Friday, May 11, 2007

A week's a long time in politics!

Someone famous said that once - I don't know who but whoever s/he was they were right! The election came and went in a flurry of campaigning, canvassing and other things of interest only to those involved. At the end of Polling Day we had no idea what the count would bring across the borough but retired to bed exhausted, trying to get some sleep before what we thought would be a difficult day on Friday. The count went smoothly but slowly, and gradually it became obvious that the political landscape of Stockton was changing. Only late in the afternoon was it clear by just how much. We won back the seat we'd lost in Billingham when one of our members became an independent. Thornaby Independents took all the Thornaby seats and the Conservatives snatched a seat from Labour by a majority of 7 after a recount. So there we are - no overall control and a smaller Labour group by far than started the day.
We knew very soon that Labour wanted a coalition with the Tories and wondered whether the Tory leader would be tempted. He said no, he wanted to have a rainbow administration of all parties which wouldn't share any policy platform but would debate the decisions and come to a democratic decision. Admirable in theory perhaps but I wasn't convinced it would work.
Cutting a long week short - our group decided to give it a try and see if we could get a constructive working arrangement with all the other groups. Meetings, e-mails and phone calls later and it emerged that Labour had no intention of working constructively but wanted to be in charge even though conceding the leadership! They would tell us how to run things, tell us what portfolios we could have and generally try to shout down any comments from the smaller groups. True to form they managed to wind up one of the independents to the point of a shouting match before we'd been in the same room for 30 minutes. What chance democratic debate and decision making? Sadly, our group has decided that we can't be part of such an alliance. We can't see how it can work. There's not enough trust between us and the Conservative leader to counter the mistrust there is of Labour. We'll work with the other 4 groups if they'll work with us, but not Labour. They can have their 4 years of opposition or they can form a minority administration on 22 seats. Another interesting week ahead I think.

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