Sympathy NO Empathy PERHAPS!
It is very difficult to have a great deal of sympathy for Conservative County Councillor Andre Gonzalez. He’s currently facing difficulties arising from the excellent article in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, being picked up by the national newspapers, after he named a local park after his son.
If it was only about the park naming issue there would, perhaps, be a sense that it was something that had been blown up out of all proportion and some may even feel a modicum of sympathy.
The problem is that Councillor Gonzalez has been a leading member of the Conservative run Northamptonshire County Council who have failed to protect the county’s most vulnerable children leading to the recent Ofsted report stating very clearly that the services were inadequate.
He was also the leading Cabinet member responsible for the switching off of over half of the counties streetlights to, as we were constantly told, save over £2m a year. Until recently, that is, when at a local meeting he apparently admitted that the reason why the lights stayed on in the area where he lives is because it was cheaper to retain them than switch them off.
Councillor Gonzalez was the lead representative for his Conservative Cabinet colleagues on a number of other controversial issues and decisions, including the agreement to re-assign retail development from the former Fishmarket site to the Central Library area to allow for the new bus interchange development.
He also led the way in defending the County Conservatives decision to re-open Bridge Street to traffic at weekends, despite opposition from the police and Northampton Borough Council.
Of course these were decisions taken, not in isolation, but as part of the Conservative Cabinet who also cut funding for the police, cut front line services to the most vulnerable by cutting the Supporting People Budget, cut funding levels to the Northampton Door to Door Service, made a complete mess of schools (and now have to put back over 1000 primary school places) and have failed to invest in our roads and pavements.
There is no doubt that the arrogance displayed in the naming of a local park is engrained in the culture and DNA of the Northampton Conservatives. The arrogance and belief that they can do whatever they like that has led to the downfall of Councillor Gonzalez, which is why there will be little sympathy for his plight.
But is it just arrogance that has been his Achilles heel? Or is there something else at work? Something that may well lead to people to have, if not sympathy, then at least a little empathy for his position.
There is no doubt that Councillor Gonzalez, whatever you think about him, has always been prepared to ‘front up’ and defend the decisions his colleagues have taken.
The problem has been that, while he’s been doing so, a number of his well-known Conservative colleagues and Cabinet members, both current and former, who have well-earned reputations for carrying out sustained attacks and briefings against colleagues have had Councillor Gonzalez well and truly in their sights.
Never more so it appears than this week when we are told those who form the self-elected Tory leadership in waiting tried to have him deselected as a County Council candidate in the same way that they tried to have Michael Ellis MP deselected before the last election.
The biggest fear for them was that Councillor Gonzalez, after the departure of two high-profile councillors from the front bench, had I am told suddenly become the front-runner for any possible change of leadership following the May election.
It must therefore have been difficult for him to have to take the ‘flack’ while others, who were equally accountable for the decisions taken, took to hiding behind a smokescreen designed to leave him isolated and them free to scheme to advance themselves and their interests.
It is how the ‘nasty party’ side of the Conservatives operates, so I do have some empathy for the position Councillor Gonzalez finds himself in. But it is empathy without sympathy because, when all is said and done, he has been only too willing to be a part a Conservative led County Council that has proved to be as incompetent as they are arrogant.
Produced and Published by David Palethorpe both of 29 Russet Drive, Little Billing, Northampton, NN39TF