Author Topic: Dead Men Walking?  (Read 18854 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Dead Men Walking?
« on: January 16, 2010, 04:49:10 AM »
 
It's 03.55 on Saturday morning. I've just finished work but want to jot down a few thoughts before I climb the wooden hill.

I may want to revisit this post later to correct typos and add a couple of bits.


It's not often that  we voters get to witness the political death of a council administration, but I suggest the readers of the Talkswindon forum are seeing exactly this, in slow motion, up close and personal.  Moreover, because we record and discuss local events here on Talkswindon, we're able to rewind the narrative and take a second look at events and statements made days, weeks, months and even years ago.  We have ringside seats to this gory spectacle and, (I'm sure it will interest TS members to know), that there are many other interested eyes looking almost constantly at Swindon.  Rod Bluh and his cabinet really have, as they often claim,  'Put Swindon On The Map', but not the map they were hoping for.  They have no-one to blame but themselves for what is currently happening.

I've been thinking for some time that the Conservatives were at the top of their game in 2009, and that the only way forwards from that point happened to be downwards. It's fair to say that I've been fairly critical of the leadership. I think with good reason.

Cll'r Bluh and his colleagues have long enjoyed, (if 'enjoy' is the right word), a bloated majority in the council chamber with 43 out of 59 seats being held by Conservative councillors. (Actually 42 now that Cll'r Wakefield has resigned the Tory whip).  I have been surprised to see such a large group of Conservatives allow themselves, (and their majority), to be used in what I would describe as a 'Blairite' manner. The leader and a tiny number of cabinet members have been Blairite in their actions, even if they haven't been Blairite in policy.  I've come to think of the leadership style as 'Bluh Labour'.

The last 4 years have been a sort of politically drunken binge for them. They have swaggered where they could just as easily stepped gently, shouted when only a whisper was required, barged in where only a gentle nudge would have sufficed and seemed to delight in backroom manipulating instead of  debating in the chamber.  The leadership never acknowledges its multiple failures, it simply blames them on other people and it takes a special, and very personal, kind of offence when anyone, but especially Swindons MP's,  passes critical comment on their activities. 

The leadership closed its ears to critique and adopted an impermeable mantle of 'we know best'.  Its self confidence hardened into self-congratulatory conceit and it's previously espoused political convictions melted away quicker than wax under a heat lamp.  What is left in the 'conviction void' is a destructive obsession with regeneration and an unhealthy fascination with turning our council into a commercial enterprise.

Rod and pals have squandered their time in office, and our money, on chasing visions, looking sharp in their corporate threads and sounding vibrant at every available opportunity.  Its only a personal opinion, but I would have liked to have seen a lot more donkey jacket and a lot less pinstripe on the front bench of the council chamber.  Flamboyant is fine in small measure but rarely produces a workmanlike performance in office.  Fiscal idiocy, faulty visions and failed regeneration projects all now serve to highlight that the leadership is out of money, out of time and out of ideas.  They are in a deep, deep hole financially and on the ropes politically.


So....


Had Rod Bluh been paying attention in the real world, instead of dabbling in dodgy digital inclusion deals, he would have seen Michael Wills' December criticism of the council for wasting nearly £7million for what it really was, instead of what he wanted it to be.  What did Rod want it to be?, just another attack from Michael Wills.  What was it actually?, I think it was the opening shot of a war he (Michael Wills) intends to prosecute ruthlessly against both the council leadership and Justin Tomlinson. (Justin being the Tory PPC for North Swindon).     

If Bluh had been paying attention he might have been better prepared to resist the very thorough public kicking he received at last Thursdays council. 

I suggest that when Rod Bluh decided to use his 'special powers' as leader to unilaterally entangle the council in commercial speculation, I believe he committed an act of such utter political stupidity that Michael Wills and Anne Snelgrove must have thought all their birthdays had come early.  Rod had, almost single handedly, given them the perfect opportunity and excuse to fight the general election campaigns for both Swindon constituencies on local issues.

