Tuesday 27 March 2012

We're not the mean guys

Today's Full Council was pretty typical, large areas of consensus, including on a debate on cycling and about an issue with drought as well as almost universal support for the Independent Review of Allowances - which has recommended no immediate increase for Councillors.  Of course the Conservatives had a totally free vote on this and one of our Councillors abstained, funnily enough no such announcement about a free vote from the opposition.

The area where there was most argument was over a motion submitted by the Lib Dems in support of the Chisholm Trail - a cycle trail that will make the future Cambridge Science Park Railway Station more accessible to cyclists.  The Conservatives have already committed to this route but chose to oppose the motion.  I absolutely endorsed the decision to oppose, but it does bother me that in doing so we are the ones that come across as the bad guys. I think that needs some thought and discussion - because it is fundamental to the dishonesty that exists in modern politics - a dishonesty that is exercised through political opportunism.   My earlier post about the dishonesty surrounding the Lib Dem leaflet on the Cambridge Science Park Railway Station lies at the heart of it.

Despite huge opportunity today, the Lib Dems have so far totally failed to justify the dishonesty surrounding that leaflet, in fact one of the Lib Dems was gloriously smiling today as she took a picture of the Council Leader, Nick Clarke expressing his disgust at that leaflet - no doubt that photo will manifest itself as a piece of Lib Dem spin in the future.

The point is the motion today need not have been there.   In proposing it Killiam Bourke, the Leader of the Lib Dems, acknowledged that the Chisholm Trail was "implicitly part of the Council's plan" and yet chose to propose a motion that called for feasibility studies as well as for the Council to fully implement the trail by 2020 (which would immediately raise the price of the land we would need to TPO to deliver the trail).  The question you should ask is why would someone propose a motion on an area of universal support when areas like Delayed Transfers of Care or the desperate need for restructuring of adult social care (which are both part of my portfolio and remain serious contentious issues for the County)  remain totally disregarded by the opposition.  Well, the reason is - that even though the latter are more urgent and pressing, there are less headlines in them.

 The difficulty is, if we support motions like these, we open up doors for the Lib Dems to say they are setting the agenda, but if we oppose them we are portrayed as the nasty people playing politics in the Council chamber.  Ask yourself the question - who are the ones exploiting politics for the sake of votes at the expense of the people of Cambridgeshire?  My morals mean I have to oppose this stuff and I have to speak against those who use such tactics.  I am accused of playing these sort of politics continuously - but in truth I often compliment and thank the opposition when they ask the right questions for the right reasons - but I will always speak out against political opportunism and if that leads to my name being besmirched, so be it - at least I will be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day

This stance does not mean, for one second, that the Conservative group  are opposed to cycling, nor to the Chisholm trail.  Very much the opposite, I love cycling and recognise how important it is, especially with the cost of fuel going through the roof (more about my support for cycling over the next few days!) - this debate was not about this, it was about opposition politicians creating easy headlines for themselves.  Judge them, not those who are put in a no-win situation by having to deal with such malicious tactics.


  1. Thanks for setting out the conundrum of party politics so clearly: I sense an eagerness to translate cycling issues into political capital which can mis-fire. Perhaps an "All-Party Cycling Group" could point the way towards a more productive competition. Specially in the light of your additional public health responsibilities for which bicycle encouragement programs can really deliver very important benefits.

  2. Thanks for your comment. My new role as Cycling Champion has been announced this morning. In that capacity I will set up a political advisory group which gives the opportunity to share and exchange information on a cross-party basis. I will invite opposition onto that group and I hope they will join. Unfortunately the Liberal Democrats have a habit of refusing to join them - but the offer will be there.

  3. The point that makes a mockery of this post is that *you could have amended the motion*. You didn't.


    Cllr Ian Manning

  4. We didn't amend the motion because it should not have been there in the first place. How would amending have changed that?