WHOEVER takes over in May is going to have to make some very very difficult decisions as a hurricane of public sector cuts is coming this way. The trick is in how you handle it and how you control and disseminate the information. So far, by general consensus, the Tories aren’t doing very well. Whether it is children’s centres being closed or the ferry being “axed”, they don’t seem to be able to control the agenda. It doesn’t help when you are a minority administration and your leader has just suffered a vote of no confidence.
It looks like that the councillor charged with making all the difficult decisions will be Deputy Leader Amanda Arnold. Amanda did it with Adult Social Care charges a few years ago and it looks like that she is going to take on the voluntary sector and a few others should the Tories retain power.
What should come is a reshuffle. While Mike Revell, Sue MacPherson, Barry Johnson and Tunde Ojetola seem to have a firm grasp of their portfolios, the right wing of the party have a look of utter contempt for the public, the opposition, the press and even their own colleagues.
Cllr Arnold is determined to do her job properly and believes there are important matters that need to be grasped. Since Cllr Hague lost the vote of no confidence, she has been in the civic offices every day. One man’s “working the room” is another councillor justifying every penny of their £25,000 allowance.
Last wednesday she was concerned that the farewell speeches at council would mean a key piece of legislation on care for the elderly would not be discussed. Labour were indignant that this was hallowed ground. So hallowed that they started slagging off their own farewell speeches! The fact that the issue of Death Tax dominated the Chancellor’s debate last night vindicated Cllr Arnold’s decision to place matters of national importance over parochial parish notices.
Labour claim that she should have and could have put the motion somewhere else. They all agreed to it anyway. Cynics claim that Cllr Arnold has dominated cabinet meetings recently and wanted to dominate the final moments of the civic year. Advertently or inadvertently, she has made it appear that Garry Hague is in office but not in power. Others say that Bob Coomber and John Hobson QC had already finished that job.
Amanda has confirmed though that she doesn’t want to be leader and that Garry Hague and herself create a perfect balance.
Since being elected in 2004, Cllr Arnold has come a long way. Six years ago she was as green as Ireland. Now she, along with Tunde Ojetola, probably symbolises an aspirational, ambitious Thurrock.
Conservative politics in Thurrock is a tricky world. A maze of intrigue, deceit, jealousy, feuds and fallout. It must be hard to navigate the choppy seas with your integrity intact. In six short years, Cllr Arnold must wonder how she got from being portrayed from Mary Ellen Walton to Lady Macbeth but that, we suppose is politics. Just watch out for those moving woods….