Through the looking-glass

This is the speech made by Cllr Jamie Adams at the IPG's recruitment meeting held on 7 May 2012 - just four days after the election. This speech outlines the philosophical underpinnings of the IPG, or lack of them. My comments are in italics

"A very warm welcome to this candidates' independent group. If I could take the time for a little while,I just want to reflect on the election we've just had; talk about independent members and first speak about the independent group which some of you will have heard about and some of you will have positive and, indeed negative thoughts upon that.
The first thing I want to say is just a bit of a reflection on the election.
Being in the unusual position of not being challenged in my own ward gave me quite an opportunity to reflect on the actual election and the key messages that come forward from that.
Interestingly, there were 25 candidates less in this election than there were in 2008 across the county. Whether you read into that that the appetite to be a member of council has diminished since that time or maybe just that life is becoming a bit more uncomfortable for council. And I think that's the case and I think that's a reflection of the responsibility the public place upon us to ensure that their money and their services are in top order.
And it is incumbent on us who are elected to this council, and, indeed, to any other to ensure, that we drive value for money out of the system to ensure that the services we provide for those that need them throughout the county and ensure primarily that taxpayers' money is well used.
The result of the election, of course, as you well know is that there are 42 members of the council out of 60 returned as independents. This is very similar to the previous council and, indeed, councils before that, and Pembrokeshire does have a history of returning a large proportion of its members as independents.
And there is a question with that because there is a clear wish to have person who is independent of political ties to undertake and represent their view at county council [This is a rather strange sales pitch. The proposition is that the electorate's wish to be represented by members "independent of political ties" can be fulfilled by putting their names to piece of paper the purpose of which is the formation of a "political group"].
In order to do that how are we to achieve it on a county basis because clearly the mandate they expect is that the county is run on an independent basis [ditto].
Now it is very difficult and almost impossible to undertake that role if we are not aligned in any way ["independent of political ties" and "aligned" are mutually exclusive] .
And that is why previous councils have formed themselves into an independent group [The reason why previous councils have been formed into an independent group is so that the IPG can retain its iron grip on power, and the accompanying SRAs, without having to go to the trouble of convincing the electorate to vote for it. In fact a post-election coup d'etat]
As you know, there were nine Labour members returned, there are five Plaid, three Conservatives and one Lib Dem and the question is would it be correct to allow a group that's politically aligned to undertake the responsibility of the administration of the authority, [Unless one of the politically aligned groups could persuade enough of the other members to elect one of their number as Leader of the council, there is no possibility of it "taking responsibility for the administration etc"] when you consider that the largest group has nine out of 60 you do question whether they have a mandate to undertake that. [this is a straw man because it is obvious that a group (Labour) with nine out of 60 members doesn't have "a mandate"]
That is why it is my firm belief that we must align as a group to ensure that we carry out, basically, the mandate of the electorate in terms of allowing the authority to be run on an independent basis [it requires a leap of the imagination to claim that the election of 42 independent members creates a mandate for some of them to "align" as a political group. Especially as there was no mention of this already existing political group in election materials put out by any of its present or prospective members].
Now, that's not to say that there are not political views held in this room because I well know that probably the four main parties are represented in this room through individuals who are members of those parties [So, if it is not ideology that binds this group together, what is it?].
And that's fine, and that probably demonstrates more than anything to me that the commitment of you as independent members is such that you are prepared to leave party politics outside the council door and ensure that you drive value for the people of Pembrokeshire based on your own beliefs [Contradiction in terms between "leave party politics at the door" and "based on your own beliefs"]and the reflection that you have and the interests you hold for your community [By implication, that would mean that those independent members who declined to join the group are not interested in value for money or the interests of their community].
I think that's really important.
One of the things that's very often said about the independent group is that you vote en bloc. I will give you an assurance that on no occasion. absolutely, and I've been a member for eight years have I been told how to vote and certainly we have not voted as a block unless we have all categorically and individually agreed with something [what is the point of forming a political group/party if its members always have a free vote? Surely, they can all "categorically and individually agree with something without having to belong to a group].
And that is the only circumstances where we would vote together.
On many occasions we have voted different ways [Not true. See "voting machines" on my website www.oldgrumpy.co.uk. When voting is by show of hands they are even more solid]
But what we are very sure about is trying to build a consensus not just in this group but around the council as a whole - around all members of the council to ensure that the views and decisions we are taking are those that are shared by the majority of the council [ Hear, hear! But that is not how things are done].
There are a number of you who joined the group.
At this point it might be useful if anyone has any questions.
What are we trying to achieve as a group?
As I said, I gave some patterns as to what is happening and we lost some members of the group through the election process, as did others.
One thing that is very very clear to me is that those members who didn't stay in touch with their communities, who didn't keep on board with what was happening around them at ground level were severely tested at the ballot box and one of the things I would like to develop as part of the Independent Group given the opportunity is to ensure that we have a far more structured way in which we maintain our contacts with our grass roots.
And that will come through community letters and also through the possibility of web pages because times are moving on and we have to be careful as a membership and certainly as a group of independent members without party machinery [see jacobwilliams.com "Partygate" for the lie that they don't have party machinery"] behind us that we ensure that we move with the times and that we primarily stay in touch with and engage with our communities because I think that, in one or two cases that was where one or two candidates got let down.
And that is one thing I think is really important and that is one thing we really cannot achieve as a group unless we ensure we have a structure in place that allows you to get your message through but more importantly to listen to what people are saying in your community because it's all very well doing things in county council and your responsibility, of course, is as a county councillor, but is very much as a ward member and it doesn't matter what you do in here [They might try getting their message across by publishing a manifesto BEFORE the election].
You can have a chain of office, you can have a Cabinet position, but you will be judged ultimately by the people in your ward as it is only they who will vote for you.
The electorate have a very nasty way of letting you know through a very unpleasant experience if you are not doing what they expect of you and in the manner which they expect.
If there are no further questions obviously, as a group we actually have to form that group.
If there are people here who are minded to give the IPG an opportunity that will be absolutely great and I would encourage you to do that.
There is no reason why you shouldn't become a member of the group and at some point if you feel it isn't offering you what you want or you feel it is not taking forward the decisions in the correct way, of course you are in a position where you may wish to leave.
What I would do is encourage you to try it.
Because I guarantee you that you will never be told which way to vote; you will always get a voice in terms of forming the policy of the council [Where does that leave the other members of the council?] and the other thing we can offer you is the opportunity to become fully embraced by the committee structure of the council which as an individual councillor is something that is taken out of your hands.
And what I would say is that if there are certain elements, if you have certain skills, I will be very interested in hearing about that so we can get you into an area of the authority; be it education or social services or highways or economic development where you feel you can contribute the most [Of course, that principle should apply to all members of the council, not just those who join the IPG].
That's how we as a council get value out of members by ensuring people with the relevant skills are empowered to add to the value of council [Ditto].
I would encourage you to come with us .
It is a promise I would be pleased to place on record, that I would be happy to ensure that it's a guarantee, actually, that we will never tell anybody how to vote - that's a categoric guarantee - you heard it from me that nobody has ever been told how to vote, and that's how it will continue [What is the point of forming a political group is there is not the expectation, at least, that they will vote as a block?].
Bit of business that we will have to begin in a formal way and, er, we must ensure that anyone who is part of that process is a fully signed up member of the group."