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.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

23-9 to the Tories in Torbay ! What Next ?

My previous post proved quite prophetic as in Ellacome the vigorous long-running campaign of Julien Parrott saw him beat both the Tories and myself in the local elections. At least we retained one seat in the shape of Cindy Stocks who is Ellacombe through and through.

Having absolute control now the mayor has an entirely free hand, but I hope he learns from his mistakes to date, for the good of the bay.

Listen to residents as much as business interests, consult and take people with you and engage with councillors, including LD ones, irrespective of the cabinet make up. It will no longer do for Mayor bye to blame us for all the ills of the bay - and vice-versa for us !

From a LD perspective, I am encouraged that many of our disadvantaged areas (ala Watcombe, Hele, Ellacombe, Upton et al) still have SOME Lib Dem representation and the concerns of residents in such areas can be voiced through them.

Further, six to twelve months ago we were dead in the water and people were unremittingly hostile to us, this is no longer so. I'll admit we have work to do to restore our fortunes, but working all year around as we do, you can be sure of some vigorous contests ahead !

Amusingly a Conservative party boasting the Town Hall 'talents' and egos and personalities of Bye, Carroll, Excell and Oliver should be 'interesting' to follow. It will be interesting to see if the unlovable Caroll retains his position of leader following the initial Tory group meeting on Monday.

All is not lost though. Our MP - Adrian Sanders has a personal popularity level that is far greater than that for the party and indeed the local Tories too. Moreover, the heavy defeat fails to illustrate that we were not too far behind in a number of seats despite the hostility to the Chris Harris led LD group who took a number of decisions that alienated us from bay residents, even allowing for the hugely unimpressive Tory executive mayor that followed.

Interestingly as the electorate sought to punish us and usher in fresh faces all the LD successes were sitting councillors and the group has no new faces. In several wards, including the one I stood in, the new faces [at least to bay politics] polled notably fewer than the better known councillors. Thus a number of wards were politically split between ourselves and opponents.

It seems imperative that we select and build-up new candidates at an earlier stage.

To be fair to Marcus Wood (Tory PPC) his criticism that we ran too hard on the thorny issue of the casino bid he may be right. Whilst bay residents ARE opposed to it and resent the lack of consultation we probably 'gambled' too much on this issue and on the failings of the elected mayor. In hindsight more from our local manifesto may have delivered better results and we must move beyond being the anti-Mayor Bye party.

The current LD group need to formulate a way of balancing constructive engagement with, as well as opposition to, Conservative Mayor Bye. From a personal point of view, I still think it'd be a mistake to join his cabinet. There is little common ground and the mayor is utterly uninterested in the fate of some of our more disadvantaged districts. The public perception, much advanced by Bye, is that we were utterly oppositional throughout his term of office to date. We need to counter such perceptions better, irrespective of the tone of our local paper.

I think the election strap line of 'Standing up for local People' and the claim that we ARE the only party to work all year round need to be realised from heronin. That is the way forward. What credit we have is for opposing the mayor on issues that have resonated with local people, such as the casino, the concessionary bus pass scheme, future of some of our historic buildings and in opposing the closure of care homes. We need to carefully pick the terrain that we maximise our opposition to the mayor.

Lastly, the council group has a new leader, in Steve Darling. He would have had my vote and should prove the right choice as he is almost certainly the figure who unsettles the Tories [and especially the Mayor] most. A radical choice and an astute political operator and a ferociously hard-working councillor is what we've now got heading the LD. The only way now is up !



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