Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Twilight Zone

Full Council this evening, to finally put the Council's budget for 2010-11 to bed. I got such a strong sense of deja vu from the very familiar and tiresome poses struck by the opposition that I thought I was entering (nee-nee nee-nee, nee-nee nee-nee) The Twilight Zone.

The Labour Group had worked hard in preceding months to try and square important circles - recognising that residents needed relief from a DBC Council Tax rise this year in the teeth of a dreadful global recession whilst at the same time protecting front-line services. And whilst some employees were understandably unhappy with some of the efficiencies which potentially impact upon pay and conditions (although I believe negotiations continue), the Cabinet did all it could to minimise job losses.

Not everything was right first time, and we were correct to listen to representations and row back on several proposals for some fresh thinking.

So what does an opposition do? If I've learnt anything about their tactics over the years, the main objective seems to be to rubbish the achievements of the ruling group whilst saying nothing (or next-to-nothing) about what they would have done if in power. And I can see the sense of this approach - why court unnecessary unpopularity? Better to say nothing - or very little - and hope the controlling group attract all the (negative) attention.

And so it proved this evening. There were thoughtful contributions, I thought, from my blogging colleague Mike Barker (even if I completely disagreed with his analysis) and from Tory Alan Coultas. Otherwise, it was very thin stuff indeed.

The point I tried to make (before being very courteously ruled out of order by the Mayor Jim Ruck) was that however much the Tories may pretend to the contrary, they do have an agenda, and it's being followed by Conservative Councils up and down the country. It's a theme I'll return to again here. There are lines in the sand between Labour, striving to protect front-line services and facilities for all, and the slash-and-burn approach adopted initially in London Boroughs by the Conservatives, but increasingly outside it too. And residents deserve to know about it.

And so a rather bad-tempered Budget Round ended for another year. Expect the temperature to be even more fraught in 12-months time, as the local elections loom.


Ex-Labour (or not) said...


Though it pains me to say this I now, after seeing more of the Conservatives and their policy's have resigned myself to vote Labour again. Purely because I cannot vote for any of the other 2 and the independent et al don't have enough "clought".
Not to vote would mean I could not complain and whilst I think Mike Barker would make a great MP and I like him as a person I don't think he will get the necessary votes sadly, as for "invisible Eddy" he was as conspicuous as a fox at a modern day toff's day outing, perhaps he was working to one of Baldrick's "cunning plans".
I have been following Jenny closely and think she has it in the bag, and it is most unfair to tar her with the "Pepsico boy" brush.
So Labour it is! I would just hope these cut backs at DBC can indeed be cut backs to include what many see as Council free loaders (the ones with the over inflated wages Burns, Brown etc.)and frivilous expense's claims etc. and not hinder the man on the ground level who needs a job for his home and family and he/she is not effected!
Perhaps as a gesture of commitment all Councillor's will take only actual expenses from their allowances instead of simply pocketing the lot and those who claim the extra responsability allowance decline altogether claiming that, this might send the right kind of message out to the townsfolk that you are not just in it for the money!

Anonymous said...

True Blue says....

Oh ex Labour or not. Don't do it please. Look at Labour's record.

Government borrowing - a trillion which will never be paid back for many years, inflation up to 3.5%, unemployment at record levels - 1,600 added to the dole queue in Redcar last week alone, the pound plunging like a stone against other currencies, economic growth rates below zero and bumping along the bottom according to the Governor of the Bank of England, Brown and Darling at each other throats, predictions of a double dip recession, the IMF knocking on the door and a never ending war.

james said...

The Tory Stories website ( gives a rather scary account of the reality of the Tories at local government level...

Ex-Labourish said...


How can you ask anyone to vote for someone who they cannot even see, he made a brief appearance outside the County pub (whatever its called now) when they banned service people from entering only after a facebook group was formed will we need to form a facebook group everytime we want to see him?

He has not taken this election seriously at least Mike and Jill have been out all weathers on the campaign trail.

Please tell me just who would vote for someone we see less than "pepsico Boy"??

Mike Barker said...

