Although we have often said that party politics should play no part in the workings of penny-ante councils such as ours in Boston, we find ourselves more than a little perplexed by the most recent goings-on.
Last week, we reported the decision by one (of the then only two) Labour councillors to convert to Conservatism.
Councillor Nigel Welton was the man who made the switch – which was done in a straightforward way by changing party allegiances, but which left his former leader (he was his deputy) Paul Gleeson alone in the Labour fold.
Because of the way that Worst Street works(?) the definition of a group – unsurprisingly – requires it to have more than one member.
So Councillor Gleeson’s lone role for Labour would have had one major implication – it would have robbed him of his important place on a couple of committees – most prominently, the chairmanship of the Corporate and Community Committee which has a responsibility for oversight and scrutiny.
So – according to the Boston sub-Standard – Councillor Gleeson has joined the Independents on the council.
Even so, he was quoted as saying: “I’m still a member of the Labour party; however, the Independents have kindly agreed to let me join them for the purposes of seat allocation.”
We take “seat allocation” to mean “clinging on to a chairmanship via a grubby deal.”
Ironically, two of the so-called “independents” who have greased the way for Councillor Gleeson were founders of the Boston Bypass Independent party, which swept the board and took control of Worst Street in 2007 – Boston’s political equivalent of Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson ... Richard and Alison Austin.
After several years of demonstrable failure, the BBI was routed by the Conservatives, who gained the council’s first overall majority at the 2011 election and the four BBI survivors renamed themselves Boston District Independents.
However, come 2015, the Tories were themselves given a drubbing – emerging neck and neck with UKIP on 13 seats apiece, plus the two former Labour councillors and the Austins … now styling themselves as Independent.
Even then, such political chameleonism was not enough, and in the collective frenzy to deny UKIP any voice in the borough, despite their clear approval from and popularity with the voters, the Austins threw in their lot with the Tories – as did Labour – to give the Conservatives the majority they needed to run the council.
Interestingly, Worst Street is very opaque when it comes to the way councillors’ political leanings are defined.
Whilst the Austins, the deputy mayor Councillor Barrie Pierpoint – and now Councillor Gleeson – are described as Independent, three others, Councillors Stephen Ball, the former Conservative leader Peter Bedford, and the Mayor Brian Rush are classified as Unaligned.
The dictionary defines this as “not allied with or giving support to a particular organization or cause” – which in our book means that they are independent … although for reasons of its own, Worst Street doesn’t want to give them the more respectable title ... thus making the role played by the Austins seem more significant.
We think that another relevant dictionary definition is that of the word shambolic which lexicographers say means: chaotic, disorganized, muddled, confused, in (total) disarray, at sixes and sevens, unsystematic, haphazard, hit-or-miss, scrappy, fragmented and inefficient – any or all of which words fit snugly with many of our current self-serving, self-interested councillors.
We suspect that the last thing that Councillor Welton expected when he changed party allegiance was a pat on the back during Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons.
But he earned one regardless last Wednesday through a grovelling question from local MP Matt Warman which was answered by Cabinet office secretary Damian Green, who was standing in for Theresa ‘Daisy’ May.
Mr Warman said: “This week one of Labour’s last two remaining councillors in Boston crossed the floor to join the Conservative party. He said that he did not want to see the country go back to 1973.
“Will the First Secretary join me in welcoming this new member to the Conservative party, and does he agree that an open, optimistic Britain deserves better than reheated Marxism and Labour’s bankrupt economy?”
Damian Green replied: “I am very happy to agree with my hon. friend, and, indeed, with the wisdom of the Labour councillor who has joined the Conservative party.
“My hon. friend is quite right. What we hear from Labour members shows that a Labour Government would lose control of public finances and hike taxes to their highest ever peacetime level.
“I have discovered a new quotation – the shadow Chancellor called business “the enemy”. That is what the modern Labour party is about.
“Let me also point out that the local councillor may just have moved in anticipation. I understand that moderate councillors are being deselected by the hard left of the Labour party.”
