Labour's faded lily oozes defiance

YOU'D think Labour activists would be smarting in Colchester at one of their worst sets of council election results ever - one hold, no gains, coming third in 18 of the 20 wards contested.

YOU'D think Labour activists would be smarting in Colchester at one of their worst sets of council election results ever - one hold, no gains, coming third in 18 of the 20 wards contested. But no, in a brazen act of defiance akin to spitting into the wind, they have sent out a cheeky media release singing the praises of group leader Tim Young and thundering: “Under Tim's inspirational leadership Labour will continue to lead and shape the agenda in Colchester.

“The Labour Group has been the most effective, campaigning group in the borough in touch with the vast majority of local residents and this is set to continue.”

They might think that, but with only seven councillors across the borough, they're unlikely to lead or shape any agenda. Pity the so-called “vast majority of local residents” either stayed at home or voted enthusiastically for any party other than Labour.

I'm not immune from the charge of blowing own trumpets but I do think Labour is trying to gild a very faded lily. My spies in Colchester tell me Labour has little or no chance of holding Wivenhoe Quay next May, which means they will become even more of a rump group.

In an act of desperation, there's talk of Labour going cap in hand to the Liberal Democrats and negotiating a deal- which worked successfully on Suffolk county council for 12 years - under which rivalries would be overcome and in some wards they would stand aside for one or the other to vacuum up the votes of non Tories to defeat Conservative candidates. The belief is that enough Tories would lose to propel a Lab-Lib Dem coalition into power.

One little problem stands in the way - the visual arts facility, which as I remarked last week, has received Tony Blair's enthusiastic endorsement. Could Labour and the Lib Dems overcome their differences? I await developments with interest.

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I'M reminded by Lord Phillips of Sudbury that we should never ignore the wise words spoken in the upper house which are hardly ever reported, especially if a parallel debate takes place in the Commons on the same subject.

The thorny issue of police mergers was discussed in the Commons last Wednesday, but when the Lords debated them later that evening, the contribution of peers went virtually unnoticed.

Lord Phillips, who is a proud resident of Sudbury as well as being a London solicitor and Chancellor of the University of Essex, weighed into the Government's plans to force Suffolk constabulary to amalgamate with Cambridgeshire and Norfolk police forces without any meaningful public consultation.

“The timetable for all this is scandalous,” said Lord Phillips, who pointed out that the report proposing mergers was published only seven months ago. “The Home Secretary responded within three days. In Suffolk, we received formal notification from the Home Secretary of his intention to amalgamate, yet the consultation has not yet begun - talk about `cart before the horse.'

“The date for objections is August 11 and by December next year, we are supposed to have a shadow joint police authority between three counties.

“That is not serious politics, it is not serious consultation, it is not listening, and it will not do.”

I hope new Home Secretary Dr John Reid takes note of this admonishment.

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