Tory Ego and Shenanigans are Failing Worcestershire at the Worst Possible Time
It is difficult sometimes to decide whether the goings on at Worcestershire County Council are best described as a tragedy or a farce.
When the Worcester News published its article on how the Tories thwarted a debate on track and trace with a 45-minute debate about the length of Council debates, I was ready to call it for farce, but there are deeper issues behind this Python-esque lunacy; namely democracy and accountability.
“This isn’t the first time the Tories have filibustered a motion they don’t want discussed”, Green councillor Matthew Jenkins tells me. “There’s a lot of fake anger when we call it filibustering, but that’s what they’re doing”.
So, in a time of pandemic, when the country is crippled by intermittent bludgeoning with the blunt instrument of lockdown, the local representatives of the governing party are using procedural manoeuvres to avoid talking about measures to combat COVID-19? Surely not?
“They just want to stifle any opposition”, Labour councillor Paul Denham says, “they don’t want any criticism of the government.
“The track and trace motion that was put forward in the week wasn’t a political motion except for criticising the government a little bit which, given their handling of the crisis so far is inevitable really”.
What are we to draw from this? Is it the duty of the Tory super-majority on the County Council to run local government in Worcestershire, or to defend the national government from criticism from below?
Those residents in the county that elect Labour, Green, Lib Dem or Independent candidates – are they to have no voice at all?
The opportunity for these tactics to take hold goes back about three years, when John Raine, a Green councillor in Malvern, attempted to look at how the council could run more efficiently.
The inevitably Tory-dominated task & finish group looking at this suggested putting a 90-minute time limit on discussion of motions – knowing full well that, having a huge number of councillors, they could talk anything to death in an hour and a half.
“Labour didn’t support the time limit, but it went through anyway, and this is how they are really denying the opposition a voice in Council business” Coun Denham continues.
“They put in completely uncontroversial motions that could be voted through in three minutes, but instead they have each of their councillors talk for their allotted two minutes to drown out any other business the opposition parties want to discuss, including track and trace.
“So we had a motion from them on canals and rivers , and a raft of Tories suddenly started giving us geography lessons about their areas! We managed to intervene after about five or six of them had spoken to say we supported the motion, but it still continued for about 50 minutes of the allocated time!”
“The Tories hardly ever put motions in before the time limit,” says Coun Jenkins, “but now we have these spectacles like in the week. We all tried to move it along but the Chair allowed it to continue”.
I listen to all this not at all surprised but angry.
If you don’t vote Tory in Worcestershire, it seems you’re not worthy of a voice in local government. The old boys club on Spetchley Rd will see to it that they revel in their own cleverness and political savvy while the rates of infection rise, unemployment balloons and children go hungry between term times.
At this most crucial of times for our nation, our elected leaders at the local and national level are treating their office, and us as electors, with abject disdain and disrespect.
They are failing us – badly – and at the worst possible time.