October 25 2012

Shot fox

That other website run by Cllr Jacob Williams has made some more startling revelations about the sophisticated 2008 and 2012 election campaigns conducted by the non-political, political party formerly known as the Independent Political Group (IPG) and now called the Independent Plus Political Group (IPPG); the Plus having being added so that Cllr Simon Hancock, who had promised never to join the IPG, could sign up with a clear conscience.
To date, Cllr Williams' researches have spawned lengthy articles in both the Western Telegraph and Western Mail and there is even talk that the broadcast media are interested in the story.
To think I have been banging on, without much success, about this anti-democratic set-up for seventeen years and along comes this young whippersnapper, barely out of short trousers, and reduces the castle of lies to rubble in just a few months.
Still, mustn't be bitter - he may have shot my fox but it's the cause that matters, not who gets the credit.
The Western Mail article is especially interesting because of the comments made by the Leader Cllr Jamie Adams.
Asked if he had told members present at the IPG's recruitment meeting that if they didn't join the group they wouldn't get things done in their wards, Cllr Adams replied, "I certainly didn't say anything like that, but I can't remember whether other members of the group did or not".
No doubt Cllr Adams has a lot of things on his mind at the moment, but, if I could refresh his memory, one of his recruiting sergeants, Cllr Peter Stock, told that meeting: "If you want the best for your ward you will not be able to do it alone. You need the support of the group."
And there was much more in the same vein.
At no time did Cllr Adams attempt to contradict Cllr Stock's exposition of the IPG's unique selling point.
It would seem to follow that those of us who decline to join political groups can't expect to get the best for our wards.
But that would be a denial of the principles of justice that distinguish democracies from other forms of government.
Justice, sometimes characterised as the politics of the common good, demands that resources are allocated to those areas where they will produce the greatest benefit and not according to the political colour of an area's representative.
The idea that a ruling political group can arrange things so as to enhance the electoral prospects of its members is not only undemocratic, but unlawful (Google Dame Shirley Porter).
It is ironic that Cllr Adams should appoint someone with Cllr Stock's shaky grasp of these basic principles of justice to the recently formed Police and Crime Panel; the function of which is to scrutinise the activities of the soon-to-be elected Police Commissioner.
Thanks to Cllr Williams' sterling efforts, the wheels are beginning to fall off the IPPG chariot.
It was already looking a bit shaky with its majority down from 39 - 21 in 2008 to 32 -28 in 2012 (and that after poaching Cllr Simon Hancock from Labour) and if the trend continues it will be history before the next election.
I hope I can take some credit for its poor performance at the last election and, if it falls to Jacob Williams to apply the coup de grace, I will be the first to applaud.

Complete picture

Old Grumpy has been taking a closer look at the head teacher's letters in response to my call for a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet member for education, Cllr Huw George Stop press
It is striking that many these letters follow the same pattern and use the same vocabulary.
The standard form is: introduction: paean of praise for Cllr George's work in taking assemblies, writing musicals and being charismatic; a few words about how he is at the forefront of the council's improvement strategy; and a plea for continuity now that director of education Graham Longster is set to retire in December.
I lost count of the number of times the words "works tirelessly" and "supportive" were employed.
Indeed, these letters look like they were based on some master template, though these stylistic similarities could, of course, be the product of mere coincidence.
Unfortunately, my statistical consultant has not been available to work out the probability that these similarities might have arisen by chance, so a deeper analysis will have to wait until next week.
In the meantime, I understand that Cllr George's election video has reappeared on You Tube having been taken down soon after I first drew attention to it back in early May (see The love that etc).
The first part of the film consists of Cllr George driving round his ward boasting about the amount of tarmac that he has arranged for his constituents.
Part two, entitled "Who I am" shows pictures of him meeting people (some famous, some not).
Apart from the Elvis Preseli act, the picture that most caught my eye was the one of Cllr George engaging in a mock boxing match with some school children.
This was clearly taken during one these much lauded school visits in his capacity as cabinet member.
I wonder if any of those head teachers who wrote to me earlier would care to comment on the ethics of using this picture as part of an election campaign.

