Sunday, 22 July 2012

Captain's log supplemental

As I stated in my earlier post, at the council meeting held on 3 July, Labour Group Leader Derek Milligan referred to the SNP/Independent/Green coalition. I am grateful to Provost Joe Wallace, who immediately intervened to correct this.

Sitting next to Derek was Labour colleague Councillor Adam Montgomery. Why then did Adam, in a letter published in this week's Midlothian Advertiser, three times refer to the 'SNP/Independent/Green' coalition, if not to convey to the general public a position he knew well to be untrue?

In the same issue, another letter from the prolific letter writer 'Name and address withheld', also referred to 'my coalition'.

At the same council meeting, there was discussion relating to the make-up of a committee, during which Derek claimed I should not be a member as I am effectively part of the administration on the basis that I have voted consistently with the SNP. This is disingenuous. Leaving aside the votes where I was committed as part of my agreement to vote with the SNP (i.e. elections of Provost and Council Leader), there have only been two or three votes taken - as most decisions so far have not been taken to a vote. On the remaining votes, I have not been persuaded by Labour's arguments.

Provost Wallace succinctly pointed out that the previous Labour administration had never expressed a similar view of the Liberal Democrats, who had consistently voted with Labour over the previous five years. Quite. 

One of those issues, which Labour has rightly highlighted, is the move from a 4-weekly to 6-weekly cycle of council meetings. I voted for the change as a compromise. I supported Labour's opposition to reducing the size of two committees, and negotiated the removal of that change in return for supporting the change to the meeting cycle - as I was assured by the SNP that council officials were very much in favour on the basis of greater efficiency.

I now feel this may have been a mistake. However, had the Labour Group approached me before the decision and appraised me of their concerns, I may very well have supported them rather than being forced to make a decision in the middle of a meeting and without the full facts at my disposal.

If, as Derek Milligan claims, “The smart money is this group won’t last till Christmas", then what is the Labour Group's Plan B? If they have any hope of regaining power, surely I should be somewhere in that plan, rather than driving me into the arms of the opposition.

I have read a lot over the past week about the late Bob McLean. I didn't know Bob very well; we exchanged pleasantries and the occasional chat when I saw him, usually in the Co-op in Bonnyrigg. Having read more about him, I wish I had got to know him more. Clearly he was a shining light in the Midlothian Labour Party, and it's a pity he didn't become more active in 'front line' politics. Midlothian and Midlothian Labour would have been greatly enriched were he to have been a councillor. Perhaps he's the best councillor Midlothian never had.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Plus ça change ...

If the Labour Group on Midlothian Council is intent on seeking my support to get back into power, it is most certainly going the wrong way about it.

Today's full council meeting appointed the replacement Council Leader and Depute, following the resignations of Lisa Beattie and Jim Bryant from those positions respectively.

I had signalled my intention in advance to vote for the replacements nominated by the SNP Group, as my earlier agreement with them is still in force, and despite a few misgivings about how things have been handled, I see no reason to change it just now.

I cannot say I yet have total confidence in the SNP-led administration, but what I do know is that if today's performance by Labour is anything to go by, they'll need to change their game plan if they have any hope of me changing sides.

Labour Group Leader Derek Milligan started by referring to the SNP/Independent/Green coalition. Thankfully this was corrected by the Provost, but why do such a thing if not to provoke a reaction and risk alienating me still further? In a fit of what seemed entirely false indignation, and supported in turn by other Labour councillors, he then claimed the Labour Group knew nothing of the Depute Leader's resignation and demanded an hour's adjournment to consider his group's nominations.

Firstly, even a three hour adjournment wouldn't change the fact the numbers didn't stack up in their favour - except of course they probably knew Peter de Vink had to leave shortly and were maybe hoping one of the SNP councillors would somehow expire during the course of the meeting.

Secondly, why did they need an hour to discuss their nominations when they had presumably thought through their options when they first proposed them on 22nd May? Had they lost confidence in their own nominees in the meantime?

More succinctly, it was pointed out by Owen Thompson that the procedural niceties that the Labour Group were insisting must be carried out to the letter were largely ignored by their own administration when in office. Insisting that Council needed more time to consider nominations to Cabinet is one thing, but then when the Coalition responded by agreeing to defer a decision until the next Council meeting, they then complained that the Cabinet would as a result be operating in a vacuum (mainly during recess). A better example of sheer bloody-mindedness would be hard to find.

Other than where my agreement with the SNP Group is in force, I remain neutral and will vote on an issue by issue basis. Labour accuses me of continually siding with the Nats whilst never giving me a good reason to do otherwise. Two months ago I told them that if there is an issue coming up on which they want my support, they should approach me beforehand and discuss it. I'm still waiting for the first knock at the door.