Voting machinations

The young whippersnapper has stolen a march on me with a comprehensive account of Tuesday night’s secret meeting of the ruling Independent Party.
Not only does he seem to have found a very talkative mole, but he is now taking advantage of my advancing years to get the drop on me.
The meeting didn’t end until almost 8 o’clock and, as Old Grumpy likes to be in bed with his Ovaltine well before nine, there simply wasn’t time to publish anything that night.
He, on the other hand, was busy tap-tapping on his keyboard in order to put up a post at the unearthly hour of 11.42 pm.
Still, nobody said life was fair!
I was in County Hall on late Tuesday afternoon and there were quite a few members of the ruling clique in the tea room waiting for their big gathering.
One of them asked me why I referred to them as “stooges” on my website.
I explained that, although the Calver case had strengthened councillors’ rights to freedom of speech, the Judge didn’t give us a completely free hand.
So “stooges” is as close as I can get to expressing my true feelings without crossing the line.
Though, after what happened at Thursday’s meeting of full council, they shouldn’t bet against me pushing the boundaries.
The purpose of these secret party meetings is not altogether clear, but what is certain is that it is not to instruct members how to vote because at their recruitment meeting just after the 2012 election their Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, gave them a cast iron guarantee that that would never happen.
Indeed, he said it on three separate occasions during his speech, so it must be true.
I will have more to say about Thursday’s meeting once the webcast is available, but for the moment I will concentrate on the vote of no confidence in the chief executive.
The basic arithmetic is that the IPPG have a 33 -27 majority on the council, so four of them have to be prised away if the opposition are to have any hope of inflicting a defeat.
As it happens, the balance was tilted against the ruling group by the absence of Cllrs Myles Pepper and Simon Hancock.
So, at 31-27, only three defectors were required.
Cllr Reg Owens – a semi-detached member of the IPPG (he’s actually a member of the Labour party) – is a serial defector and he was joined on this occasion by Cllr Stephen Joseph (who was elected under the banner of Plaid Cymru, but defected in order to get things done in his ward and now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being a member of the increasingly unpopular IPPG).
The electorate in Milford Haven are a sophisticated lot, and I doubt this show of independent bravado will cut much ice.
So, on the face of it, it was a dead heat
However, it is not that simple because included among the opposition are three Tories who, with the exception of Cllr David Bryan, have a tendency to back the IPPG.
In the event they split down the middle with Cllr Bryan voting with the opposition, Cllr Stan Hudson with the IPPG and their Leader Cllr David Howlett providing his troops with a strong sense of direction by abstaining.
I don’t know what these last two have against Stephen Crabb, but I have a feeling their stance will have a significant effect on floating voters come the general election in May 2015.
The newly formed Pembrokeshire Alliance Party was also split with Cllrs Bob Kilmister and Jon Nutting voting with the opposition and Peter Stock sitting on the fence.
Cllr Stock was a founding member of the IPPG, so it may be a case of old habits dying hard.
With Labour solidly in the opposition camp, that left only the nine unaffiliated members.
Of these, two, Cllrs Phil Kidney and Owen James, voted with the IPPG.
In addition to Cllrs Stock and Howlett, there were three other ‘don’t knows’: Cllrs John Davies and Lyn Jenkins (IPPG) and Mike Evans (unaffiliated), leaving the ante-post favourites to come home at a canter.