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Shuffling the Pack

Shuffling the packThere have been some - probably significant - changes amongst Fylde's Councillors in the last few weeks and we think our readers will want to know about them.

It's hasn't been so much a night of the long knives, (although some old timers have, indeed, been knifed) it has mostly been a (delayed) reaction to the results of the last election.

The first news to report is that we understand a new direction is being charted by the former loose grouping of independent Councillors who sailed under the collective banner of 'Fylde Independents' at the last election They seem to be moving toward creating a more formally structured organisation for themselves. We think this is a good idea from their perspective.

They have no doubt realised they could have done better in the last election and are looking to make changes for the future.

What is probably a less good idea is that they also seem to be moving toward forming a 'Shadow Cabinet' with shadow Leader.

We understand this move might be conditional the Commissar agreeing some administrative changes with the aim of making the present system more democratic, (and hell might freeze over before that happens), so whether the 'shadow' arrangement will come to pass remains to be seen, but the idea might also explain the Commissar's suggestion of paying an allowance for a 'Leader of the Opposition' at the last Council meeting. He's probably going to try to convince the opposition as he might want to be convinced himself. Oh dear!

In its favour, it can be argued that a Shadow Cabinet allows at least some Councillors to be privy to more information than would otherwise be the case, but the overriding thing we don't like about a possible shadow arrangement is that it helps legitimise the appalling Cabinet system that is the foundation underlying so much that is wrong with the present set-up.

It also risks the Shadow Leader and Shadow Cabinet being sucked in and used by the Commissar. We can just imagine him saying "But this has been known about for months.... The Leader of the Opposition and I have been discussing it on a weekly basis since....."

The Commissar has no scruples in this regard. Politically, he is absolutely ruthless - as you will see shortly.

So, having had the Independent's reformation........ who is now the leader of the opposition?........

We understand it's Queen Elizabeth Oades of Kirkham - whose Royal Progress continues unabated.

The first casualty of this new Independent order is Councillor Paul (The Mauler) Hayhurst of Elswick. He's not one for the Cabinet, and is probably its most outspoken critic. He is also one of the most able orators on Fylde Council, and although he is a natural leader, he ploughs his own furrow with strong views, which sometimes don't endear him to others (we wholly understand that position). And he won't want to be part of a group that holds set views on any topic that might constrain his ability to argue as the spirit moves him. So we hear he is moving just outside the fold.

We also understand there has been no falling-out or bad feeling, it's just that two irreconcilable positions came to a head within the Independent group.

So although he will now become a 'non-aligned independent' or whatever name is used for individuals these days, we still expect to see him mostly hunting in alliance with the opposition.

We'll keep you in the picture as it emerges.

The other main change has been a bit more vicious.

As we predicted in 'The Dust Settles' we hear the knives have been out for some of the former Conservative Councillors in St Anne's.

Back in July, after the election, we said: "Our first real conclusion was that the Commissar wants to tighten his grip on what he sees to be 'his troops' (rather than 'our elected representatives' that is). He is heading in a direction that will get rid of the older councillors and bring in new, younger ones. We would not be surprised to see former Borough councillor Colin Walton being de-selected as the County candidate for St Anne's North at (or before) the next County election, just as the vastly experienced - but independently minded - Councillor Bill Thompson was deselected as a County Councillor in favour of Dim Tim. There's no room for dissent around the Commissar, and clearly, it's not the ability to think that counts."

We understand that both Colin Walton and Alfred Jealous, (who both failed to be re-elected as Borough Councillors after the Commissar pushed additional candidates into the wards they had represented), have now been de-selected from their existing posts as Conservative County Councillors.

In effect this means the Conservative group, led by the Commissar, has decided to abandon these trusty old war-horses in favour of younger, and perhaps more aspirational candidates. The process is quite simple, the group decided the official Conservative candidate in the next County election will not be either of these two, so that's the end of their reign - unless they wanted to stand as independent candidates of course.

We understand Cllr Walton's outburst at losing the Mayoralty might have contributed to his demise, but we have not been able to see an obvious single incident that caused Cllr Jealous' banishment from the Commissar's favour. However, the most likely cause for both isn't that they disgraced themselves or said "No" too often, but that they didn't say "Yes" quickly enough when the Commissar barked.

As we've said before, the Commissar brooks no opposition.

We have had our differences with both Councillors Walton and Jealous over time - some of which have been quite heated and strong, but it's always sad to see a steadfast trouper knifed in the back in the barracks rather than falling gloriously in the field of an election battle.

We wish them both well, although we can't help musing how different life might have been, for us - and for them - if they had voted with Saint Barbara Pagett to oppose the Cabinet system and maintain proper democracy in Fylde.

But their going leaves two posts of Conservative Candidate for Saint Anne's at the next County Council election to be filled, and we understand the selections have now been made.

So who are the lucky winners?

Well the first choice is easy. A natural choice. One of the new intake of Councillors, she has been enjoying a meteoric rise through the ranks. In less time than you can blink electorally, Councillor Karen Buckley has gone from new councillor, straight to Committee Chairman, and now, we are told, candidate County Councillor.

This Commissar's handmaiden is destined for greatness.

From what we have seen of her performing so far, she uses understatement to quite devastating effect in debate, and has the capacity to turn an argument. She has a sense of humour, and appears gracious in victory. These are all deadly traits in politics, and if she is content with the local scene for the future, we are probably looking at a Leader in her. She is presentable (she certainly made an impact on one of our readers already) so the probability is that she is eminently electable. We understand she will replace Colin Walton on the St Anne's North Conservative ticket for the next County Council elections.

At present she is not as well known as some of her probable opposition, especially the Liberal Democrats who, as so often happens, are very active at ward level, and it's possible we could see Karen versus Karen at election time. (Buckley versus Henshaw).

The St Anne's South seat is more puzzling. We did hear that the Commissar himself was planning to contest this County seat, but didn't arrive at the selection meeting. Whether this is true or not we have no idea as we have not been able to confirm it.

However it does seems that Councillor Fabian Craig Wilson was selected as the Conservative candidate for St Anne's South.

Now this is odd.

She doesn't fit the pattern. Perfectly pleasant lady, but not especially young, not so aspirational, and to be honest, we thought she'd shot her bolt with the Commissar when she abstained on a recent call-in vote (This was when she was dropped as Chairman of a Scrutiny Committee and replaced by the meteoric Karen Buckley).

When that happened, we heard rumours Cllr Wilson was told that provided she stated quiet about being axed as Chairman, she would get a Cabinet place when existing Cabinet Member Susan Fazackerley takes the Mayoralty next year.

So maybe the consolation prize for not disrupting things is the County Council nomination rather than the Cabinet place, and maybe the Cabinet place is going to be held for the meteoric Karen Buckley provided she plays her cards right.

Either way, we're probably not going to find out until next May when the new Mayor is installed. So we'll look again then.

Dated:  13 December 2007


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