Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Leighton the Trojan

I quite like the proposal put forward yesterday by Leighton Andrews for a time limit on councillors in Wales, but I wonder whether he’s thought through the implications, not least for his own party.
The plan isn’t without its flaws and omissions of course; 25 years is a very long time, and there’s no obvious logic in applying the rule to councillors but not to AMs and MPs.  Above all, it doesn’t really get to grips with the reasons why there are so many long-serving old men on our councils in Wales.
In the bad old days when I was a member of the old Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council, most councils met in the evenings, and councillors were simply paid around £14 a time for turning up at meetings.  For a committed individual it was, just about, possible to combine being an effective councillor with holding a full time job.  But most councils now meet during the day time, and councillors are paid a basic salary of a little over £13,000 a year, which changes the picture in several ways. It makes it harder for people who work full time to commit to doing the job properly, whilst on the other hand, the salary is too low for many people to give up the day job.  Small wonder that the job ends up looking particularly attractive to retired people.  
I’ve expended time and effort over the years trying to twist arms of people to stand in local elections, and like anyone else who’s ever tried that, I’m aware that it isn’t an easy task.  Whilst it’s certainly true (as seems to be the premise behind the new proposal) that there are some old-stagers who are determined to carry on to the end and are thus keeping out other people, it’s equally true that some are still there because they and their party have failed to find a successor candidate.
And that brings me back to the impact on the Labour Party.  In parts of South Wales, as anyone who’s ever campaigned there will know, the only thing that keeps the Labour Party alive and kicking is the elderly councillors who exist in a state of mutual dependency with the party.  They are the people who come out and knock doors and deliver leaflets, in parliamentary and Assembly elections as well as council elections.  Take them away, and what’s left?
Could Leighton Andrews be working to a secret agenda to destroy his own party’s hegemony from within?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Andrews is attempting to undermine Labour's hegemony specifically, but he certainly doesn't hold the average Labour councillor in particularly high regard and his background and experience suggests that he is unlikely to be immersed in the tribalism that infects a significant part of the Labour Party. Like him or loathe him, Andrews is very much his own man.