It's happened before when I wrote a gag on a Sunday about a "safe" football manager being sacked. It was printed on the Tuesday. He was actually sacked on the Friday and my fanzine went on sale on the Saturday. I looked a comedy genius!
It's called serendipity, which I think is appropriate from someone given my background!
I won't begin to tell the Tories how far off the mark their witch trial is because it is greatly amusing. No doubt their Mole-hunter Pursuivant is threatening all and sundry after my joke but how about this... no-one sent me any email and that's the truth. I heard a rumour. I got lucky!
They may find it hard to believe because they prefer to go mole hunting than address what is really going on but I've known about the various factions in the local Tories for years. It's hardly an open secret. Like which leading local Tory said far too loudly coming out of the Civic after the budget non-appearance fiasco in 2010: "That's it. He's finished" about Andrew Cumpsty? [CLUE, he stood for deputy leader of the Tory group a year later and lost - or wasn't I meant to know about that either?]
What Tory Central Office really need to think about is if their local agitators are sanctioned by them to upset their ordinary members in the way that they treated a hard working and well-liked local councillor then what do they expect? Try interviewing ALL your members if you want to know who may have let slip the red in tooth and claw nature of the Reading East Conservative Association.
The scenario now playing out reveals the understanding at the heart of the Reading Lib Dem/Tory coalition. I can say one thing for definite. If we had the Wokingham/West Berkshire strand of Toryism leading in Reading there would have been no coalition and if the current RECA Junta take over there will never be the prospect of one ever again. Why? Because there were a lot of lefty liberal Tories in the local party.
It's just a jump to the left...
Protecting services to the vulnerable and standing up for the environment were absolute lines in the sand for Lib Dems and what was clear is that the local Tories were willing to allow us to champion those objectives. It's why Daisy Benson was allowed to be lead councillor responsible for adult care, health and housing and I was allowed to direct the environment. There was no way that these services would be bludgeoned whilst we held the portfolios and they weren't. That is not the case in the surrounding unitaries where slash and burn is the order of the day. For goodness sake the Tories allowed us to build council owned properties which Labour hadn't done for over 13 years! We brought in equal pay for staff (although it also has to be said despite Labour and trade Union opposition)!
At Lib Dem conference, I went to a fringe event because one on my heroes Bob Worcester from IPSOSMori was speaking. Also at that event was Dr Daniel Poulter MP, a Conservative. It was clear to me and most people in that room that when he spoke he was in the wrong party. I put it to Dr Poulter that his choice of party really came down to if you want to influence events you have to be in power and that there was a natural home for people like him in the Lib Dems. His answer I shall not divulge to save him from a Tory Party witch hunt but the overlap in the centre of politics between Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives is a lot bigger than any of the parties wish to acknowledge and that includes several members of the local Labour party.
I can name a good number of the local Tories who could quite comfortably be members of the Lib Dems. They want to protect the old, the young and the environment. They also realise that you can't be progressive from a position of bankruptcy and that high council tax hurts the poor far more than the rich.
...and a step to the right.
There is also a strand that doesn't believe in these as objectives as being worthy in their own right. That balancing of the books is a means to an end. Power is all. It isn't.
What we are now seeing is that post-coalition the Wokingham strand of Toryism seeing its chance to make a move on Reading and it is no co-incidence that the Swaddles are leading players in this.
I think we are approaching a watershed moment in Reading politics. Leading local Tories have to make a decision whether that will allow themselves to fizzle out and fade away and have no influence or whether they are prepared to put up a fight. Putting up a fight would mean leaving the Tory party - but the right has taken a decisive step to take over your local party and it ain't ever coming back.
Of course, it may be a difficult step for some to make but just think of the prize:
- A majority centre party that looks after all residents, not just trade unionists and those with money.
- One that protects services to the vulnerable.
- Believes in public services.
- Stands up for business.
- Makes a real difference to the environment.
- Returns power back to the citizen.
Back to the IPSOSMori meeting I attended. The majority of voters are left-centre/centre/right-centre. Whether Labour or Conservative don't let the extremists dictate direction.
Reading Lib Dems are nice people. Work with us.