Friday, October 17, 2008

Contest threatens to become a circus

I can confirm that the following are standing in the North Road by-election;

Ann-Marie Curry (LibDem)
John Hoodless (BNP)
George Jenkinson (Tory)
Steve Jones (Independent)
John Vasey (Labour)

Steve's candidacy has provoked some inevitable spluttering incredulity. Over at the Northern Echo, Pete Barron in his blog has said that Steve's decision to stand makes his blood boil. The front page of today's Echo carried an uncompromising headline "Ludicrous" and pointed out that not only would the by-election cost £11,000, but 2 schools would have to be shut for the day to accommodate polling.

Mike Barker for the LibDems is also spitting feathers. He hopes that Steve will heed the Echo headline, and withdraw before Wednesday. Some hope.

I have to say that beneath Mike's outrage, there's more than a little hint of fear. Remember, despite the bad publicity that Steve attracted last time, when he was national news and for all the wrong reasons, he still comfortably came second, sandwiched between Fred and Mike (now there's an image to conjure with). Not everyone reads the Echo, and I've always got the impression that Steve is personally well-liked around the ward. The LibDems would be far happier spinning half-truths about Labour alone in the contest in their Focuses, and having to attack Steve too could make them look shrill and negative.

Steve's candidacy, in which he and Labour's John Vasey are genuinely local people, throws the contest wide open. We're starting way, way behind the LibDems in this race (the difference between our leading candidate and Mike Barker in 3rd place for the LibDems last time was over 430 votes). Still, I shall be trudging up Eldon Street with a renewed spring in my step in the coming weeks.

20 comments:

Mike Barker said...

You forget to mention, though, Nick, that Steve was elected as a Lib Dem in May 2007. It was too late to have the party logo and description removed from the ballot papers and we'd already delivered a couple of leaflets with him as part of our team, before we dumped him.
Had Steve stood as an Independent against three Lib Dems, he wouldn't have been elected.
As you yourself have said, and I can't be bothered to trawl back and find the reference, Darlington has never displayed any appetite for electing Independent Councillors. I don't expect that to change this time!

Anonymous said...

Concentrate on your own ward. I hear a vote of no confidence in youis in the wind.

Ex-Labour said...

A few things, firstly I must stress I personally like Steve and if the election is to be held anyway the cost and schools closing is not an issue whilst I can see why it is being seen as a waste of £11K.

My other thought is how is it that Steve can miss 6 months of meetings and not realise, whilst I take his word that he has still been working for his constituents surely one meeting every six months should of been possible.

Which brings me to allowances if he has used up all the allowance he was entitled to for this year just who will pay the allowance for the new Cllr till the next financial year starts?

Darlington Councillor said...

Ex-Labour - the point is that the election has been triggered by Steve's inability to make a meeting for 6 months - otherwise we would have carried on as normal.

As to how someone can miss meetings for that length of time (and whilst being warned by Democratic Services that they were at risk of being disbarred) well, that's something only Steve can comment upon.

The expenses won't be an issue - we are paid monthly in arrears, so if Steve is not successful, the winning candidate will simply pick up where he left off.

Mike - I take your point, though I also seem to remember that you produced literature before the end of the campaign without Steve, and he too got out a leaflet of his own. I would imagine quite a few voters will have plumped for him in the knowledge that he and the LibDems had parted ways.

As for my comment about independents - do I always have to be consistent?! Seriously, I think the theory holds for new independents - where a councillor has fallen out with the party s/he represented and gone independent, it can be rather a different matter.

Remember Jimmy Whelan who won at least one election as an 'Independent Labour' candidate in Harrowgate Hill (finally losing in 1991)? And Charles Smith and Paul Geldart certainly undermined the Tories in Haughton East and Pierremont in 1995 when they stood as 'Independent Conservatives'.

I don't think this election is going to be as clear-cut as you and the LibDems would like, Mike.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....


The fact is Mr. Jones failed to attend a single Council meeting for six months and as a result he was disqualified from being a Councillor. He must have known the rules about this. I am sure that if he had broached the subject at his job interview with his prospective new employer some arrangement could have been found between them and Darlington Council to allow Mr. Jones to attend Council meetings. All employers are legally required to give employees reasonable time off for public duties. Employees in this position will normally make the time up by coming into work earlier or in other ways.

Darlington Council bent over backwards to contact Mr. Jones in the intervening period and he did not contact the Council. Therefore he was rightly disqualified as a Councillor.

