Thursday, June 29, 2017

Deferred Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council - part one

Today was the deferred annual meeting of Cumbria County Council.

As expected there was a Labour and Lib/Dem stitch-up: instead of attempting to put together an administration of all parties, as the Conservatives had proposed, the parties which had come second and third in the county council election combined with three independents to exclude the party which had by far the most votes and seats from the council executive.

The most interesting thing about this was how defensive the Labour leader on the County council, Stuart Young, was about his election.

Before anyone from the Conservative side had made any allegation that his election as leader of Cumbria County council was illegitimate or illegal, councillor Young was keen to deny that suggestion.

Indeed, nobody from the Conservative group did suggest such a thing: but we certainly did say that

1) excluding the largest party was a stitch-up,
2) it was not wise to form a potentially very precarious administration in this manner, and
3) this was not what the electors had voted for

Let me substantiate that last point.

As you can see here the Labour party on Cumbria County Council had just lost vote share, a third of their seats, the position of largest party, and the previous administration's majority. It is very difficult indeed to credibly argue that the voters wanted them to carry on as before.

No party had a majority but the Conservatives were far closer than anyone else and indeed, polled a whisker more votes than Labour and the Lib/Dems combined.

On that basis we put forward a proposal for an all-party "rainbow coalition" administration and I still think that would have been a much more secure basis on which to run the council and been closer to what the voters of Cumbria appeared to want.

It is a measure of how defensive and uncomfortable Labour were with what they had just done to continue running Cumbria County council that Councillor Young put forward the rather convoluted argument that if you add up the Labour vote, the Lib/Dem vote, and the votes cast for the three independent councillors who voted for him as Leader of the Council, you get slightly more votes than the total Conservative vote.

If he really thought he had a strong mandate Councillor Young would simply thanked a majority of the councillors for voting for him and gone on to discuss what he actually wants to do with the position of leader having been re-elected to it.

Adding up the Conservative, or Labour, or Lib/Dem votes could be part of a valid argument since these electors had ticked a box next to which there was a political party logo and you can credibly argue that these voters had supported that party programme or group.

But Independent candidates by definition have distanced themselves from any party affiliation and to add up their votes as part of a calculation of party or group support is just plain silly.

It will be interesting to see how long this administration lasts. It might stagger on for four years but I would not bet on it.

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