'But Michael Wills is standing down!' I hear some of you say.....to which I reply: Yes, he is standing down as MP but who do you think is preparing the landing ground for his replacement, Victor Argawal, and who do you think has the media connections, experience and local knowledge to make Victor the best presented, best briefed and most credible alternative to the apparently complacent and laid back Tory candidate?  In fact, while Justin Tomlinson was sitting on the council chamber watching his leader reeling backwards from blow after blow on everything from Dial a Ride to the WiFi, Victors boots were already on the tarmac in Abbey Meads, he'd packed his parachute away, fixed his bayonet and had made a few deft stabs. 

War was declared on them in December but the Swindon conservatives, micro managed by Bluh's leadership style, failed to see it for what it was.  In January 2010 they are so focussed on the spectacle of their leadership being systematically and methodically cut to pieces by the opposition, that they have yet to even put their campaigning boots on.   Perhaps a significant number of them, especially the political survivors amongst them, will simply stay at home and watch the fireworks from a safe distance..

I think we are about to witness a very intelligent combined campaign from the Labour party in Swindon.   If Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland thought these constituencies would be easy wins they're in for a shock I think.  The Tory council is, although it doesn't seem to have realised it yet, fighting for its political life.  Last Thursday, as if by magic, a couple of BBC film crews arrived unannounced at the civic for full council.   Rod Bluh may have thought 'Oh Goody, we really are on the map now!'.    I would love to know what his reaction was when he realised that they were filming for BBC's 'Panarama' programme.   I don't know about you, but I can't remember ever seeing an edition of the Panorama program that portrayed its chosen subject to be all fine, dandy and above board.

So, was Michael Wills tugging a few strings with his media pals?, I don't know, but that is exactly what I would do in his position.   I think that Michael Wills is not only campaigning on Victors behalf, but also orchestrating a concerted effort to distract, disable, disgrace and inconvenience the conservative leadership of the council in multiple ways and to such an extent that a negative impact on the election campaigns of both Conservative PPC's, (Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland) would be almost inevitable, not to mention Tory candidates standing in the local elections.

Remember that Michael Wills is a good friend of Gordon Brown and Anne Snelgrove is the prime mentalists chief fag.  She will be one of the very first people in the country to learn when the election will be and I'm willing to bet that both Snelgrove and Wills will be given a sufficient heads up from McDoom to distribute one further leaflet, (using their communications allowance*), before the general election is called.  If you receive a leaflet from either MP I think an election announcement will follow within days.  I think of this as a 'snap' election early warning mechanism.

I believe that Rod Bluh and his cabinet within a cabinet have given the Labour party a perfect opportunity to almost completely localise the 2010 general election debate in Swindon conveniently allowing Anne Snelgrove and Victor Argawal to share the same key local messages as their candidates for council.  The labour group in council are uncharacteristically well prepared, well informed and so well briefed that I think they can probably sustain the WiFi barrage for a few weeks yet and I'd be surprised if the ammunition isn't already being stacked for their assault on the budget proposal. 

I reckon it will suit the Labour election campaign very nicely indeed for the Tories to conduct 'business as usual' and force an unpopular budget through council.  They, (labour), will then spend every single day until election day publicly tearing the budget to pieces and highlighting every single embarrassing instance of cuts, savings, deletions, rationalisation, and reorganisation.  One bee sting may inconvenience, a few be quite painful, but dozens can kill.

Come election day, whether it be local or general, I think what people will remember as they enter the polling booth is what really affects them every day and not necessarily the now more remote issues of banking crises and bonuses.  What they will think about is a country that now appears to be recovering slowly, while the borough slips further into the mire with reducing services but more expensive council tax, leisure facilities et al.

Finally then, it's no secret that I want Anne Snelgrove out of office so I don't ever want to start a thread entitled 'Bluh Buggers Bucklands Bid - Snelgrove Wins'..... *

....but seeing where Bluh's leadership is taking the Tory party in Swindon it's becoming more possible by the day.  Odd to think that Dead men walking the corridors of the civic may prevent Mssrs Buckland and Tomlinson from ever walking the corridors of Westminster.