Men of straw

Yesterday's Western Telegraph article on my motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George repays careful study
First the headline: "Council denies rallying support for under fire county councillor" followed by the county council's denial that it has conducted an "orchestrated campaign" in support of Cllr George, is the type of "straw man" argument much beloved of those who wish to divert attention away from the real issue.
This is a reference to the 23 letters sent to all county councillors by a selection of the county's head teachers singing Cllr George's praises and condemning my notice of motion with emotive terms like shame, disgust, shocked, disappointment, alarmed and horrified.
It will be noticed that my statement published in the article makes no allegations about this being an "orchestrated campaign", so there is nothing to deny.
And it is interesting to note the council doesn't say the letter-writing campaign wasn't orchestrated, merely that it was not wielding the baton.
That, of course, doesn't exclude the possibility that a member or members of the county council were operating behind the the scenes, or that a head teacher(s) was the driving force.
Applying the iron principle that you should never believe anything until has been officially denied, I have been taking a closer look at these letters and the evidence, which will have to wait for a later blog, would seem to indicate that somebody was playing the Barbirolli role.
My statement to the paper concentrates on two areas: the apparent conflict between these letters and the code of conduct which requires council employees to be politically neutral, and the attempt, by the use of emotive language, to challenge my democratic right to put down notices of motion about any subject that I consider worthy of public debate.
Council leader Cllr Jamie Adams is quoted in the WT as saying: "Not content with a personal attack on Cllr Huw George, Cllr Stoddart now wishes to challenge the wider education community in Pembrokeshire by questioning the views voluntarily offered by professional experts."
So, the straw man having received a good kicking, Cllr Adams resorts to his stock-in-trade smear tactics.
To characterise my no confidence motion as a "personal attack" on Cllr Huw George is, I'm afraid, a descent into the political gutter.
All I am doing is initiating a debate on whether the Cabinet member, who was in charge during the period leading up to the damning reports highlighting the serious flaws in the council's child safeguarding procedures, should be held to account.
It is my strongly held view that he should.
And it is my even more strongly held view I that I have the right to say so.
As for the bit about challenging the views of the "professional experts" that only serves to demonstrate how little Cllr Adams understands about the workings of democracy.
If it is not to challenge the experts, what are elected members for?
Turning up at meetings and putting up their hands for whatever the experts decree, perhaps.
Indeed, one the more serious criticisms in the joint Estyn/CSSIW report is that elected members don't challenge enough.
In any case, my six 'A' levels and seven years of university education allow me to claim some expertise in this field, and any gaps in my knowledge can usually be filled by consulting one, or more, of the three qualified teachers (experts?) in the family.

am Monday 22 October

My motion of no confidence in Cllr Huw George, cabinet member for children and the Welsh language, has caused something of a stir among the county's education establishment with 22 head teachers writing to all members of the council supporting Cllr George (see below).
Whether these letters are consistent with the requirement that council employees should remain politically neutral is a question we can leave for another day.
In the meantime, I can report that , rather than have the matter dealt with straight away, the chairman, Cllr Arwyn Williams, used his discretion to refer my motion to Cabinet which will make a recommendation to December's meeting of full council.
That leaves me in something of a dilemma because, having fought long and hard to win the right for members to address Cabinet when their notices of motion came before that august body, I now have to decide whether to participate in this charade.
The notion that the Cabinet, all appointed by the Leader Cllr Jamie Adams, can deal objectively with this issue is strictly for the fairies, so why should I waste my time banging my head against a brick wall?
If anyone is interested in a bet, I am offering ten bottles of merlot to one that the cabinet recommends that my NoM be rejected.
There is a theory going around that, because of the absence of several IPPG members, the leader, fearing he might not have enough votes at his command to defeat my notice of motion, instructed/persuaded the chairman to remit it to Cabinet.
He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
I find that improbable because, according to my arithmetic, with Plaid planning to abstain, my motion was doomed to fail.
In any case, the idea that the chairman, who has a duty of impartiality, would be swayed by pressure from the leader is surely fanciful.
So I can only assume that, in the spirit of fair play, the chairman took this step in order to allow me more time to prepare my case and counter some of the spurious, self-serving arguments advanced by the head teachers' cabal.
By the way, it is interesting to note that two-thirds of the county's heads didn't take part in this letter-writing exercise, though, with the matter due to resurface in December, there is still time.

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