Worst Street’s new leader has spoken publically for the first time – and in language that can be reported as well!
After tootling on about the “great responsibility to have been elected” Leader Councillor Michael Cooper tells us that he has “no illusions about the gravity of the position.”
Whilst we are no physicists we do know that gravity is a force that drags things down … and as that is the direction that Boston has been travelling for some years – helped considerably by its own council – it is encouraging to note that Councillor Cooper knows the score,
He tells us that whilst some might well describe it as a poisoned chalice, he sees it more as a challenge to be met.
“I am passionate about Boston and the wider borough and I have a gritty determination to make life here better for everyone.”
But after the rhetoric, what we see is pretty much the mixture as before.
We’re reminded of Boston’s damaged reputation – even though it remains “a safe and pleasant place to live” and now, more than ever, “we need a new era of positivity.”
Challenges will not be swept these under any carpets … (see our last two blogs)
The council has set out a broad framework for its aims by the end of the current administration in 2020 – in the face of “severe cuts” in Government funding … a path slavishly obeyed by the Conservative leadership!
There follows a list of things most of which are simply formulaic wordings and hints of jam tomorrow … maybe.
Thereafter the message could have been from the former leader Councillor Peter Bedford – including the lines about some major businesses having shown confidence in the area's economic resilience – Duckworth Jaguar and Land Rover and Sportsbikeshop, the new mint supermarket and a new Lidl supermarket arriving shortly.
Duckworths and the bike shop are both well-established local business which needed to expand in any case; mint is new, but a one-off shop rather than a major business, whilst Lidl could have been here years ago had Worst Street not been so picky.
It would have been nice to hear some admission that Boston Borough Council has played a major role in many of the woes which now face the town, and that had councillors not taken their eyes off the ball many years ago we would not now be in the mess that we are in.
In the run-up to Thursday’s election perhaps one of the things we needed least was the arrival of transvestite potter Grayson Perry to examine “the emotions, beliefs and desires that drive our loyalty to political tribes and uses the results as an inspiration for pieces of art” in a 50 minute TV programme.
Channel 4 was at its pretentious best for the “mid-Brexit and pre-general election programme” with the artist pictured in Regency garb staring – face clenched – out from the White Cliffs of Dover whilst appearing most of the rest of the time in mufti and two days behind a shave.
Inevitably, a programme about Brexit draws the luvvies to Boston, where Perry was filmed being driven around the town in a taxi, as people clambered in and out randomly to join him on the passenger seats for a chat.
Outstanding among these was the woman who proudly declared “To be honest, we don’t vote. Because what we don’t know don’t (sic) hurt us.”
Good to see local fingers on the pulse.
Later in the show, Mr Perry had dinner at the Boston and County club “with three prominent local leaders” named as Barrie, Yvonne and Marianne.
It was mildly disappointing when the Barrie and Yvonne turned out not to be the dance instructors from Hi De Di but Boston Borough Councillor Barrie Pierpoint and Yvonne Gunter – who became a brief double act in January when they announced their plan to stand as Lincolnshire Independent candidates at last month’s County Council elections … although Miss Gunter failed to follow through.
Which neatly brings us to Marianne – none other than Marianne Overton, who squeaked back in at County Hall as the sole survivor of the Lincolnshire Independents after they lost eight seats on election night.
Grayson Perry asked the trio whether the Boston Brexit – the biggest in the country – had had much to do with the EU … hinting, we think, that its roots may have been more anti-immigration than political.
Broadly speaking, he got what he was looking for …
Most help came from Miss Gunter. “There was a volume of them came in all at once. It wasn’t a trickle and I think that’s what shocked the town and the area. With this influx of varying nationalities they felt that the town was being taken off them …”
The drift of Marianne Overton’s contribution was that Boston has a wonderful heritage, and that if you have a sense of pride in your heritage part of it is in your spirit, whilst Barrie Pierpoint denounced the 48% of people who voted to Remain as being afraid of what might happen if we voted to come out, and branded them as cowards
As Grayson Perry left Boston he summed us up as having “a nostalgic, intensely local sense of identity and a desire to protect the lives they used to have”
And he added: “The fact that the vast number of agricultural workers are immigrants confirms for me that this is not a national conflict.”
