June 28 2012

 

The good the bad and the ugly

My well-connected mole tells me that, prior to May's election, the IPG set up sophisticated election machinery that would have done credit to a political party, which, of course, it is.
I am told that, shortly after Christmas, they got to work drawing up lists of potential recruits and possible dangers to existing party members.
Cllr Rob Lewis - recently promoted to deputy leader - was the mastermind.
Once the results were in, a new list was drawn up dividing those members who hadn't stood on a party ticket into three groups.
There were the certs - 29 in all - which included all the existing members, minus Brian Hall and Mike Evans, and four of those elected for the first time: Daphne Bush (Pembroke St Mary South), Steve Yelland (Rudbaxton), Paul Harries (Newport) and Keith Lewis (Crymych).
My mole tells me that this this quartet were signed up at the count where IPG (as it then was) bigwigs had been detailed off to give newly elected members the arm-round-the-shoulder treatment.
Another mole tells me that individual IPG top brass were allocated to target individual new members.
So, as soon as the result had been declared the IPG member who had been assigned to the case would sidle up to the newly elected member; congratulate him or her on their stunning success; and invite them to sign up there and then, or, failing that, to come along to the secret group meeting.
Someone (me) has likened this to the tactics used by timeshare hustlers in places like Tenerife
Then there were the eight potential recruits Jacob Williams (East Williamston) Phil Kidney (Manorbier) Jonathon Nutting (Pembroke St Michael) Brian Hall (Pembroke Dock Market) Lyn Jenkins (Solva) David Lloyd (St Davids) Reg Owens (St Ishmaels) and Mike Evans (Tenby South) who it was hoped would sign up when they had heard Jamie Adams patter at the secret invitation-only meeting to be held on 8 May.
And bringing up the rear the six members listed as "Uglies": Phil Baker (Saundersfoot) Tony Brinsden (Amroth) Bob Kilmister (Dinas) Viv Stoddart (Hubberston) Mike Stoddart (Hakin) and Tessa Hodgson (Lamphey), so Grumpette and I would seem to be well matched.
Of these, the first five were sitting members classed as "unaffiliated" in the previous council.
The only newly-elected member included in the "Uglies" was Tessa Hodgson and, in light of what appears above, it would seem the poor girl missed out in the Mendelian sweepstakes.
Following the invitation-only secret meeting the total rose to 30 when Reg Owens signed on the dotted line.
Lyn Jenkins was out of the country and, another mole tells me, Brian Hall was holding out for a Cabinet post (SRA circa £15,000) but eventually had to settle for chair of the environment scrutiny committee (SRA circa £9,000)
The other six opted not to sign and, though they didn't know it at the time, were cast into outer darkness.
Then in a surprise move, David Bryan withdrew his signature and became an "Ugly" but that was cancelled out when Lyn Jenkins returned to the UK and promptly signed up.
If you've been paying attention, you will have worked out that Cllr Jamie Adams' IPG had control of 31 of the 60 seats - a slender majority considering that Brian Hall was still breathing fire and Peter Stock was also said to be upset by his failure to land a top job.
So Cllr Adams played his trump card - he enticed Cllr Simon Hancock, who had represented Labour in Neyland ever since PCC was reconstituted in 1996, and who was the party's official candidate in May 2012, to join the IPG
This move required some fancy footwork.
In order that Cllr Hancock wouldn't break his promise not to join the Independent Political Group, Cllr Adams had to agree to change its name to Independent Plus Political Group (you have to read George Orwell's Animal Farm to appreciate how this works) and Cllr Hancock had to agree to accept a Cabinet post (SRA circa £15,000 a year).
I think I got that right, but it is very complicated.
In case anyone runs away with the idea that Cllr Hancock's sudden change of political allegiance is anything to do with the SRA, I should point out that his explanation is that he left the Labour Party because it required all its councillors to sign a contract obliging them to pay 7% of their councillor's allowance into the party campaign fund.
You can judge the credibility of this explanation in light of the fact that shadow Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain MP, announced this requirement back in September 2011, long before any Labour members sought the party's endorsement for the May 2012 election.
As the mathematicians among you will already have worked out, the recruitment of Cllr Hancock gave Cllr Adams a 32-28 majority - enough to protect him against the defection of either Cllr Hall or Cllr Stock, but not both.
But Cllr Adams had already taken out insurance by elevating Labour leader Cllr Sue Perkins to the Cabinet with responsibility for safeguarding children - the issue that has caused so much strife recently and which has led to the Welsh Government to appoint a board chaired by a retired High Court judge to oversee improvements.
To be fair, this move was not entirely motivated by pure electoral politics.
For reasons which I am not at liberty to divulge, this post had to be held by a woman.
Cllr Adams' party had four members who qualified on these grounds: Cllrs Pearl Llewellyn, Umelda Havard, Lyn Jenkins and Daphne Bush.
Cllrs Jenkins and Bush were newly elected and obviously didn't have the experience to take on such a key role, so he had little option but to look outside the IPG circle for someone to fill the post.
So, whether by accident or design, he killed two birds with one stone by finding someone credible to fill the Cabinet post and, at the same time, saddling an opposition member with collective cabinet responsibility.

Time the healer

While Cllr Sue Perkins hasn't defected from Labour - she has got the penny and the bun - she has so far kept her own counsel about Cllr Hancock's decision to jump ship.
However, she has not always been so reticent when Labour members have crossed over to the other side.
Readers may remember the case of Cllr Ken Rowlands who, having been adopted as the official Labour candidate for Johnston in 2008, had a late change of heart and stood as an independent.
So late, in fact, that Labour had no time to adopt an alternative candidate to fight the seat.
Immediately after the election, Cllr Rowlands was elevated to the Cabinet where he remains to this day.
As someone with the benefit of a scientific education, I know that correlation doesn't prove causation, so I will leave it at that.
Cllr Perkins, who was Labour leader at the time, took a more robust stance.
Thanks to yet another of my vast labour of moles (I used to be in a pub quiz team so I know these things c.f. murmuration of starlings; tiding of magpies; and drunkship of cobblers etc) I have obtained a copy of the email Cllr Perkins sent to Cllr Rowlands at the time.

06 April 2008

Ken,

I have not returned your call. At the moment I would be happy never to speak to you again.

In your message you say I might be upset with your decision but I am more than that.

I am disgusted.

Sue Perkins

And I've edited out the really personal bits.
Cabinet meetings must be jolly affairs!


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