Councillors must justify their leadership choices to voters

The Conservatives who voted in the election for Colin Noble and Christopher Hudson at Suffolk County

The Conservatives who voted in the election for Colin Noble and Christopher Hudson at Suffolk County Council must be prepared to reveal who they suppported.

Just who do those running the Conservative group at Suffolk County Council think they are?

This week’s election for a new leader of the group has shown a total contempt for the voters of Suffolk.

It is outrageous that the individual votes of councillors in the election for leader and deputy leader of the county council are not made public. Voters have the right to know how their local councillor voted in such an election.

It is total arrogance for the group to say that the election of a leader and deputy is a “private matter.”

It is a “private matter” when the local Conservative association elects its chairman and secretary. It is not a “private matter” when councillors vote on who should lead a local authority which controls hundreds of millions of pounds of public money.

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The only reason the councillors are in a position to vote in this election is because they have been put there by voters in their own divisions.

They are there as representatives of their voters, not delegates. We vote them into place to use their judgement on matters that affect the county council.

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But the quid pro quo is that when they come up for re-election we can see how they used their judgement and decide whether they are worthy of our continued support.

How on earth can we make such a decision if we don’t know what their judgement was on the question of who should lead their group because the vote was by secret ballot?

For the same reasons I’m delighted that backbench MPs rejected the tawdry government attempt to introduce a secret ballot for the election of speaker – there is no place for a secret ballot anywhere in the Palace of Westminster. We have the right to know how our MPs vote.

That includes in the ballots for party leaders. I know all party members now have a vote in these ballots – but MPs have a much stronger vote because of their position at Westminster. The price for that privilege has to be openness about how they use that supervote.

During the many Tory leadership contests between 1997 and 2005 there were always many MPs who refused to say how they were backing.

I’m afraid I always regarded them with the same contempt that they were showing to their electorate in claiming they should keep their choice secret – those too arrogant to discuss their choices don’t deserve our votes.

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