Brownie points for Mr Warman, who seems to spring up at PMQs like Zebedee in the Magic Roundabout.
Surely, there can be no other reason for asking the question.
We have received another column from our pseudonymous insider The Sorcerer – who has weighed our council in the balance … and found many of the members wanting (the order of the boot, apparently.)
id you think it remarkable that Project Xmas Boston went without a hitch last week?
Whilst that might well be stretching the truth a little, there is no doubt that the afternoon was brilliant and successful.
Added to which we can all be extra pleased that Councillor Paul Skinner, the town centre portfolio holder, was largely excommunicated from this year’s event.
It wasn’t really surprising given last year’s blunderbuster – and although he remains in denial we all know who to blame.
So, forget last year; what of this year?
Well, so far has been so good, but Mr Phillip Drury, the Chief Executive, should be very careful about the direction of travel these relatively new bunch of councillors are embarking upon.
They may not be quite as malleable as he thinks they are.
The New Leader – if that’s what we might still call him – is, I believe, a bit sharper than some people think.
He seems to me to be a man with his eye on the main goal, which will I think be setting higher challenges and standards for our chief executive.
Is he capable, I hear you ask?
I think he will be.
I don't think he is a man to be messed with, and his scruffiness is no reflection of his determination.
Take it from me; I think he will ring some changes in January, or the latest February.
This man knows he has to make his mark ... and already he has begun re-crafting the Cabinet, because I don’t think he has any time for bluffers.
Meanwhile, we have the old, past their sell-by date stagers like Bedford, Brookes, Brotherton, Dennis, Rush, Ransome, Ransome, and Ransome, Austin Mr, and Mrs.
It really is time for Boston to turn the page.
UKIP have been well and truly kippered by the Remainers, and it’s well past time for the Austins to be by-passed.
Those two 'cling-on Tories,' Brotherton and Dennis, were already yester-year’s news, whilst the Ransomes, like the Three Amigos, are an overspent force.
The best of the rest, I would say, are Michael Cooper, Paul Gleeson, Aaron Spencer, Barry Pierpoint, Anton Dani, Martin Griggs, Judith Skinner, Claire Rylott, Gordon (rarely shows) Gregory, Jonathan Noble, David Brown, Paul Skinner, then maybe, just maybe, Yvonne Stephens, Nigel Welton, then really just maybe James Edwards, followed by Stephen (rarely shows) Raven.
ind you, with all the infighting that's going on, I wonder how many of these will survive at all!
Fortunately, this year’s Christmas lighting events overshadowed the Illuminate dog-hanging rather than the other way around – but this year the truly notable thing was the number of such festivals that have sprung up around the country
Aside from Boston, events have been held in Austerfield, (Doncaster,) Dartmouth, Gainsborough, Harwich in Essex, Immingham, Leiden in Holland, Plymouth, Scrooby & Babworth, Southwark, Southampton and Worcestershire.
Thirteen in all – so who’s the unlucky odd man out?
Yes, it’s Boston, whose links with the Pilgrim Fathers hover between the vague and the virtually non-existent.
An ancient but authoritative tome – called The romantic story of the Puritan fathers and their founding of new Boston and the Massachusetts Bay colony, by Albert C Addison and published in 1912 – all but glosses over the Pilgrim Fathers’ “connections” with Boston.
The book names William Brewster of Scrooby and William Bradford as the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ arrested near Boston as they tried to flee to Holland in 1607.
Eventually, they achieved their goal and remained in Leiden for the following eleven years before sailing from Plymouth on their historic voyage.
So the link with Boston marks nothing more than a betrayal by a sea captain, being stripped and robbed and then thrown into prison for a month before mooching around in Europe for a further decade and then sailing to America thirteen years after their run-in at Boston.
It was a further ten years after that when a group of our Bostonians were instrumental in founding a settlement of the same name in what was to become Massachusetts – and this is the target on which our sights should be set.