While it is a common tactic of the two larger parties to portray a vote for the Lib Dems as a wasted vote, in the most recent test of political public opinion in Darlington, the local elections of 2007, taking the top vote-winner from each party in each ward in the Darlington Constituency, the percentage of votes cast (excluding the minor parties) was Labour 39%, Conservative 35%, Lib Dem 26%. Since 2007, support for Labour has fallen sharply. Even a modest 5% swing away from labour to the Lib Dems makes for a three-way split of votes in the Parliamentary seat.
Now, while I accept that voting in local elections is, to a certain extent, done for different reasons than in a Parliamentary election, it remains the case that if everybody who supports the Lib Dems actually votes Lib Dem, the result in the General Election in this constituency will be much closer than you might think, especially if Conservative-leaning voters actually want to support a local candidate.
Now, where's my "Three Horse Race" clip art?

james said...

I think it's more likely that the Liberal Democrat vote will be
squeezed than be squeezing either the Labour or Tory share of the vote, given that this general election is close.

Question for you Mike - in the event of a hung parliament, which party would you want the Liberals to enter coalition with?

Mike Barker said...

James, had there been an award for Persistent Questioner of the Year at the Best of Darlington Awards last night, I'd have nominated you!

Can I refer you to this article in The Guardian last week:

"The Liberal Democrats are planning to rule out forming a coalition government with either the Conservatives or Labour if Nick Clegg holds the balance of power in a hung parliament after the general election.

"As Whitehall's most senior civil servants and Buckingham Palace make detailed preparations to clarify the Queen's role in the event of a hung parliament, senior Lib Dems are making clear that Clegg has no interest in taking cabinet posts and would focus instead on winning support for four key Lib Dem demands.

"Clegg would be prepared to throw a lifeline to the Conservatives or Labour by allowing either party to pass a Queen's speech if the aspiring government makes concessions in the four areas, described as the Lib Dem "shopping list":

• Investing extra funds in education through a pupil premium for disadvantaged children.

• Tax reform, taking 4 million out of tax and raising taxes on the rich by requiring capital gains and income to be taxed at the same rate.

• Rebalancing of the economy to put less emphasis on centralised banking and more on a new greener economy.

• Political reforms, including changes to the voting system and a democratically elected Lords, that go further than proposed by Labour."

Hopefully that will put to bed any speculation about coalitions, shady deals or private stitch-ups. The Lib Dems are a mature political party with the regular support of at least 20% of the electorate nationally - and many more when people are convinced it is not a wasted vote. We will fight for the implementation of our policies, not for coalitions or cabinet posts.

And now I'm going leafletting...

james said...

Mike, you are too kind. If there were some kind of reward for dodging questions, I would nominate you for it. ;-)

I think it's pretty clear that a move from financialisation to green manufacturing and services is not something the Tories have much of an interest in... Ditto electoral and political reform, fair tax system, etc.

I think it would be to your credit to be open and honest about this one, Mike.

james said...

Can't believe I wrote "reward" instead of "award". Freudian slip, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

So what's Miss Butter Wouldn't Melt got to say about allegations on certain blogs Councillor?

miketually said...

I can't get my head around the idea of not voting for someone because you don't think they'll win.

Vote for the person/party who best represents you.

Even if they don't win, it may influence the other parties policies. The rising Green vote in European elections has seen the main parties change their policies as a result.

And, you never know, maybe half the people out there are thinking "I can't vote for X, because Y will win"...

Ian W said...



Remember that if someone you dislike wins at least you can winge, you have an option to vote something many around the world would kill for and many have died for.

Ian W said...



Remember that if someone you dislike wins at least you can winge, you have an option to vote something many around the world would kill for and many have died for.

Anonymous said...

Too right Mr W....millions have fought for the freedom of democracy and they deserve to be well represented. Unlike certain members who get voted in and then never represent their constituents, be that in parliament or elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Controlling Labour council has copied a lot of Conservative ideas to enable a Council Tax freeze. But in the staffing cuts, why include 18 unfilled posts that weren't needed or never existed. Manipulating the figures for reasons best known to themselves I presume!