Jumping into Colchester porridge
POLITICS in the borough of Colchester is like a vat of thick porridge – jump in and survive at your peril.The council is now run by a joint Liberal Democrat-Conservative "pragmatic alliance" – without the Tories propping them up, the Lib Dems would find it all but impossible to form an administration.
POLITICS in the borough of Colchester is like a vat of thick porridge – jump in and survive at your peril.
The council is now run by a joint Liberal Democrat-Conservative "pragmatic alliance" – without the Tories propping them up, the Lib Dems would find it all but impossible to form an administration.
If Lib Dems councillors are grateful to the Tories for sustaining them in office, they certainly haven't told the town's MP Bob Russell. Commenting on the indecisive local election results which caused the coalition to be formed, he slams the local Conservatives. "On a day when across Britain the Conservatives were making significant gains, in Colchester they were losing seats," adding that they lost the three seats they were defending in the town whereas the Lib Dems gained two.
Rather curiously, he has reignited a 30 year-old argument over Colchester's boundaries, declaring: "Unfortunately, although the town has voted for a Lib Dem council, we are lumbered with Tory councillors from villages which are in the borough of Colchester."
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"Lumbered" according to my dictionary comes from lumber meaning "useless stuff" or "disused and cumbersome articles." As Tory councillor Christopher Arnold was quick to point out, this is hardly the way to describe the renowned University of Essex at Wivenhoe Park – where Mr Russell used to work – the serene Vale of Dedham, or the world famous jam made at Tiptree.
But then Colchester's Tory candidate Kevin Bentley slightly over eggs the pudding by claiming "hundreds of thousands of local taxpayers live in the rural areas of Colchester" – by my reckoning, Kevin, it's only about 30,000.
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My only observation is that Mr Russell was the first to complain when the borough's other MP, Tory Bernard Jenkin, single-handedly killed off Colchester's hopes of becoming a city because he did not think a rural hinterland belonged within a city's boundaries. What's good for a city, Bob, is surely good for a borough, isn't it?
The Liberal Democrat agent for Colchester Ian Horner then weighs in with that hoary old chestnut that Mr Bentley treats the constituency with contempt because he lives a few hundred yards outside its boundaries in one of Mr Russell's "lumbered" borough villages, Langenhoe. This is the same Mr Horner who, you may recall, as his party's agent for the Ipswich by-election in 2001, was quite content to publish a leaflet describing Lib Dem candidate Tessa Munt as local, even though she lived 20 miles away in Sudbury.
The Labour Party, whose sorry state in Colchester shows no sign of ending following yet more defections, condemns Mr Russell's Lib Dems for forging a pact with the Tories. Says their one-time prospective parliamentary candidate Tim Young: "Liberal Democrats regularly tell Labour voters in Colchester to vote for them to keep the Tories out. By these action, you can see that by voting Lib Dem you actually keep the Tories in."
Given that the bulk of Colchester's electors – in whichever constituency they live – voted tactically to prevent Labour MPs being elected, Mr Young's angst surely will fall on death ears.