• More honourable means more difficult to control

    4th November 2012 | News | Claire
  • I was struck by a letter by Frances Deegan in this week’s Sidmouth Herald.  The letter was written following some studying of East Devon MP, Hugo Swire’s website and she draws attention to the quote above.

    Mrs Deegan points out in her letter that Mr Swire’s news page is full of light-hearted community stories, opening an event here, attending a seminar there…only one article on the fury in Sidmouth currently. 

    But there are many passionate blog-posts defending the Conservative Party against criticisms, some from renegade elements of his own Government.

    In an blog-post named ‘Testing Times’ posted on 13 May 2012, Mr Swire laments the difficulties facing the Government and praises David Cameron for his fortitude, in the face of adversity.

    But one sentence struck a chord with Mrs Deegan.  And it struck a chord with me. 

    Because it seems to be the root cause as to why so many people across the country, don’t feel properly represented by their councillors or MPs. 

    The party whip.

    The opening italicised sentence above is pasted directly from Mr Swire’s website – the full story can be found HERE

    Turned on its head the sentence seems to be saying that having control over MPs – who are supposed to be representatives of the people – is better than them being honourable – or putting their constituents’ interests above the interests of the political party they represent.

    It is precisely why I became an independent (encouraged to stand for council by fellow independent Roger Giles).

    The idea of being constrained by party politics is unthinkable to me.  The reason I became a councillor is to represent people’s views.  Full stop..  A party line or party stance on issue can only get in the way of effective representation, which is surely what councillors are here for, aren’t we?

    Local government is surprisingly heavily politicised and the EDDC conservative group has its own party whip whose job it is to keep all 43 of its councillors in line.  Any councillor who strays too far from the party line faces consequences, from being frozen out of the group, missing out on promotions, or being threatened with deselection at the next elections.

    A case in point, there are seven (conservative) councillors for Sidmouth and yesterday a protest of almost 4,000 residents marched from the esplanade to the Knowle. 

    I did not see one Sidmouth councillor on the march.  What on earth was said to them to make them stay away from the biggest event and strength of feeling that their town has ever shown?

    The party, I am informed, should always come first.

    Out of 59 EDDC councillors, 43 are conservative.  So the control Mr Swire alludes to above, is all too prevalent here in East Devon – almost all East Devon councillors are under the control of the party whip.

    And this is why it is vital that many more effective minority party candidates stand at the next elections in 2015.  Residents need more choice. 

    The only way the East Devon conservative stranglehold and its friend the bulldozer, can be weakened, is by residents voting in a more diverse council. 

    I live in hope!