I am often asked if I miss the County Council after 24 years as an elected member and the best part of 11 years as Leader of the Council. My answer is a resounding NO. I loved the job, particularly my role as Leader but I do think 10 years as Leader is about right (David Cameron are you listening?) and I certainly think a quarter of a century of public service marks time for a change.
If I had the slightest doubt about my feelings, a quick squint at the Agenda for Tuesday’s Oxfordshire County Council reassures me. The Conservative administration does not control the council and has to rely not just on all its own members turning up and staying to the end but also on at least one of the Independent members of the council providing support. However, it is not the uncertainty that persuades me I am wise to have stood down. It is the banality of the Motions to Council that members of the opposition have moved.
It has been clear to me from 2 May 2013 that the new Green Councillors are on the same meridian as Len McCluskey and their motions reflect this Stalinist tendency.
Their first motion attacks the coalition for seeking to reform the legal aid rules in this country. It was these legal aid rules that allowed Abu Qatada to thumb his nose at this country’s democratic values for too long and that cost this country £3 million in legal aid and benefit payments for him and his family. You may ask what this Motion has to do with a county council concerned with education, social care, environmental planning and libraries. I have to say – not a lot – but that is politics.
The Green’s second motion is not a lot better. They want to compel contractors working for the county council to employ a quota of under-23 -year-olds. You might think this is fair, given youth unemployment but wait a moment. This would apply to people doing road work and care staff looking after old and vulnerable people. I think this is actually plain daft Businesses need to employ those people they can recruit and who have the relevant skills for the job they are required to do.
If you look at the backgrounds of the two Green councillors you will understand that they have worked in he public sector and never had to worry about selling the goods and paying the wages. They do not like and do not understand markets.
I now come to the piece de resistance of Tuesday’s council. The last Motion of the day has been put down by Cllr John Christie, a Labour member. John worked for Oxfordshire County Council as Deputy Education Director for some time before moving to Slough Borough Council where he was Director of Education before retiring to the leafy Barfords. John is an intellectual, clever and articulate – an epithet not applicable to all of his Labour colleagues. Given this, what is he featuring in his Motion to Council? Something to stimulate the economy? Something to roll out the excellent work done in Conservative Cherwell to reduce the number of NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training)? Something to promote change in our coasting Oxford schools? Something to revolutionise social care? Something to promote our excellent fire service or to sustain our library service?
Well ….. actually ….. no. The motion is about where we recline our posteriors. Yes – it is about chairs.
Here is the motion in full: This Council, in demonstrating its commitment to fulfilling its legal duty to advance Equality of Opportunity under the Equality Act 2010, will respect the use of Councillors of gender neutral and inclusive titles in addressing and referring to those who chair meetings of the Council and its Committees. Council therefore requests the Monitoring Officer to bring a report to the next meeting of the Council outlining proposals to amend the Constitution accordingly.”
So, now we know. The most important issue for the Oxfordshire Labour Group is to adopt the political correctness of the hard left, symbolised in characterising the person who presides over a meeting as an item of furniture. This is the distorting language of Len McCuskey and Arthur Scargill.
If this Motion is passed and taken to its logical extreme, Cllr Louise Chapman can demand to be addressed as Cllr Louise Chapperson; Cllr John Tanner can be addressed as Cllr John-or-Jane Tanner while the delightfully positive and gregarious Cllr Susannah Pressel would become Cllr Sue-or-Sid Pressel. This would ensure non-gender specificity and what a lot of Shadow Chancellor that represents!
Come on Len McCluskey; keep giving us the gospel of Benn and Scargill and we will see a Conservative majority in 2015.