IN A SHOCK STATEMENT made last night (Wednesday 25th March) Tory Councillor Terry Hipsey has announced that he has quit his post as Leader of Thurrock Council – and that he has crossed the floor to become a Labour Councillor.
The announcement, issued during a chaotic and at times farcical full Council Meeting, flew in the face of Councillor Hipsey’s vigorous defence of his position as Tory Leader of Thurrock Council at a press conference held last Tuesday.
At that press conference, Councillor Hipsey was responding both to criticism of his leadership of the Council as well as calls for his resignation following a ‘damning’ report by The Audit Commission on the performance of Thurrock Council over a range of services
Commenting on his announcement, Mr Hipsey said that his political ‘volte face’ was in response to Conservative central office policy on measures to lead the UK out of the current financial and economic recession.
He said: “I can confirm that I have resigned as Leader of Thurrock Council, and have also left the Conservative Party in order to become a Labour Councillor. This last week has shown some of the worst examples of David Cameron’s attempt to respond to the recession.
“When speaking to constituents, I cannot justify David Cameron’s decision to make his number one priority in a recession a tax cut, which would give hundreds of thousands of pounds to millionaires, but do nothing for the vast majority of Thurrock families.
“By over-ruling people in his own Shadow Cabinet, like Ken Clarke, who clearly opposed his plans to give a tax cut to millionaires, Cameron has moved the Tories from the centre ground of politics and continues to offer no help to families in Thurrock.”
“In contrast, I have been deeply impressed by the way that Gordon Brown has recognised the urgent need to give real help to families now. By joining the Labour Party, I hope to be able to support the Prime Minister’s practical steps to help people in Thurrock out of this recession.”
“I look forward to working closely with our local Labour MPs, Andrew Mackinlay and Angela Smith. They, like me, care deeply about giving Thurrock families the help that they need during this global recession.
“I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years trying to keep this dysfunctional Tory group of Councillors together. Recently, after having some time to reflect, it has become clear to me that this group – and the Conservative Party more widely – are incapable of making the changes necessary to take Thurrock forward.
“I’ve been increasingly impressed with the group of Labour councillors locally and the Labour government’s response to the recession nationally. ”
Be careful what you wish for.
If we continue our Shakespearean theme then former Tory leader and now Labour Councillor, Terry Hipsey may just have walked straight into Iago’s clutches.
It appears that Cllr Hipsey was the Thurrock man after all and for the sake of his health and perhaps sanity decided that enough was enough.
This decision has cost him a lot of money. We were wrong in suggesting it was the ‘economy stupid’.
He is a man who entered politics in his forties and, it appears, will leave it in his forties as well. But it is clear that he will have the undying respect of his new wife.
Some may say that the Labour Group had a big coup d’etat planned here. With Terry Hipsey defecting, the push was on to try and force a motion through to put Labour Leader John Kent in power. It failed.
Reaction of new leader of Thurrock Council, Garry Hague to defection of Leader to Labour
Chair of Labour Group Carl Morris reacts to defection of Thurrock Leader to his own ranks
The packed gallery were treated to an unedifying spectacle of bungling ineptitude. Mayor John Everett was hopelessly out of his depth. Eventually, with great assistance from the Monitoring Officer, Gwen Bankole Jones, the path of constitutional correctitude was made clear. Deputy Leader Garry Hague was elected leader.
This is a great moment for Cllr Hague. He has his finger on the pulse of the regeneration agenda in the borough and is at the fulcrum of the Conservative agenda. With his deft PR skills he may well pull the party together.
What the new Interim Chief Executive Bob Coomber made of all this, one can only speculate but many are now confident that they will bring solidarity, consensus and the beginnings of the long march towards being a 4 Star Council.
Electing the right Deputy will be tricky.
Sue MacPherson resigned as Deputy Leader a few months ago amid much rancour. It appears that she does not enjoy the support of a number in her party.
It was clear that Chair of Labour Carl Morris was disappointed at the result. He had clearly banked on a sweep into power and once again is frustrated by the Tories ability to pull themselves off the ropes even under extraordinary conditions.
One of the key criticisms of Mr Hipsey’s reign was that he seemed to be making policy up to the surprise of the rest of his members. It now looks as if Labour are doing the same.
Labour were thwarted by the two East Tilbury Councillors, John Purkiss and Barry Palmer abstaining and BNP Councillor Emma Colgate siding with the Tories.
It leaves 23 Tories, 23 Labour, 2 Independent and 1 BNP.