That Vote of No Confidence
Today’s Guest Author is none other than Alderman NORMAN MURPHY, that very popular long-serving Councillor now sheds more light on the present incarnation of the Council on which, in better times, he was proud to serve. Few who have seen the inner workings of the Council know better than he the way in which ‘influence’ is bought and sold. Few enjoy a more intimate dialogue with the current key ‘players’. He reports now in the customary ‘no holds barred’ style that has earned him the sobriquet “Stormin’ Norman”.
As many of you who follow local politics will now be aware the current leader of Scarborough Council, Labour’s Steve Siddons, managed, once again, unbelievably, to avoid his inevitable ignominious removal from leadership; but only, it has to be said, by a narrow margin. Although many thought Siddons would be history this time; by a liberal use of the carrot and the stick he somehow avoided the early bath that many people think he so richly deserves.
Nonetheless, his survival, I know, has surprised many people; Siddons leadership has arguably been the worst in the Boroughs recent history and it is well known that right up until the very day of the vote the odds were stacked against him and members were inclined to get rid of this liability. However, the power of patronage that a leader possess is very great and I am sure we will see some very unlikely promotions and enhancements in pay grade for certain members in the near future.
That being said, there are already signs of discontent from inside and outside the ruling body politic of Scarborough Borough Council. No sooner had the vote been won, and Siddons reinstated on his throne, than he was telling anyone who would listen that those who had brought about the vote of no confidence in his leadership were playing political games and that basically his leadership was wonderful. Siddons’ view was that those who saw fault with his leadership were misguided and were being influenced by dark forces, whatever these may be.
However, more rational minds know full well that the Siddons leadership was built from the very start on a foundation of deceit, threats and double-dealing. Indeed, the stench of the toxic and poisonous atmosphere which currently exists within the Clown Hall was deliberately introduced by leader Siddons as soon as he took the throne, and has grown ever more toxic and pungent over his time in office.
It will be remembered that his attainment of power was only made possible because he promised the Independent Group, if they entered into a coalition with Labour, that they would receive a fair division of the available portfolios and committee chairs. It took him about twenty seconds to renege on this promise and the cabinet he formed was quickly established on a three Labour one Independent Group basis.
Needless to say, this incensed Independent Group members and it was not long before the first rumblings of a vote of no confidence against the conniving Siddons were considered by the Independents. Although members from various political shades of opinion, including his own, tried to persuade the autocratic and smug leader to take a more inclusive, and frankly a more sensible approach to leadership, Siddons would, of course, not listen; it was his way or the highway.
Consequently by November 2019 with members of all groups sick and tired of Siddons dictatorial and incompetent leadership a vote of no confidence was brought against the leader. However, the leader was not going to go without a fight and every trick in the political book was used to persuade members that leopards really can change their spots. Siddons would, and did, promise anything to anyone, as long as they would vote to keep him on his throne.
The Independents could suddenly have three portfolios, there would be more member involvement and “openness and transparency”, which had been conspicuously absent, would miraculously be introduced. These blandishments and inducements, amazingly, were enough to persuade members to give the leader another chance. Siddons, when the vote came in January 2020, narrowly won the day and his occupation of the Ivory Tower was allowed to continue.
However, it was not long before people realised that leopards do not change their spots and, as far as Leader Siddons was concerned, even though he did agree to a bigger cabinet he would continue to rule as he had from the start; without any consideration for anyone but himself.
As the new year unfolded it quickly became obvious that nothing much had changed in the way Siddons intended to rule the Borough. The toxic and poisonous atmosphere which had been temporally suppressed within the Clown Hall prior to the vote soon returned. As for his promise to be “open and transparent” it was quickly revealed that Siddons was having secret talks with Benchmark and Flamingo Land; who knows where these talks might lead us, but most suspect it won’t be anywhere to the ratepayers’ benefit.
Justifiable criticism of the leader quickly escalated after the vote of no confidence and it is highly likely that, had it not been for the unfortunate advent of the Covid-19 virus, Siddons would, by the summer, have faced another vote of no confidence.
However, luckily for Siddons’ desire to cling to power, the Coronavirus distracted everyone’s attention away for local politics and his dismal leadership. Nonetheless, Siddons desperate grip on power was beginning to slip and as 2020 progressed his determination to rule as he saw fit once again came into question.
Throughout 2020, Siddons backed a series of highly unpopular and quite frankly ludicrous projects.
Siddons backing for the car-crash ARGOS development, which would see the Council borrow £22 million to fund the building of student accommodation, was seen, and is seen, as nothing more than a vanity project. The ARGOS project, which although it will inevitably disastrously fail, leaving ratepayers to pick up the bill, will, no doubt – Siddons hopes – not be shown to be the White Elephant that it undoubtedly is until he has left office – consequently allowing him to walk away before the proverbial shit hits the fan.
His highly unpopular and unworkable Harbours Masterplan, although completely unfunded and totally unwanted, is being forced on Harbour users with hardly any consultation and no consideration of what might actually be wanted.
The disastrous failed attempt to access £10 million of funding via the Future High Street Fund has been another Siddons complete cock-up and his plans were justifiably rejected by central government, a fate that many suspect will also befall the £25 million bid for Town Deal funding.
Nevertheless, despite these glaring failures, Siddons still won the latest vote of no confidence brought against him. The rumoured threats, intimidation and promises of rewards to come obviously persuaded the three members he needed to hold on to power to vote for him.
However, we may suspect that his metaphorical rearrangement of the deck chairs on the TITANIC will not prevent his doomed leadership from hitting the iceberg, which is waiting ominously just over the political horizon. Although the Coronavirus has, up until now, forced the suspension of all elections, it has recently been announced that County Council elections will take place in May, provided that there is no further spike in Coronavirus cases. Moreover, there will almost certainly be several local by-elections in the near future.
My feeling, therefore, is that when the Siddons leadership hits the electoral iceberg of local voter discontent, in possibly just a few months’ time, his shambolic and dictatorial rule will quickly be plunged into the oblivion it deserves.
You can run, Comrade Siddons, but you cannot indefinitely hide from the electorate; and when the electorate get the opportunity to vote, just ask your predecessor what happens to rulers who believe they are more important than the residents they purport to serve.
Still, there is always Tuscany: arrivederci Siddonso.