Whilst you might think that our Boston would be trying to find funding for the eventual celebration of this event, it seems that opportunities are passing by at speed.
Recently, Lincoln was announced as one of 12 historic cities which have secured a £1 million investment from Discover England for a new project to encourage more US visitors to explore regional England.
The money will be used to “bring history to life” by telling stories “via enhanced augmented reality and will feature itineraries that link the cities by rail, making it easy to plan and book a multi-destination trip.”
Although Lincoln has some links with the USA, there are many more towns and villages across the county with better ties, and which have nothing to do with the city – and we hope that Lincoln will not try to hog all the cash for its own benefit.
But, confusingly, since that announcement was made more than a month ago, last week saw Clownty Hall give news of a £500,000 grant from VisitEngland, “along with funding from Lincolnshire County Council and other partners” for a “collaborative” project to attract US tourists.
This is the same thing that was announced in October – only minus half-a-million pounds, apparently.
Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for tourism, was quoted as saying: “We want to tap into the Americans’ fascination with the many connections between England and the US – our shared history, language, culture and ancestry.
“Our aim is to inspire as many visitors as possible to discover their roots and the authenticity of local English culture.
“Not only is Lincolnshire the home of Magna Carta (cue sound FX of the truth being stretched) and an important part of the Mayflower story, it’s also the birthplace of John Smith, the founder of Jamestown – we’re an obvious destination for US visitors.
“And we’ll be working closely with our partners to make sure our American cousins know all about the fantastic experiences we have to offer.”
Whilst it’s no easy matter to draw up a league table of important connections between Lincolnshire and America, we would have thought that Boston’s role in the formation of what has become one the largest cities in the US might have featured on Councillor Davie’s radar.
Having said that, it’s par for the course as far as Lincoln’s attitude towards Boston is concerned.
The winter/spring edition of the council’s County News chortles loud and long about “The road ahead in 2018” telling us of Lincoln’s umpteenth bypass as well as works in Bourne, Gainsborough, Bilsby, Grantham, Spilsby “and many other places.”
Conspicuous by its absence is Boston – where progress toward a distributor road could take 30 years and must rely on developers building big housing estates with roads that will connect jigsaw-like to form a haphazard route around part of the town.
And to add insult to injury – Clownty Hall has created a graphic to illustrate what lies ahead in the world of road improvement for 2018.
Boston – never heard of it!
But now we think that we know the reason.
We suspect that Lincoln’s map featuring Boston is modelled on the famed Angliae Figura of 1537 – but a version which like many of its day carried health warnings for the benefit of travellers …
Will someone tell head office in Lincoln that the monsters have gone – and it’s safe to build roads in the area?
Last week we mentioned the conspicuous inactivity of the Boston Town Team – (mission statement: “Working to enhance the vitality of Boston to ensure it reaches its full potential via the promotion, support and delivery of key initiatives as part of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce") – in connection with this year’s Christmas lighting extravaganza.
The Town Team appeared to have accepted £35,000 from Boston Borough Council in 2016 and blown the lot on a tepid display whilst not coming up with the on-going activities promised.
After last week’s blog we e-mailed a prominent member of the Town Team as well as the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce to ask what was going on.
The local man ignored us, but chamber Chief Executive Simon Beardsley replied:
The local man ignored us, but chamber Chief Executive Simon Beardsley replied:
“The Town Team in Boston is still in existence.
“Regarding the contract to provide Christmas lighting, it is our understanding that the group who organised this year’s celebrations were offered use of the outstanding provision and declined the offer.
“We also understand that this provision remains on offer for future years.”
Finally – the following Tweet by Lincolnshire Police caught our eye.
More than a century ago our grandfather was a policeman locally.
We are less than certain that he would have applauded this contribution by Derbyshire Police that was "liked" by our local strapping Dixons of Dock Green, and we believe that many of our readers might well share that view – notwithstanding that 24th November to 3rd December was designated Rainbow Laces Week.
Why do Lincolnshire Police feel obliged to follow such politically correct nonsense?
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