This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The Times yesterday carried the following report :

ONCE, things were simple. Some members of Leicester City Council were Conservatives, some were Liberal Democrats, and when they got together they formed a ruling coalition.

Unfortunately it all got rather complicated when the Tory group leader decided that he would like to join the Lib Dems. Rather than retiring his blue rosette and crossing the floor, Roman Scuplak merely added a (figurative) yellow ribbon to his lapel. He told Local Government Chronicle (July 13): “I am still leader of the Conservative group but for offical purposes I am classed as a Liberal Democrat.” The town clerk doesn’t see it that way. “A councillor may be a member of (only) one group at a time,” Tom Stephenson ruled.

However, it appears likely that this dual-partisanship approach is more about pragmatism than party politics. The Lib Dem group has split, leaving the coalition at risk of losing its majority on some committees — including the one that’s due to decide the chief executive’s bonus. Or, as the Labour leader put it: “It is an attempt to rig the employment committee to ensure (that the opposition) does not have majority and cannot vote down the chief executive’s bonus.” And the Lib Dem leader’s response: “It is nothing of the sort.”

For those not in the know Roman Scuplak - in my days in that city at least - was an authoritarian, socially conservative, Thatcherite. If he's a liberal, let alone a Liberal, then my name is Brian Clough ! Basically, the group of SEVEN that split from the Lib Dem group and now called the Focus Team should be entitled to a number of committee places, including one on that which decides the Chief Exec's pay. The remaining Lib Dem group, in a coalition with the Tories, want to push through a big increase for the council's principal employee. The Focus Team would combine with Labour to frustrate this move. Even before this fall out it appears from talking to sources in that city that the juniour party in the coalition - the Tories - were the tail wagging the coalition dog.

It begs the question why the Lib Dems got politically into bed with the Tories. A previous attempt at coalition following the 2003 elections crashed and burned in pretty spectacular and prompt fashion. The Tory personnel has not changed to any great degree so why sup with the devil twice ? And, to join a party for purely political manoeuvring brings the Lib Dems, Tories and Cllr Scuplak into disrepute. Both parties should act to kick him out of their respective parties.

No wonder people don't trust politicians and shun the political process when confronted by shameless dishonesty such as this.

I'm sure I'll be criticised by Lib Dems for publicly raising this issue but are blogs just meant to be 'good news' pieces ? The Lib Dems in Leicester are out of order end of story in my view. Anyone care to say different ?


Blogger Joe Otten said...

I guess you could argue that wanting to get something done, and putting that above tribal political loyalties, is an act of high princple, not shameless dishonesty.

But, knowing nothing of this situation, I should probably just keep quiet.

11:13 am BST

Blogger Tristan said...

I don't know the details, but Liberals can work with Tories very successfully.

You describe him as authoritarian and socially conservative which is a worry, but these are traits of many Labour party members (and some LibDems unfortunately).

12:22 pm BST

Blogger Barrie Wood said...

He WAS, but it is some years since I lived in that city, he may have changed... although friends suggest not !

12:32 pm BST

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry but the committee has little power so won't really make a lot difference to keeping the coalition together. There is something a lot more sinister here- why would he fall on his own sword to protect the Chief Executive?

Roman is no different he treats his group members with no respect and he his totally right wing.

The Lib Dem group has been in a mess for the last five years plus, because in Leicester it lacks strong leadership and is full of New Labour members who act in a New Labour way

7:05 am BST

Blogger Barrie Wood said...

Roger Blackmore's 'personal issues' are hardly a secret now are they !

8:41 am BST

Blogger Barrie Wood said...

To lose SEVEN members of a council group - and that one in a coalition - is terrible group politics. It would surely have been better to keep disaffected LDs on-board than recruiting the widely disliked Scuplak.

10:59 am BST

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It would surely have been better to keep disaffected LDs on-board.."

I've worked with members of these groups since the early eighties. The Focus breakaway is marginally less mad than the official group, but both are fairly pointless. They should neither be involved in running a major city.

11:45 pm BST

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well some of them haven't been since the early eighties and some of the Focus Team members are well respected

6:56 am BST


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