Saturday, 4 May 2013

THE PARTY POLITICAL MAP OF WISBECH has been dramatically redrawn by the results of Thursday's County Council Elections. There has been a clean sweep for UKIP in the Roman Bank and Peckover, Wisbech South, Wisbech North, and Waldersey divisions. The margin of victory in Roman Bank was tiny - just 11 votes - but elsewhere it was substantial.
THERE ARE AT LEAST TWO ELECTORATES IN THE TOWN. Many of the candidates are prolific bloggers and Tweeters and have a Facebook presence. Some have their own websites. Debate on such sites as Wisbech…Oh Dear is intense and can be vitriolic. And yet, and yet. The turnout for this election, on a warm and pleasant May day was pretty poor. On Wisbech..Oh Dear, there was little but disdain for the local Conservatives, but UKIP is regarded with deep suspicion, particularly over its links with far right protest groups. So, did we online gurus get it wrong? Was there a large group of off-liners who had simply had enough?
ROMAN BANK & PECKOVER. This was, for me, the biggest surprise. For all that his Rottweiler approach to discussion and challenge has made me shudder over the last few years, no-one can fault Steve Tierney in his work for his division. He has managed what appear to be complex business interests with tireless appearances at parish meetings and local surgeries, and seems to have always made himself available to people. And yet he is beaten by someone who wrote a virulent and unpleasant letter to the local paper on the vexed subject of immigration.

WISBECH SOUTH. Simon King was another casualty. He was clearly not one of the Wisbech Tory 'ratpack'. He seemed to keep himself to himself, and was unafraid to involve himself with issues which his party colleagues distanced themselves from.On a personal level, he worked very hard to get a school place for the daughter of one of my adult students. The girl has learning difficulties, and had been without a school place for a long time.

WISBECH NORTH. Samantha Hoy was the 'junior' of the Conservative team, both in age and years in post. She won the seat in a by-election in 2010. The online world was lit up by daily reports of skulduggery and dirty tricks. It was rumoured that Dave Patrick (Lib Dem), who had come second in the 2009 election, had stood aside to give Virginia Bucknor (Ind) a clear run. There were constant claims and counter claims between the two ladies that each was doing the other down. In the end, both succumbed to UKIP's Paul Clapp, who had come second in 2009. A footnote should be a word of love and praise for Dean Reeves. He continues to represent Labour in the town, in the teeth of constant knock-backs. If there were any way in which politicians could be appointed rather than elected, he would be a shoo-in. He is a lovely, kind and principled man who deserves better from his adopted town.

CONCLUSIONS? It would take a better political commentator than this one to make sense of it all. That the estimable Gordon Gillick claims that he never knocked on one door, never posted one leaflet and never made one phone call, and is still 'swept to power' perhaps says it all. I have no idea what UKIP did right, but I have a good idea what the Conservatives did wrong. Firstly, and perhaps most forgivably, they failed to distance themselves from their disreputable and discredited political masters at Westminster. The impression was 'Party first, local people second.' Secondly, with exception of Simon King they got it totally and utterly wrong on local issues. Yes, the business of the derelict buildings is principally a District Council matter, but as County Councillors they had influence. And power. And a strong voice. Did they use it? No. The constant mockery of efforts to move things forward on resolving the 'Belfast Building Bombsite', the constant mantra of "This is a lovely town, there are no problems, you are all just too negative," may have been loud, but it was an empty echo. The demise of the preposterous Nick Clarke will hopefully see the end of the 'smoke and mirrors' Wisbech 20/20, which has brought us - correct me if I'm wrong - a few brown signs. Thirdly, the very public cultivation of a triumphant, gleeful Tory clique of town, district and county councillors has sown a bad seed. The seed has grown tall and blossomed into a thriving young tree. My advice - stop slapping each other's backs. Stop leaping to each other's aid on Twitter, like tag-team wrestlers. Stop dancing to the same distorted tune. Think for yourselves, and listen to what ordinary Wisbech people are worried about.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING EDITOR. And finally. Twitter people will have been enlivened over the last months by the constant cut and thrust between John Elworthy (editor of most newspapers in East Anglia) and his targets (mostly Tory councillors, it has to be said) He has taken Sam Hoy to task over her employment record, and Steve Tierney over…well, more things than I have room to mention. But he goes deathly quiet  a week from the election. His Twitter account is suspended. He is alive and well. Fellow hacks have reported his presence at events across the region. Tweeters have suggested he has been got at by none other than the former leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. This is unconfirmed rumour. It may be true. It may be a tissue of lies. But when I lamented his passing on Twitter earlier a certain (ex) councillor replied "good riddance". Which was a lovely song by Green Day, if memory serves. Bon Nuit.