Discuss....  :popcorn:





"Something for the weekend sir?" -  I think watching tomorrows Politics Show would be a good idea* (12pm BBC1)  ;)   



*Don't say I didn't tell you.....  ;)



 
* edit. Both statements are no longer accurate @ 10.04.2010

 
« Last Edit: April 10, 2010, 10:55:20 PM by Geoff Reid »



Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2010, 05:09:25 PM »
Geoff

An interesting take on things and yes the BBC cameras were there so its going to be Panorama, yes I can admit I have heard that rumour. The politics Show, now that never even crosssed my mind. I reckon your information is a bit of a flyer, but if you are correct  then it will make it all the more interesting thinking through what you have written.

I like you do agree that if a leaflet appears from Labour and is to do with council issues and mentions what you have said. Then it is a safe bet a snap election is on the way. When have Labour ever put out leaflets in the noughties? The last town wide leaflet was in 2000. The Conservatives built up their Majority and pushed Lib Dem into one ward based on a campaign machine, which as I have said is oiled and waiting to kick off into high gear as soon as the gun sounds.

It will be interesting to see if others agree with some of what you say or will in fact disagree. I think one thing you have not taken into account is that Rod holds all the power and has 42 Cllrs, that is one heck of a power base. I am sure Robert and Justin will make sure you never have to write that thread. ;)
All posts on this forum are my own opinion and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2010, 05:44:16 PM »
 
.....yes the BBC cameras were there so its going to be Panorama, yes I can admit I have heard that rumour. The politics Show, now that never even crosssed my mind. I reckon your information is a bit of a flyer, but if you correct are then it will make it all the more interesting thinking through what you have written.

All I will add to that, (at this point), is that I believe Panorama and the Politics show will be broadcasting programs about Swindon shortly. 




I think one thing you have not taken into account is that Rod holds all the power and has 42 Cllrs that is one heck of a power base.

Does he?  :popcorn:



Anyway, if I'm wrong I'll be magnanimous as always and admit that I'm wrong..... ..I'm not worried about admitting failure to my power base, 'cos I ain't got one!  :)

Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2010, 06:15:37 PM »

Anyway, if I'm wrong I'll be magnanimous as always and admit that I'm wrong..... because I'm not worried about admitting failure to my power base, 'cos I ain't got one!  :)

Geoff
Who needs a power base as your nonaffilliated views appear to be shared by many on TS :2funny:

 :popcorn: From what I know of you  even if you ain't wrong you will still be magnanimous ;)
All posts on this forum are my own opinion and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Mart

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2010, 07:26:44 PM »
Trouble is that while the grown ups is playing political ping pong Rome is burning.

Or sumfink.

You know what I mean, is it about political point scoring and the promoting of specific parties, or is it about putting the people of Swindon first.

Occurs to me that if it was a Labour Council (see, that annoys me, it should be a Swindon Council, full stop) nobody from Big Government would give a flying feck.

I shall nevertheless take pleasure in watching them tear strips off each other even with the knowledge it is likely to do me harm, but, twas ever thus.

Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline komadori

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2010, 07:34:02 PM »
Whilst I agree that Mr Bluh is not doing his party any favours, I'm not convinced that the calamity that is Rod's Vision will blot out national political messages come the general election.

There's not enough time really between now and an election for the wifi project to go thoroughly wrong or thoroughly bad. Remember that once an election is called, public sector pronouncements on many things are, by law, forbidden - outcomes of any investigation are likely to be held over until after the election.

On the regeneration front, the town centre will look superficially improved, with work to replace the BHS store and tarting up of Canal Walk and Regent Street.

Cuts in the council budget will only have been introduced in April, possibly too close to election date for many to notice how it affects them personally and thus to have a big impact.
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Offline Mart

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2010, 07:38:58 PM »
I've seen Dead Men Walking.

Slim Jim whatsisface off Stray Cats, Mike Philips, Kirk Brandon and Captain Sensible.

On balance, a creditable alternative.

I have to concur that Rodders will have to be shafted by his own side and I think he will be allowed to get a lot more out of control yet.

