I have seen much flak on social media directed toward the Southend Independent group, who did not support Ian Gilbert in the bid by the Labour group to get Ian elected as leader of the Council and at the same time they did not support Tony Cox the preferred candidate of the Conservatives. This meant that their abstaining allowed the Conservatives to get their way with Tony duly elected (see my “Deciding on the leader of Southend Council” article), much to the annoyance of many who wanted Conservatives out, some of which feel they have been let down by the Independents.
The following press statement has come my way. My independence means I am neither for nor against the Independent group and have my own reservations how independent those who are part of a group that happens to have “Independent” in their title are, but I believe in fair play and think the Bell principles the Independent group claim to abide by are pertinent and basically sound. I do not wish to comment further other than the corrective note at the end and to express my belief there to be an element of spin in the who offered what in the won’t you support us department and a feeling that some of the impasse over negotiations was due to bruised egos, although without being a fly on the wall it is difficult to say.
This is what the Independent spokesmen, Ron Woodley and Martin Terry, have written to help put the record straight:
“Southend’s Independent Councillors did not cave into pressure to abandon the Bell principles on Thursday at the inaugural meeting of the new Borough Council.
The Independent group worked up to the last minute to try and stabilize Southend’s Council, after a heavy defeat in last week’s election for the Conservatives. Offers to work with Labour and the Liberal Democrats were ultimately rejected.
Independent spokesman Ron Woodley said: “We now have a Conservative minority administration. If the election results show us anything it’s that the residents wholeheartedly rejected the previous Conservative administration. As Independents we must be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip, so we offered to work under a politically neutral Leader It is disappointing that Labour and the LibDems could not agree to this – once again party politics came first. The Independents are extremely disappointed that, after residents have voted out so many Conservative Councillors, Labour and the LibDems have ignored the wishes of the people.”
At yesterday’s Council meeting, Tony Cox (Conservative) was only backed by his Conservative colleagues votes to become the new Council leader.
However, as a minority party, the Conservatives cannot pass any meaningful legislation, unless the other groups agree. So Southend is saddled with a lame duck administration for at least another 12 months, until the 2020 ward elections take place”.
THE BELL PRINCIPLES
The Bell Principles are the first code of conduct for elected representatives – they demand that politicians behave to the highest of standards. The Independent Network asks that all endorsed candidates and supporters agree to these principles.
They were first formulated by the former independent MP Martin Bell and were presented to the IN at a strategy meeting in September 2009. They were unanimously adopted by supporters of the IN and were later edited by members of the IN Executive.
They are seen as a living document and will be continuously edited to reflect the changing world we live in. If you have any comments regarding the Bell Principles, please send them to: email@example.com
THE BELL PRINCIPLES
- abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership
- be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences
- be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip
- be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism.
- make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based
- listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively
- treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right
- resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level
- work with other elected independents as a Group with a chosen spokesperson
- claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.
Note: Stephen Aylen who is Independent, albeit not a member of the Independent group, did vote for Tony Cox.