A Letter to the Editor from Councillor Michelle DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF [Ind.] (Hunmanby) reflecting on the collapse of the Tory majority – and warning of a potential BASTIMAN-led Tory rebound, given the merest hint of a fault-line in the bedrock of the Lab/Ind coalition.
Over the last few weeks I have being contemplating the results of the 2nd May Scarborough Borough Council elections and their implications for the future. As one Irish election observer once noted, the people have given their verdict – we just don’t know what they meant yet.
Yes, Brexit was a factor, but ultimately it was more of a catalyst prompting voters to look more closely at candidates. The outgoing Conservative Leader of the Council, Cllr. Derek Bastiman was quick to blame national factors for his party’s poor showing at the ballot box. Unfortunately for him, the truth may lie much closer to home.
I spent months out and about my ward talking to voters about local issues. I fought many elections in the past and encountered generalised council bashing on every occasion. This time was different. Voters gave me a forensic analysis of the cause of their dissatisfaction with SBC. Many identified the Conservative majority as the root cause of the Council’s failure. In Hunmanby Ward, they left nothing to chance ensuring that both seats went to Independents in the most emphatic manner.
Once the results were in, the horse trading would inevitably begin. It was with some disbelief that I received the news that the Conservative group thought the answer to the voters’ verdict was keeping Cllr. Bastiman as their leader. Even more astounded that they rewarded the architect of their hapless, bordering on farcical, election campaign, Cllr. Heather Phillips, with the deputy leadership. As Theresa May would say, “Nothing has changed”.
For some strange reason, Cllr. Bastiman did not seek my support for his continued leadership in the days following the election. Just imagine; had things turned out differently, it would have been highly likely that Hunmanby Ward would have returned two Conservative councillors, giving the Tories 18 seats. This would have put Bastiman in pole position for the leadership. However, both Paul Riley and myself were clear that our residents in Hunmanby Ward wanted new leadership on the Council. Bastiman had to go.
Of course, as North Yorks Enquirer readers know, we have a new Leader of the Council, Cllr. Steve Siddons. It would be easy to assume that this marks the end of Cllr. Bastiman’s ambitions to retain the post. However, don’t be too complacent as Cllr. Bastiman was remarkably relaxed at the vote for Leader on 7th May. To me, this was not a man who had given up on holding the top job once more.
The next few months will be critical for our Borough as the rhetoric of the new Leader is turned into real action.
For every positive move there will have to be difficult decisions as Council finances are extremely challenging.
As much as my voters and I wanted a new approach, I will not give a blank cheque to anyone. No one should take my vote for granted. As North Yorks Enquirer readers know, I am not afraid of a bit of plain speaking when required.
Announcements through Yorkshire Coast Radio, no matter how welcome, are not a substitute for real consultation with Councillors. I won’t be swayed by such tactics especially when no one has asked my opinion.
I genuinely hope that we can make progress over the next four years. Time will tell…
Independent Councillor for Hunmanby Ward