Again bears comparison with big government attitude, a clown being propped up cos it suits the propper uppers to do so, not cos it is the correct moral thing to do, but because it is politically and personally expedient.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2010, 08:56:09 PM »
 
 
Quote
not convinced that the calamity that is Rod's Vision will blot out national political messages come the general election.

Whilst I don't think Rods calamity will blot out national messages on it's own, I'm sure the labour campaign will promote the view that while the rest of the country is coming out of recession, Swindon is not - and blame SBC for this.

Quote
There's not enough time really between now and an election for the wifi project to go thoroughly wrong

It has already gone wrong. Not in the operational sense but wrong in the sense that SBC stepped outside its core competencies without any democratic mandate to do so, and in doing so used the 'it's within the rules' mantra.

Quote
once an election is called, public sector pronouncements on many things are, by law, forbidden


But political comment upon those already made is not.  I'll be surprised if the blogosphere doesn't start getting crowded soon.

Quote
outcomes of any investigation are likely to be held over until after the election.

True, but how many people wait for the official verdict before making their minds up? i.e, I already disagree with SBC's actions on wifi. An investigation that clears Bluh of any legal wrongdoing won't change my opinion.  Obviously I can't know in advance whether my opinion will be widely shared.

Quote
Cuts in the council budget will only have been introduced in April, possibly too close to election date for many to notice how it affects them personally

Agreed. Unless the labour campaign(s) do an effective job of telling voters how they will be affected, and the voters accept those views.

Interesting times. Looking forward to tomorrows Politics show.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2010, 09:06:56 PM »
I have to concur that Rodders will have to be shafted by his own side and I think he will be allowed to get a lot more out of control yet.


I agree he won't be shafted yet, he'll be nailed to the mast until the elections.  I disagree that he'll be allowed to get further out of control though. The Tory group recently forced the leader into a 'U' turn on support for Dial a Ride, the next contentious issue, (apart from the budget itself), will probably be how SBC deals with the PCT's proposed closure of the Tantivy respite centre for children with disabilities.  (Costs for alternative care will be cost-shunted onto SBC by default)

Rod was given a bloody nose, (in his absence) at the last group meeting, and a real kicking in council on Thursday.  Support from his own side was lukewarm and even his political assistant, Douglas Campbell, was absent.  I don't think Rod is in any doubt now that real power is given consensually and even then is only on loan.  I think he knows he's on report.


Quote
Again bears comparison with big government attitude, a clown being propped up cos it suits the propper uppers to do so, not cos it is the correct moral thing to do, but because it is politically and personally expedient.


Having had a couple of years close personal experience with McDoom, Annie Snelgrove and Michael Wills will have a better idea than most on how to completely destabilise a propped clown.  :)


Offline komadori

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2010, 09:24:51 PM »
Quote
outcomes of any investigation are likely to be held over until after the election.

True, but how many people wait for the official verdict before making their minds up? i.e, I already disagree with SBC's actions on wifi. An investigation that clears Bluh of any legal wrongdoing won't change my opinion.  Obviously I can't know in advance whether my opinion will be widely shared.

My gut feel is that most won't know nor care about how the decision was made unless there's an enquiry and it either reports or leaks. I suspect the interest shown in that story online at the moment might be unrepresentative - I don't see much interest being shown beyond those with an obvious political or technical interest. Of course, a little broadcast media interest could easily change that.
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Offline Jarvis

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2010, 07:45:36 AM »
 
Agreed. Unless the labour campaign(s) do an effective job of telling voters how they will be affected, and the voters accept those views.

There is a different mood among labour party activists now, a sense of renewed determination and hope.   Perhaps they are now getting some support from above?

Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2010, 08:05:54 AM »
Maybe an alternative to the creep out of Wi-fi should have been the big bang, Highworth has been coming for a few weeks now first it was 7th December then launched 16th December now due to snow possibly not until the end of next week. Then where next? It is said  (promised?)  that it will be town wide by April.

All this time it is in the public eye, so though  what Komadori has pointed out is astute, it ain't going away until its enmeshed the whole town. That is why this is sustained in the public eye, will interest diminish? Yes it will but when? Also there is the politics of this, the age old saying of its not what you knew its when you knew it!

