I had a very interesting phone call from Callum Jones, a reporter with the Local Newspaper, on Saturday asking me for my views on a statement by Councillor David Mackintosh the Conservative Leader of the Northampton Borough Council about the emergency motion that he is tabling at Monday night’s Council Meeting deploring the fact that I haven’t attended a meeting for 6 months.
The problem of course is that his claims are, basically, untrue and are nothing more than another example of him trying, as he has done numerous times before, to cover his own inadequacies, highlighted in the recent award of Philistine of the Year by Private Eye. It has often been the case that upon a negative story reaching the media about his behaviour, soon after an equally negative story is released often targeting an entirely different section of people Cllr Mackintosh considers fair game for his political ambitions.
This time it’s the Labour Councillors, previously it was the Friends of the Northampton Museums, the Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust, Legal and General, the Friends of Delapre Abbey, the satirist Twee David, my son John, myself following his ascent to leadership, Michael Ellis MP, Cllr Andre de Gonzalez and of course the “deadwood” as he refers to them of Council Staff working with the homeless, elderly and vulnerable. There are perhaps too many to mention on this occasion but in the coming weeks I’ll reveal a number of issues on which Cllr Mackintosh was involved in all aimed at removing those who he feels are likely to impede his desperate ambition of becoming a Member of Parliament.
The problem with his latest statement is twofold;
Firstly by stating that there will be an emergency motion on this subject he has presumably already had it agreed by his friends the Mayor Cllr John Caswell and Deputy Mayor Cllr Penny Flavell, both Conservatives.
Secondly he has opened his own members up to ridicule over their attendance at Full Council meetings.
A further issue for those accused is that Cllr Mackintosh, who has a well-earned reputation for not being as open and truthful as he is often presented, and whoever of his ‘chums’ he gets to second the motion will have over 10 minutes to make their case whilst those accused have only 3 minutes to respond. Cllr Mackintosh will then have the opportunity at the end of a debate to have the final word.
This is the Northampton Conservatives sense of fair play and democracy, anyone would think there is an election coming up! So how do you highlight the crass hypocrisy of Cllr Mackintosh on this issue?
I could at Monday’s meeting use my 3 minutes to counter his claims, but that wouldn’t nearly be long enough. So instead I have decided to write the following open letter to Cllr Mackintosh publish on this blog and release it to all NBC Councillors. To those who may be offended by being mentioned in the letter I’m afraid any anger should be directed to Cllr Mackintosh who has regrettably by his actions brought attention to your situation.
Dear Councillor Mackintosh
I am led to understand from a member of the press that you will be tabling an emergency motion at Monday night’s Full Council Meeting, denouncing me for failing to attend a Full Council meeting in the past 6 months stating that I am not value for money to the Northampton Tax Payer.
You will be aware I attended the Council meeting in July 2014 and that there is no meeting in August leaving three officially programmed Council meetings between September and December. I freely admit for personal reasons that I am certainly not going to reveal to you, given your history of using the personal issues of others to criticise and belittle them, that I have not attended the last three meetings.
In fact during this Council term of office, between 2011 and today, I fully admit that of the 38 Full Council Meetings as agreed by the Annual Council I have sent my apologies for absence from 5 of them. In fact I appear to enjoy the company, as I’m sure you will point out during the emergency debate, of 18 Councillors in total who have, as you would put it been ‘ripping the taxpayer off’ by failing to attend full Council meetings on 5 occasions or more.
Your criticism of course demonstrates once again a complete lack of understanding of the pressures that those Councillors, with families and real jobs outside of the political machine, have in their lives. I can only put this down to the fact that you are a full-time politician, being paid allowances in the region of £40,000 per annum and, as you do not experience the joyful encumbrance of a family, I can understand if this is an area where you can plead ignorance.
So let me give you a history lesson based on my experience of being a Borough Councillor for almost 12 years. It has always been the case that whilst councillors from different parties have engaged vigorously in the political process, debating and disagreeing on policies, they have never, until now under your Leadership have never sought to gain a political advantage from an individual’s unfortunate, deeply personal, circumstances.
During the period I have served on the Borough Council we have unfortunately seen Councillors suffer from severe medical and health issues, with some sadly having passed on as a result.
Let me give you some examples, Michelle Hoare, Liz Tavener and Jane Duncan, during their illness and treatment, were not subjected to criticism and abuse for attendance but treated with respect, dignity, compassion, tolerance and understanding. Not the least because we always understood that the impact also affected their families.
I never heard a single word from the opposition parties that they should be victimised for the situation in which they found themselves, in fact just the opposite with Group Leaders talking and agreeing to invoke Council rules to waver the six months rule and allow the Councillors time to recover, free from the threat and embarrassment of exclusion.
I am staggered that both senior and ordinary members of the Northampton Conservatives have supported your attitude towards Cllr Joy Capstick. It is even more staggering when you consider that a number of them in particular Cllrs Hadland, Larratt and Caswell have been past recipients of the understanding and compassion of all three parties when they underwent major surgery.
