The Most Surreal Day at Cornwall Council

I have to say, the 16th October 2012; will be one of those days you long remember.  A no-confidence vote to remove the Cabinet Leader was debated. It had all the hallmarks of being explosive, full of twists and turns with some strange outcomes. And it did not disappoint!

A no-confidence motion is not common and it is less common for one to be successful. Firstly for it to be accepted it needs 41 signatures. So there has to be a lot of common ground for one to meet this threshold. Even if it meets this threshold, it rarely is successful.

I was hoping the debate today was going to be short, and to the point. I even stood up and said this, as I felt a long and drawn-out debate was not the best course of action for the Council. That was not supported and during the next two and a bit hours various Councillors stood up to give their view on the motion. At one stage security had to be called because one Councillor who wanted to make a certain point refused to sit down when the Chairman told them to, after it went beyond ‘good debate’. In the end order was restored and apologies given.

Finally a vote was indeed taken by way of a ballot. It was always going to be close, but it was not as close as imagined. The vote was 63 for and 49 against the no-confidence motion, a majority of 14. No one enjoys doings this, but the lesson that has to be learnt from this is listen and respect the greater membership of the Council. Ignoring that view, you do so at your peril.

The next job for the Council was to elect a new Cabinet Leader and the Council was adjourned to allow the various groups to put forward a candidate, or an individual to stake their claim. After a few requests for extra time to carry on with the discussion the Council reconvened for the final showdown. A boy it was a showdown!

At first Armand Toms was the preferred candidate for the Conservatives and the majority of Independents. Then instead of Armand, Neil Burden was put up. This then lead to Jim Currie (Con) being nominated by Bob Egerton (Ind) and Ruth Lewarne (LD). That was one hell of an unholy alliance. Each candidate was then given five minutes to outline why they should be Leader. It was on those speeches the Leadership was really decided.

This time the vote was really close. Jim Currie won it by three votes (49/46) and was duly elected the new Cabinet Leader. Then four of the current Cabinet Councillors made public announcements they would with immediate effect stand down. They were Councillors Double, Ridgers, German and Hicks. I am not sure who will replace them, as they will have to be discussed and decided in the coming days.

Who would have thought a Leader ousted, a new Conservative Cabinet Leader voted in power by Lib Dems, Meybon Kernow and a handful of Indi’s with an Indi, supported by Conservatives and Indi’s. That has to be a first in local government!

Lastly, for those with a liking for Social Media, the webcast attracted 4466 viewers at the peak and in the Twitter world, the debate was trending (most talked about) number three in the UK. That’s democracy to your front room.

 

7 comments

  • A benefits assessor

    I hope the good work done by you and your fellow councillors will continue until JV is dead and buried.

    Well done.

  • David Craig

    An interesting day and eventful lead up to it. I’m glad they resigned. Sounds very much like egos were coming first and not well thought out policies. I hope the council is a bit more transparent now and councillors are given ALL the necessary information they need in order to make informed decisions. However shame there wasn’t an all out Russian style parliamentary fisticuffs 🙂

  • Johns

    Andrew, what a success for democracy and what an excellent job you and your like-minded colleagues have done here.

    Cornish residents do not like being told what to do and when they question matters being told that they simply don’t understand the complexities of a Strategic Partnership.

    I actually think that opponents of the JV/Strategic Partnership understood it only too well.

    The Joint Venture/Strategic Partnership was always ill-advised and laden with risk. But any dissenting voice was dismissed.

    Well now there has been a rather different dismissal by the Council majority. Good result.

    Thank you for all your help and support in opposing the haste and secrecy behing this JV.

  • hatchett

    Brilliant result Andrew, thank you for all your hard work…now if you could just get rid of Kev 😉

  • Toni Mills

    Why do you think members opted for the vote to be a secret ballot? And why did so many, 17, abstain from the second vote? Two very odd choices on, admittedly, an otherwise good day for democracy. I’m flabbergasted!

  • Andrew Wallis

    Tony,

    I believe to stop bullying and repercussions. Lots of threats have been thrown around leading up to the debate. However, it is not unusual for a vote to be taken this way. As for Committee Chairman, a ballot is used to elect.

  • Toni Mills

    Seriously? What sort of threats do elected councillors make to other elected councillors which are sufficiently intimidating to persuade them to conceal their votes? I realise political decisions, even in local politics, aren’t always about principles, but I didn’t realise things descended to that sort of level. Thank you for being open about your vote, in any event. I wish everyone involved felt equally comfortable.

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