Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mayor-making or Mickey-taking?

Once again, the intolerance of Greenwich's Labour administration of any hint of opposition has been laid bare. This year, the formal Council AGM meeting to elect the Mayor and appoint the Council's leadership and committees has been seperated from the more ceremonial Mayor-making (or 'Inauguration' as they are calling it) event. Last night we had the AGM in the Council chamber and, as we do every year, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats expressed our disappointment that the Labour Group insist on making the Mayor (a supposedly non-partisan post) a political appointment from within their group, voted through by their majority without consultation with the other parties.

It is a simple argument- as the First Citizen of the Borough, the Mayor represents all those who live in it, and is required to act impartially and fairly whilst holding their office. Given the balance of power in the Council (36 Labour, 13 Conservative and 2 Lib Dems) it is right for the Mayoralty to go more often to Labour - but by rights there should be a Mayor from the opposition parties at least every four years. This has never happened- in fact, several Labour members have donned the robes and chain for more than one year in office. Excluding the Opposition from any attempt to reach a consensus on this ceremonial role is petty and wrong, and I think it is extremely unfortunate that we have to start every civic year with this point of disagreement, which is not a personal criticism of the person becoming Mayor.

But anyway, that's all history for another year. Cllr Sajid Jawaid was elected as Mayor for 2007-08, and many congratulation to him. He will be sworn in at a ceremony in the magnificent Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College next Wednesday. But even there, the one-party state, control-freak mentality of the Labour Leadership has intervened. In previous years, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats were invited to make short remarks following the Leader of the Council's speech. Not this year. No, the powers-that-be have notified my colleague Cllr Spencer Drury and the Lib Dem leader Cllr. Woodcraft that these speeches will be cut 'to maximise the time available to partners/guests at the event for networking'.

This is a complete joke, given that last year these same guests were subjected to a ceremony lasting nearly three hours- including a mind (and bottom)-numbingly boring address from Comrade Roberts on the state of the People's Republic of Greenwich. We have of course complained about the decision, but I hold out little hope of a change of mind. Opposition silenced once more in our great democracy.

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