Friday, 29 November 2013

"Over-representing parties through the voting system"

There has been considerable correspondence going on through the letters pages of the Herald
Futures Forum: "Mounting risks for corruption in UK local government"
Futures Forum: "Mounting risks for corruption in UK local government" ...further developments
about the issue of "Over-representing parties through the voting system":

Have whip, but don't ever use it

I would like to respond to a letter from Councillor Roger Giles published in the Sidmouth Herald (Electing to stand, Opinion, November 22).

He bemoans the fact that a number of seats on East Devon District Council were uncontested at the last election in 2011 and that people were unable to express a view on who they wished to represent them and correctly states that the Conservative group is by some distance the largest represented on EDDC.

Roger misses the point entirely in that Conservative candidates elected unopposed in 2011 put their hands up and took part in the democratic process when others with political affiliations or Independent did not. They would have been perfectly happy to campaign on Conservative Party views they hold in common with fellow councillors, as they will again in 2015.

A democratic deficit in East Devon is hardly due to a lack of commitment by Conservative councillors and candidates who stood in all wards contesting the 59 seats on EDDC and winning a convincing majority.

There is a view that electors in the wards where candidates were returned unopposed were satisfied with their representation, although personally I agree with Roger that I hope that there will be contested elections in all wards in 2015 to redress the perceived issue of lack of representation and that the Conservative party will win a similar or hopefully larger majority to represent the best interests of all people in East Devon.

Those councillors elected in 2011 continue to represent the best interests of all electors (as indeed is the case with the majority of my respected Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues) who did vote for them in wards where there were elections held or indeed where people didnt vote for them in wards where elections were held.

Turning to Rogers final paragraph, at the risk of repeating myself, Conservative councillors are free to express their own views and frequently do, often disagreeing vocally within both our group on EDDC and publicly with what is proposed (I note an example of this illustrated by another correspondent in the same edition of the Herald in support of Cllrs Hughes and Troman), and voting according to their views.

Flying under an Independent flag at EDDC (or anywhere else, come to that) is no guarantee that the best interests of all electors will be represented. Invariably a single issue with ancillary directly related ones is the overriding reason for Independents standing, holding back progress and directly disadvantaging their communities by paying little attention to other matters as a result.

I can confirm that at EDDC I have never used the whip (members being told how they must vote and this whip being declared to EDDC prior to the vote) despite the sniping insinuation from Roger that it may have been used and I challenge him to walk the walk rather than talk the talk.

I will pay £100 to a local charity of his choice if he can find a single Conservative Party member at EDDC who will state that they have ever been subject to a party whip during my time in that role and equally if cannot then he must pay £100 to a local charity of my choosing.

All 41 Conservative members on EDDC are contactable directly by email, telephone or face to face rather than the more convoluted method of newspaper correspondence, but that will be entirely up to him to choose.

I look forward to him taking up the challenge so that he can do something rare ie both tangible and beneficial for his local community

No doubt this newspaper will follow this challenge up!!

Councillor Phil Twiss
Honiton St Michaels ward
(Conservative whip, EDDC)

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One Response to “‘Have whip, but don’t ever use it’”

  1. Keith Tizzard November 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm #
    Mr Twiss makes some very important and relevant points about the need for contested elections. The first part of his letter is reasonable and considered. However it is sad and unfortunate that the tone deteriorates after that.
    He says “Invariably a single issue with ancillary directly related ones is the overriding reason for Independents standing, holding back progress and directly disadvantaging their communities by paying little attention to other matters as a result”.
    ‘Invariably’ means ‘without variation, in every case or always’. He is therefore saying that absolutely every independent councillor stands on a single issue. Does he really mean this? Roger Giles, my representative, is certainly not in this category. He represents his community admirably on a wide range of issues. Claire Wright gives every sign of representing her community fully and fights for proper democracy. I do not know the other independent councillors but I wonder how many stand on a single issue.
    Mr Twiss may have meant ‘one or two’ or ‘some’ but surely not ‘all’.
    Towards the end he becomes unnecessarily personal and provocative.
‘Have whip, but don’t ever use it’ | Sidmouth Independent News

“I wish to god I was an independent because I wouldn’t be told how to vote.”
http://www.spinwatch.org/images/Reports/Scaring_the_living_daylight_final_27_March_13.pdf [page 19]

At the end of Mr Dickins’ report, Cllr Ben Ingham raised his hand. He said he was aware that in the constitution it stated that political parties cannot whip on planning issues.  He added that he had been informed that there was a conservative group meeting last week at which the five year land supply issue had been discussed and he had been told that the conservative members of this committee had been whipped into endorsing the paper. 
But he had later been told by the same conservative councillor that there had been a mistake and no whip had taken place.
Chairman, Cllr Mark Williamson replied that he was not aware of any whip, but if there had been a whip, he would hope that the chairman of the committee would have been made aware of it beforehand.
Cllr Phil Twiss claimed, as chief whip of the conservative group, that there had never been any whip on any issue during his tenure – planning or otherwise.
Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

Following a question from member of the public, Barry Sangster, about whipping of votes, Cllr Phil Twiss, said, again, he had never whipped any vote or councillors in his time as whip (two years).  Cllr Twiss read out some directives from David Cameron, which apparently had be sent around to all tories on Tuesday evening, which gave guidance on whipping.
These guidelines said that if a member felt unable to support a group decision then they should discuss it in advance with the senior group members before saying anything publicly.  Also, that members shall be expected to support a group decision, unless it was a matter of conscience or related to an issue within a member’s ward.
This explanation seemed to me, to raise more questions than answers.
Whipping must be a sore subject (probably because UKIP keep talking about it) because it led Leader, Paul Diviani, to say a few words about how “relaxed” he was about members of his group rejecting the Feniton applications that came to committee in April. 
This seemed distinctly odd, particularly after the insistence that the conservative group did not use a whip.  Why would councillors on the development management committee be seeking political advice on how they might vote on that committee?
Cllr Eileen Wragg, leader of the libdems, spoke up to say that the libdems did not have a whip.
During the whipping debate, former council leader, Sara Randall-Johnson, who was present as an honorary alderman, came to the microphone to say that the only time she had ever used the whip was for a budget meeting, to get her conservative group to keep council tax low.
Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural

See also: Angry Hughes brands own Tory leaders ‘spineless and arrogant’ - News - Sidmouth Herald
Claire Wright - Your Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural
Knickers in a Twiss? | Sidmouth Independent News

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