I have absolutely no idea whether those Councillors in the existing Conservative Group who, during this Council term, have received good wishes and support from opposition Councillors during their recovery from illness will vote and support you on Monday. I suspect they will and sadly if they do as far as I am concerned will forever be held in contempt for their hypocrisy and cowardice in the face of your cheap and dirty approach politics.
Returning to the issue of attendance, of the 18 Councillors who have failed to attend 5 or more annually agreed Full Council meetings since 2011, nine are Conservatives, eight are Labour and one Liberal Democrat. The data, taken from the NBC website however doesn’t, as statistics never do, tell the whole story. Of the 38 programmed Council meetings agreed annually the following Councillors have missed 5 or more meetings
Palethorpe, Aziz, Begum, Conroy, Hill, Nunn
(Conservatives 4, Labour 1, Liberal Democrat 1)
N Choudary, Lane, Gowen, I Choudary
(Conservatives 2, Labour 2)
(Conservatives 1, Labour 1)
(Conservative 1, Labour 1)
All of the indications are that once again you have raised an issue without any thought of the impact on those who, according to you, are fully united and behind you. One would say it’s not really appropriate to accuse friends of being a waste of money, but it might take a serious leap of faith to describe the NBC Conservative group as your friends. Colleagues? Acquaintances?
I will not criticise those on the list for their attendance, for the simple reason that I don’t know the circumstances they and their families have faced or are facing, however I will make the following observations. Three of my friends have decided to cross the floor from Labour to your Conservatives and I don’t and won’t criticise them for that. They are grown ups and fully entitled to make their choice as I did following the fascinating and as yet unexplained circumstances leading to my departure as your predecessor in October 2011.
What the public may find strange if not absolutely hypocritical is that they are all on the list of absentees and yet you were happy to pose on the Guildhall steps and welcome them ‘As a great addition’ to the Conservatives? Will you be recommending they aren’t selected as a Conservative candidates for May’s election?
Didn’t think so.
Cllr Mackintosh, you have previously attacked Cllr Geraldine Davies for her attendance record even though you were fully aware of her personal circumstances at the time which, because of your crass insensitivity, caused them to become public without any regard for the fact that children were involved.
I presume that your latest attack on Cllr Davies equally applies to your own Cllr Anna King?
What do Cllrs Davies and King have in common, apart from both being women. Surely you can’t have a problem with that?
Both are loving and devoted single mums who quite rightly, or at least to most people but apparently not you, put their children first and who also work for a living. I don’t recall the opposition ever attacking Anna King, for the simple reason that those of us who have families and care about them wouldn’t dream of decrying someone who puts their family before their own self-interest.
Will you be recommending that Cllr King is deselected as a Candidate in May?
In fact will you be recommending that all of the Conservative Councillors on the list are deselected including the Deputy Mayor?
If the answer is no to these questions, then you may have further questions to ask yourself.
The reality, Councillor Mackintosh, is that whenever you are put on the back foot you invariably resort to personal attacks, (the incident of you swearing at Cllr Flavell springs immediately to mind) a tactic which is often wrapped up in the formality of legalese and a well worded press statement. When called out on your actions, you obfuscate and deny, recognising that having made the decisive first statement you have set the story agenda, irrespective of the actual facts involved.
Taking that into account you may be surprised that I agree that the tax payer should receive value for the taxes they pay.
However the public may think it dishonest of you to constantly criticise the previous administration for increasing Councillor allowances by 63% and yet are only to happy to pocket the money.
You will also recall that you refused to revert to the pre-rise level which gives the clear impression that your Northampton Conservatives are not prepared to deliver on their talk when it affects their pocket.
I have this afternoon sent a cheque for £125 based on missing 5 Council meetings in the past 4 years to the Deputy Mayor for the Mayors Charity.
Will the Northampton Conservatives who have missed a total of 91 meetings ‘walk the walk’ by responding and giving £25 for each meeting they have missed?
I very much doubt it though the media and public may consider it a reasonable challenge or will the tax payers now see clearly that personal greed and self-interest is your Conservatives main motivation?
Having been a keen player of team sports for most of my life, and having worked down coal mines and served in the Royal Navy, I have worked under many foremen, captains and officers and have often found myself in the role myself. Good leadership requires more than a reckless emotionless drive to crush all and any opposition, regardless of the effect on your own side. It requires emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to see past your own ambitions, to represent both the pinnacle of your groups identity, but also the example they must follow.
Finally by all means raise the issue at Full Council, I will not respond in the Chamber because three minutes isn’t long enough to highlight your particular failings on this and other issues, so please take this open letter as my response to your factually dubious attempts to smear my name.
Out of courtesy to you I should say that I will be writing in the coming weeks on past incidents of note, and of course mentioning the names of those people you have maligned in the process. I believe that, as the time approaches for Northampton to makes its choice of MP, it is in the public interest that some of your hitherto unrevealed behaviour should become public knowledge.