Spot the R word?
If the programme wasn’t daft enough in the first place, we certainly raised an EYEbrow at the main choice of local guests – the “three prominent local leaders”
Councillor Pierpoint is an Independent councillor, a businessman and deputy mayor – none of which point to and particulat prominence of leadership.
Councillor Overton was a leader – contradictorily of a group of self-styled independents – but is now a stand-alone representative of her party.
And despite her warbling about Boston’s and its heritage, Ms Overton is a representative for Sleaford and North Hykeham.
Last, and by all means least, Miss Gunter has played no role in local politics for years – and her only real claim to fame was a bid for election that never happened.
The only thing that we can imagine her “leading” is either a dog or a grate!
What viewers who were unaware of all this made of their appearance is anyone’s guess.
All this televisual magic was screened because on Thursday we have another General Election – and haven’t our Boston candidates embraced the drama with both hands?
Well, er, no.
The first of the six candidates to rattle our letterbox with a leaflet was the Blue Revolution’s Mike Gilbert, followed by Paul Kenny for Labour, and a few days ago Conservative Matt Warman.
Of the other three – not a peep.
Pas d’un oiseau.
If the candidates aren't interested, theny why should we be?
A fly on the wall tells us that Mr Warman’s pièce de résistance– a session at Blackfriars last Thursday night drew no fewer than three local councillors and six members of the public – standing room only if you’re meeting in a phone booth!
Last week we mentioned the snub from the BBC to Mr Gilbert by denouncing his party as too trivial to participate in one of the live local debates around the county.
But now it seems that the Boston debate won’t be along the lines of the others.
It was delayed due to the campaign hiatus created by the Manchester bombing, and radio station boss Charlie Partridge told Boston Eye: “The Boston debate is a first time voters’ audience at Boston Grammar School tomorrow at 11. It's an invited audience so we are not asking people to come.
“Paul Nuttall won't be there, but Victoria Ayling will speak for UKIP. Otherwise the main people will be there.
“It should be interesting listening.”
Since being roughed up by the BBC locally, Mr Gilbert was given the bum’s rush by Radio 5 Live when it pitched up in Skegness.
Whilst with another hat on we can see a possible reason for the exclusions, it is nonetheless the case that the variety and eccentricity of our nation is no better illustrated than at election times – when the choice before voters is more than just the mealy palate-sticking menu that the main parties have to offer.
In a formal complaint to the BBC powers that B the BBC, he says that Auntie’s policy is adversely affecting the contribution small parties make to Britain’s increasingly rich political tapestry.
He said: “When I enquired why I was not accorded a place on the panel of the BBC Radio Lincolnshire husting, I was told that this was because the Blue Revolution party didn’t have a national profile.
“I made the point that it was a local BBC radio station and that as the only ‘other’ candidate and a local person with political experience, people might wish to hear my views, but I was informed it was the station producer’s executive decision from which he was not prepared to depart.
“I am aware other ‘Independent’ candidates were also excluded from debates in other constituencies in Lincolnshire.
“My second complaint relates to a Radio 5 Live Marginal Mystery Tour which was broadcast from Skegness on 31st May. I found out about this by chance and was disappointed that again I had not been invited as a local politician with expertise on issues linked to migration and community engagement.
“Even though the UKIP candidate didn’t attend in person, I attended the venue … and eventually was informed that BBC policy excluded me as it is again based on a national party profile.
“I was then called again and told that they would broadcast a few minutes of me at around about 12.35pm. I was in the end accorded about a minute or so prior to which I had to endure some comic turn by a BBC presenter who implied (please note implied) that I was some ‘numpty’ who wanted to talk about politics rather than eat ice cream on the beach. The brief interview went ok, albeit Blue Revolution being identified with parties like the ‘Dressing Up Party’ was a bit unnecessary. It also seemed to me that the interview was cut short for no obvious reason. The ‘comic turn’ was unnecessary if time was a factor.”
