined the cabinet she opted to sit as an unaffiliated member.

This allowed Jamie Adams to spout some guff about cross-party working, though, mercifully, he stopped short of any talk about a cabinet of all the talents.

A couple of weeks ago, Cllr Pearl Llewellyn resigned from the IPPG depriving Cllr Adams of his majority.

Within days Cllr Lee had signed up for the IPPG.

Majority restored!

Of course, it wasn’t long before Jacob was dusting down one of his vast collection of conspiracy theories.

Well, he can put it back on the shelf because we now have it from the Leader’s own mouth that the timing of these events was entirely coincidental.

But amidst all these comings and goings perhaps the most interesting contribution came from The Voice of Johnston, Cllr Ken Rowlands.

During the debate on webcasting, The Voice interjected to say that, while he didn’t mind having his words of wisdom broadcast far and wide:

“There are people who are not really happy – they are not in their comfort-zone – when they know they are being recorded.

But actions speak louder than words and these same people are very active in their communities and that is what they should be judged by – not in the way they speak here, but what they do for their communities.

Remember, actions speak louder than words.”

I suspect this is a response to recent criticisms of certain members representing seats in and around Haverfordwest for their complete silence over the far-reaching proposals for education in the north of the county – proposals that are overwhelmingly opposed by the people they represent.

Though it should also be pointed out that these same members maintain a Trappist silence in committee meetings when they are not being recorded.

This good-local-member stuff is, I’m afraid, what poisons the well of Pembrokeshire politics.

On this analysis effective members are those who put themselves about in the wards they represent.

This usually involves badgering council officers in order to get things done for their constituents, while at the same time enhancing their electoral prospects.

Now, it is every member’s duty to take up their constituents’ complaints and problems, but it is only part of the job.

We are elected as county councillors and we are ALL responsible for the education of ALL the county’s children and not just those who live in our wards.

Ditto the care of old people; the state of the roads; the condition of council houses etc, etc, etc.

In any case, preferential treatment for people living in the wards of influential councillors would be a corruption of the democratic process, and probably illegal.

That is because the democratic system is derived from the Christian principle that we’re all equal in the eyes of God and it is but a short step to hold that we must therefore be equal in the eyes of the State – formerly the Monarch, who was regarded as God’s representative on earth.

This is usually referred to as the politics of the common good as opposed to the “pork-barreling” that is a major corrupting influence on democracies across the world, because, with a fixed amount of money to spend, any preferential treatment for one section of the community must, as a matter of arithmetical inevitability, lead to to discrimination against others.

In short, the sort of injustice that democracy is designed to avoid.

I had intended to examine the extent to which these principles were routinely violated here in Pembrokeshire but Jacob has beaten me to it with an excellent piece on the shenanigans in Tower Hamlets in which Judge Richard Mawrey QC makes the case with more force and authority than I can muster.

In a democratic system the role of politicians is to devise policies that ensure that everyone gets the most out of the resources available.

The second stage of the process is to see to it that the executive (officers) carry out those policies in a fair and equitable manner.

Otherwise, you could end up with a situation where officers could arrange to favour the election of those members who were least likely to hold them to account.

That would be in direct conflict with democracy, as I understand it.

Of course, encouraging the perception that belonging to the ruling group will help to “get things done in your community” with agreeable election consequences is one of the IPPG’s chief selling points.

It was trotted out at the recruitment meeting shortly after the 2012 election, and, when he abandoned Plaid Cymru and jumped into the IPPG’s bed, Cllr Stephen Joseph told the Pembrokeshire Herald that he had done so in order “to help his constituents”.

And who can forget Cllr Huw George’s boast – in his election video – that the £300,000-worth of tarmac laid in the Maenclochog area in the run up to the 2012 election was down to “positive politics” i.e. his influence?

Though it must be said that his role as Cabinet member for the county’s education system, which only a few months earlier had been the subject of withering criticism from both Estyn and CSSIW, was invisible as it lay buried deep under the acres of black stuff.

It is not that The Voice doesn’t know about these things because, shortly after the 2008 election, when he jilted Labour for the IPPG and found himself on the Cabinet gravy train, he received a reminder from the Leader Cllr John Davies that, now he was a Cabinet member with county-wide responsibilities, he had to come to terms with the fact that Johnston was not the centre of the universe.

Among the documents leaked to the young upstart shortly after last election, there are several drafts of Ken’s lengthy response to the Leader in which he explains the steps he is taking to widen his horizons while “searching for ways to best assumulate (sic) my portfolio”.

He concludes: “So if you will please bare (sic) with me”.

And on the subject of actions speaking louder than words, I would point to the not dissimilar sentiments in Matthew Ch7, v9 with which Preacher Ken will no doubt be familiar: “By their fruits shall ye know them”, often restated as: “By their deeds shall ye know them”.

Shortly after his betrayal of Labour in 2008, which, according to the Western Telegraph, prompted the then Labour leader Sue Perkins to send him a “vitriolic” email saying “I hope you are happy with your 30-pieces of silver”, Cllr Rowlands wrote to the newspaper claiming that his decision to join the IPPG had not been taken until after the election.

Strangely, among the documents unearthed by young Jacob was a copy of Ken’s election address (author IPPG stalwart David Wildman) dated two weeks before polling day.

How very accommodating of the IPPG to be unlawfully producing election material on the council’s computers for someone who was not even a prospective member of the group.

Another of the Voice’s claims that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny is that he had no part in the decision of fellow defectors Umelda Havard and Lyndon Frayling to ditch Labour and join the IPPG.

This was in response to Cllr Perkins’ suggestion that persuading this pair over to the dark side was the quid pro quo for Ken’s swift elevation to cabinet rank.

A sort of Faustian dowry?

Again the documents leaked to that other website show that the 2008 election leaflets of Cllrs Frayling and Havard were both produced on council computers by the same ex-Cllr David Wildman.

But what really gives the game away is that both sets bear the imprint of their election agent: “Promoted by Nalda Rowlands Woodlands Church Road Johnston”, which, as the more alert among you will already have guessed, is the same address as that occupied by The Voice.

Actions speak louder than words; by their fruits shall ye know them – take your pick.