BBC Radio Shropshire is this morning reporting that a senior Conservative, who has been deselected and will stand as an independent, has taken a parting shot at her former colleagues. As the radio station reports, the email was sent to all 74 councillors not just the Conservative group. As such it was obviously meant to be made public.
Laying in to the lack of leadership by the Conservatives, Hodnet councillor Karen Calder, who will stand as an independent, opines her sympathy for fellow councillors who have been deselected in the north of the county. She praises opposition leaders and rages against the cull of sitting councillors in the north of the county. Karen rages against backroom deals and despairs of the council leadership and the way many of her colleagues have been treated.
Peter Nutting is not a popular council leader among Conservatives. That is evident during council meetings. He has his loyal lieutenants, Dean Carrol who has become Nutting’s chief maker of excuses, Steve Charmley, Steve Davenport, Lezley Picton and others.
Among those culled by the North Shropshire Conservative Association is Anne Hartley, councillor for Ellesmere Urban and the current chair of Shropshire Council. To Anne, Calder says, “What the hell did you do to be deselected!!! Watch the space after the back room deals and the election results, who will be Chairman I wonder?”
Backroom deals? That’s the way that politics works but the more so with Conservatives. All but a few votes in Shropshire Council meetings are stitched up in advance after Peter Nutting issues instructions to “his councillors” on how to vote. There have been signs of rebellion of late. But when some of the Conservative members of the Southern Planning Committee voted against Nutting’s proposal to reduce the number of planning committees from three to two, he told them that if they rebelled again, they would lose the whip.
(For the record, Lib Dems are not whipped. We are individuals working within a common philosophy and framework and vote as we feel best represents our views and our communities.)
Karen Calder praises fellow Conservatives Lee Chapman (Church Stretton and Craven Arms) and Michael Wood (Worfield) who are standing down. Of Wood, Calder says:
“Michael Wood, you walk away from this Authority with your integrity intact. You never shied away from being a critical friend of the Administration… or just plain critical. We shared many a moment of despair at the lack of direction and decision by the Administration.”
That’s the mood music for Calder’s missive. Being critical of the Conservative leadership, even if it is a friendly criticism, is not tolerated under Peter Nutting. Only weak leaders can’t tolerate criticism.
Deputy Councillor leader Steve Charmley, who is widely regarded as the fixer and king maker in the cabinet, told BBC Radio Shropshire that there are many reasons why people are deselected. But is clear that the main reason for the cull of seated Conservatives in the north of the county is to prop up the struggling leadership of council leader Peter Nutting. Because the tradition of voting blue in the north of the county is so strong, the Conservatives think they can get anyone elected even if they are unknown. But the electoral calculus across the county is beginning to tip against Nutting’s regime.
David Minnery and Roger Hughes have not seen eye to eye with the North Shropshire Conservative Association. Calder says their deselection “illustrates some of the backroom machinations which take place.”
Calder praises Jane Mackenzie, who stood down from Labour, and Lib Dem Hannah Fraser who is standing down for personal reasons. Also Conservatives Tina Woodward and Malcolm Pate who are standing down.
The late Stuart West, Conservative for Shifnal South and Cosford, was chair of the South Planning Committee which I joined after being elected in 2014. I had huge respect for his integrity and the calm way he chaired and directed the planning committee, which was often (and still is) under pressure from developers and officers to agree applications that should not be agreed. Karen Calder says:
“RIP your treatment by the administration after the last election was despicable. Nothing more to say, those of you responsible hang your heads in shame!”
That is shocking and gives an insight into how this complacent Conservative administration has been working and how it is still the nasty party.
Calder praises Alan Moseley, leader of the labour Group:
“Keep on being the Rottweiler I’ve always thought of you as being and continue to cut through the crap whenever you hear it!”
Roger Evans, leader of the Lib Dem group gets a credit: “Roger well done for finally getting a Lib Dem suggestion on the Conservative Manifesto… LED street lighting!” (This was policy resisted for four years by the Conservatives. We have also got our policies for wheelie bins for recycling and for tree planting on the Tory manifesto.)
There is no mention of Peter Nutting in this extraordinary email from one of the Conservatives’ leading councillors. But there is no doubt that the principle audience is Nutting and his followership.
Signing off, Calder says:
“If I have missed someone apologies no offence intended, but where offence is meant I hope it is taken.”
Will this torpedo from a long established and respected Conservative have any impact on the 6 May elections? That’s hard to tell. But opposition candidates will be laughing all the way to the polls. And the way that the Conservatives work among themselves is exposed.
The Conservatives need to sort out their party. It is still a nasty party that cares more about power than conducting local politics in a civilised manner and working for the interests of the county.