The fact that Mr. Jones is standing for Council so soon after being disqualified and because his actions caused the by-election in the first place is extraordinary, it does make a mockery of the democratic process and is a flagrant waste of public money.

Not only that, it deprives children of a day’s education, employment for teachers and support staff in schools used for the election, working parents their wages which they can ill afford to lose in this present economic climate and for employers the loss of money and production as a result of employees being absent.

Perhaps Mr. Jones should consider these facts and then decide what he wants to do.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....


The fact is Mr. Jones failed to attend a single Council meeting for six months and as a result he was disqualified from being a Councillor. He must have known the rules about this. I am sure that if he had broached the subject at his job interview with his prospective new employer some arrangement could have been found between them and Darlington Council to allow Mr. Jones to attend Council meetings. All employers are legally required to give employees reasonable time off for public duties. Employees in this position will normally make the time up by coming into work earlier or in other ways.

Darlington Council bent over backwards to contact Mr. Jones in the intervening period and he did not contact the Council. Therefore he was rightly disqualified as a Councillor.

The fact that Mr. Jones is standing for Council so soon after being disqualified and because his actions caused the by-election in the first place is extraordinary, it does make a mockery of the democratic process and is a flagrant waste of public money.

Not only that, it deprives children of a day’s education, employment for teachers and support staff in schools used for the election, working parents their wages which they can ill afford to lose in this present economic climate and for employers the loss of money and production as a result of employees being absent.

Perhaps Mr. Jones should consider these facts and then decide what he wants to do.

Darlington Councillor said...

I can't quibble with any of your arguments, Alan.

Certainly Steve Jones' election literature will make for very, very interesting reading....

Ex-Labour said...

Just a thought if the need is to avoid the 11K and the 2 days off school why not let Steve Carry on, on half allowance's till his term is up on the strict understanding he would need a doctors note for none attendance.

Anyone who disagrees with this IE: other party's hoping to gain a seat should equally stand down and save the money, you can't call Steve and then secretly want to hold the by-election so they can gain themselves.

Thats just as bad, surely?

Darlington Councillor said...

You raise an interesting point, ex-labour, that I was going to comment on separately.

Whilst it would be fine to collude with Steve and so avoid the need for an expensive by-election, rules laid down by Parliament mean that a poll has to be held.

MP's in their wisdom, have set down all sorts of rules for councillors to follow - so not only do we have to attend a meeting at least once every 6 months, but we also have to live or work within the Borough or district authority which we represent. We also have to declare an interest, whether it's personal, non-prejudicial or prejudicial, before an item is discussed.

This is all absolutely fine - except MP's themselves don't set similar rules for themselves. It's the last one that particularly irks me. As I understand it, MP's have to declare their interests in a Register - but they can then go on to speak freely without the need to highlight their interest, or the nature of it, during a debate.

So for example, Sir Bufton Tufton MP of Little Wittering can hold forth on the huge benefits of the widget to the UK economy without mentioning that he is a paid consultant to the Acme Widget Co. Only if you've read the Register of Members would you find this out. The context of his comments would not be immediately clear to those listening.

Back to the subject, it is of course open to the candidates from the 4 parties to stand down before Wednesday - let's see how Mike Barker responds to that idea....!

Mike Barker said...

No thanks, Nick. Let the democratic process take its course.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Ex Labour. It's very clear indeed. Steve Jones failed to attend Council meetings for 6 months so he had to be disqualified and an election must be held to fill the vacancy.

Your suggestion sets aside clear rules which councillors must adhere to which would set a very dangerous precendent.

Nick I really do think legislation should be introduced into Parliament preventing disqualified Councillors immediately trying to come back and making a mockery of the electoral system. Perhaps a period in purgatory is needed before they can seek elective office again.

I recall about 10 to 15 years ago in the Whinfield area we had a rather stubborn Councillor who after he was elected up sticks and moved to Nottingham. The electorate felt that he could not properly represent them from that distance and he was still collecting his attendance allowance for doing very little, if any council work. There was an almighty row about him which went on for weeks and weeks in the Northern Echo. Eventually it dawned on him that he could not fulfill his council duties from Nottingham and he resigned, but it took ages for him to go.

Ex-Labour said...

Nick 2 things firstly the widget example was a good one and I agree all MP's should declare at the start of any meeting/discussion an interest would be nice to see exactly what your pal "Pepsico boy" would need to declare that alone could take upto an hour of any meeting as he appears to have so many extra interests no wonder he is never here in Darlington.

Secondly is John Vasey any relation to the "Viagra Vasey's" I do hope we are not swaping one bad Labour apple for another. Either way I am sure he will give a stand up performance with so many other family members already on the "gravy train" to advise him.