Politics is a rough trade it is not for the feint hearted, so far there has been a Robust Process from the Wi-fi cabal, and based on the Boston Learning Curve and its associated interpretations. (Denial Curve and Public Interest Curve) this is still on the upward slope I have not detected the summit yet.

Rod has operated within the council's delegated authority, that is as you say within the rules. I do believe what Rod says about the process and the reasons he has given for doing this. I also trust his reasons for doing this was for the benefit of SBC revenue income  streams, improve services available and for social inclusion. 

It is within the rules, so maybe now Councillors will seek to change the rules? It is within the gift of the Councillors. Then again, if councillors were non affiliated then the scrutiny of the council executive would be far more Robust as party loyalty would not overide common sense.

A week is a long time in politics and so the next 13 weeks maybe electric or just the phoney war. :popcorn: :coffee: I am sidelined so for me its :banana:
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Offline Richard Shaw

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2010, 11:51:04 AM »
Congratulations to Geoff for starting such an inspirational thread especially after a hard nights work.

For my part I cannot believe I feel such indifference to the forthcoming elections.  I should be leaping up and down to get rid of Brown but cannot see any advantage in making the change presently.  What alternative is on offer exactly we don't really know do we?

And as for locally the Cons have had power for four years now and don't appear to be any more competent than Labour and certainly do not justify their overpowering majority.  Will someone please tell what they have done apart from building a new Library?  Otherwise nothing changes expect for the position of the deckchairs on the Titantic which continues to sail straight for the icebergs.

Yes election time will be very interesting and anything could happen especailly in Swindon which stands a very good chance of being unique.

Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2010, 12:37:49 PM »
Geoff

Looks like your info was on the ball ;) I have just seen a preview of the Show and it has Swindon on it, something about no red carpet?
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Offline Terry Reynolds

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2010, 01:01:03 PM »
watched the politics show, dont think it did the labour party any real good apart from the obvious planted question to the public person,, bit like the story of the hospital visit by tony blair, who asked before hand, that as many ill children as could be found should be arranged for him to seen with, can Geoff let us know where this sum of £1,000,000 of assests that the council have sold off ?.
regards..

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2010, 01:27:30 PM »
 
 
Hat Tip to: 'Red Weasel' for their recent submissions to the TS Leakline: leaks@talkswindon.org  much appreciated  :)

I didn't see the show myself, my TV aerial is pointing at Oxford so when the show went 'local' I was treated to some political wonks in Hastings.

Doesn't look like it's going to be available on the iPlayer so I'd welcome a detailed summary or, if anyone grabbed it on a PCTV recorder, a copy of the mpg file.

Shame, I think I've missed the beginning of the Battle.


Offline Dougal

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2010, 03:01:56 PM »
 
This topic is starting to wander so I'm going to split some of the 'Independant Cll'rs are/are not sidelined' posts into a new thread.

Any further posts regarding whether Cll'r Wakefield has been sidelined to be made here please: http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=4791.0
www.talkswindon.org is a venue, not a person or political entity. As such, it hopes to encourage input and discussion on any topic, from all walks of Swindon life.   

Offline komadori

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2010, 05:02:21 PM »
Doesn't look like it's going to be available on the iPlayer so I'd welcome a detailed summary or, if anyone grabbed it on a PCTV recorder, a copy of the mpg file.

Shame, I think I've missed the beginning of the Battle.


Seems a bit confused. Programme page says it's not available on iPlayer, iPlayer says it's coming soon.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/the_politics_show_west

Seems that the regional politics shows get added to iPlayer slowly through the afternoon.
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2010, 05:41:39 PM »

You're right  :)  The South West edition is now on the iPlayer, still waiting for the West edition to appear.

I've heard 3 very differing opinions from people who've already watched it but I don't want to comment until I've had a ganders personally  :)

Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Dead Men Walking?
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2010, 05:42:23 PM »
Yes I have over the last six months  become fairly disillusioned with the conservative Council they seem to promise a lot and have a vision but they have failed with the exception of the library failed to deliver! The New Swindon Company/Swindon College comes to mind seemed to make a bad situation worse!


I think JT left at the right time!