Mr Gilbert told the BBC board that Britain is in danger of having a political system which fails to reflect the diversity of the British population and in its attempt to shoehorn all opinion into ‘established party’ categories the BBC leaves the electorate feeling increasingly alienated and angry, and that a constituency election “is a race not a war” and therefore there is no justification for publicly funded bodies like the BBC taking sides.
He concluded: “The BBC has a critical role here. No one expects a small party to win in what is clearly a rigged two-party system, however by denying local publicity the BBC makes the loss of the deposit more likely and therefore the future of small parties very precarious. This is something which in our opinion is not good for democracy.”
Whilst the BBC nationally enjoys flexing its muscles against the little people, that other BBC – Boston Borough Council – gleefully enjoys slapping the taxpayers down at more fundamental level.
For a long time now Boston Borough Council has favoured the petty and ineffective policy of naming and shaming people that it declares to be miscreants of some form or another.
In fact we would not be surprised to see their favourite old chestnut – the annual “clampdown” on litterers – finding its way into our local “newspapers” as it seems to do almost every silly season.
In the absence of covering news, the papers find it a comfy free ride to fill their pages, whilst Worst Street puffs with pride with what it calls “community action.”
And no-one ever appears in court for their “crimes.”
Latterly, though, the powers that bain’t have come up with a new cunning wheeze.
On the rare occasions that thoughtless motorists have prevented dustcarts from accessing a street, Worst Street has come up with the brilliant idea of publishing the owners’ car registrations on the council website.
By the sound of things, the problem roads are not of any great length – and the bins to be collected are on wheels, after all.
But no doubt because everything must be done in double quick time these days wheeling the bins a few yards is simply not an option.
But why publish the car numbers?
The Worst Street website is not well patronised for reasons that are obvious to anyone who takes a look at it.
Why not instead print a few notes and tuck them beneath the windscreen wipers of the naughty drivers – or if you want to be really annoying attach them with an adhesive that will take a little time to clear?
Whilst the reasons for others parking where they do should be of no real concern to a local council, we wonder how the reception staff might feel if a miscreant partner caught playing away from home chose to vent his feelings at being exposed by an authority whose answer to everything is the iron fist in the iron glove?
Ironically, we can’t recall the number of times our bins have been left willy-nilly when the collectors have obviously been in a rush – on at least two occasions blocking our street.
But that’s different.
We have to leave our bins on our curtilage by some ungodly hour of the morning but there is no concomitant responsibility on those who collect them to return them to where they found them.
Thoughtless though it is, we doubt that cars that are parked in a way that bars access to dustcarts are intentionally left with that intention.
Worst Street has always been a great place for vindictiveness and keen to search for new ways to exercise it – but if a car is blocking the path of a dustcart, far better to tell the emergency services that at least have some authority to prevent it happening.
Our piece last week about the goings-on in Worst Street prompted a response from former councillor Carol Taylor, who wrote from St Ives in Cornwall: “How cruel these councillors are to each other, nasty, vicious, back stabbing bunch of hypocrites.
“Boston people deserve so much better but sadly they won't get it.
“With regard to councillor conduct, I was called in to see the Chief Executive at the time because another councillor reported my blog for causing offence and talked about councillor misconduct.
“Thankfully, the Chief was very kind and understanding and I swear that when I left his office, he was laughing a little, I think because he also saw it as petty.
I hope NBE will allow me to wish His worshipful the Mayor Councillor Brian Rush and Mayoress Mrs Jayne Rush a very successful year.”
Finally, as an organisation that claims to be passionate about Boston’s heritage, Worst Street has missed yet another interesting date.
The Illustrated London News was founded 175 years ago last month by Boston’s MP Herbert Ingram. It pioneered picture journalism and survived until the late 1960s
Whilst the anniversary didn’t perhaps justify a ticker tape parade through the streets, we thought that it might have been worth a mention at least.
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