Finaly it would be nice for Steve Jones to defend his corner and to explain why he could not attend just 1 meeting it would make for interesting reading, you never know there may be a perfectly normal explination.

miketually said...

Steve Jones has a blog of his own, but it's not been updated since July of 2007, so he does have a means of getting his side of the story into the public domain.

Interestingly, his last post contains a complaint that the Lib Dem councillors for North Road hadn't attended a North road partnership. A comment on that post points out that ex-Cllr Jones hadn't attended the last full Council meeting.

Anonymous said...

Was Councillor Charles Smith that bloke who had the newspaper stall in the indoor market?
I am lead to believe that ex-Councillor Geldart actually lives in the North Road ward funnily enough.

Paul Geldart reminds me quite a lot of the proprietor of this blog in a few ways.

Anonymous said...

Observations from the nominators and consentors forms from this election and when it was last held in May 2007 and now.

Labour - Only one person out of ten who signed Labours North Road nomination form last time in 2007 have done so again. That individual being the only person at number 7 Oriel Court who chooses to like politics - Lee Vasey. The wife of long suffering Henpeckee John. The rest being neighbours, friends and residents of North Road ward.

Lib Dem - The Lib Dems have zero repeat signees from 2007. The abscence of Stephen, Chrusty and Tina Jones being glaring ommisions.

BNP - Another high turnover of people willing to sign their form. The controversial Steven Jones has wisely chosen not to sign the form of the far right but the equally controversial mystery man Daniel Brown has again resurfaced to add his name. Bizarrely enough a resident with the unlikely BNP name Wladyslaw Mazur has endorsed the BNP candidate. Is this a piss take or do we have activists of a Polish far right sister party to the BNP living in Darlington?

Conservative - 8 out of ten, so a very good retention rate here. All from the one street which shows interesting strength for the Tories. If just one street can turn out such solid support, then imagine what the rest of the ward could achieve if it follows suit.

Steve Jones - 3 out of ten from last time, which is still 3 more than his old mates in the LD's could manage.
Amongst the signturees is spouse, neighbours, friends and constituents who admire the achivements attained by "Corporal" Jones. Who knows what this unpredictable, unknown quantity will do next at the ballot box.

If the nomination papers are anything to go by then an entertaining election waits to unfold.

Good luck to everyone.

Anonymous said...

After all the insincere kind words from Labour councillors about the sad passing of Steve Jones who they loved and thought was a brilliant hard worker for North Road I have had it mentioned to me that Labour councillor Jenny Chapman reflects the real feeling for SJ within her party.

Allegedly she recently used words to the tune of "ineffective prick" to describe a man who stood between Labour and the desired heavier domination of Darlington.

With Moonface Wallis and Pipsqueek Burton showing such high regard for their former hated rival, it will be interesting to see who they will be out on the streets campaigning for. Jones or Vasey.

Anonymous said...

After all the insincere kind words from Labour councillors about the sad passing of Steve Jones who they loved and thought was a brilliant hard worker for North Road I have had it mentioned to me that Labour councillor Jenny Chapman reflects the real feeling for SJ within her party.

Allegedly she recently used words to the tune of "ineffective prick" to describe a man who stood between Labour and the desired heavier domination of Darlington.

With Moonface Wallis and Pipsqueek Burton showing such high regard for their former hated rival, it will be interesting to see who they will be out on the streets campaigning for. Jones or Vasey.

Hair Bear Bunch said...

"ineffective prick" from the woman who has never looked at her hair in the mirror for 20 years, who rode on the past Mayors coat tails into a job.

People in glass house's really shouldn't.

Someone earlier mentioned "Viagra Vasey" is it the same family of drug dopers to the disabled?

All went quiet on that question so I will take it as a yes.

Anonymous said...

Wow nepotism and crime. It can't be true? Can it? Over to you Councillor Wallis.

If true it's time for the town hall stables to be cleansed.

Anonymous said...

Did not the Labour party cover for a stanhope road area councillor SB for quite some time a few years ago despite his inability to be a councillor. His monies were paid and Yes he sadly had alzheimers but constituents were told by the other councillor for the ward not to bother to disturb him by ringing him with questions. The whole area knew if the situation but nothing was made public. His phone, computer and council monies continued to remain his. YES PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULD NOT THROW STONES NOR SHOULD THE ONES THAT HOPE TO GET INTO THOSE GLASS HOUSES AT THE NEXT ELECTION.