Jacob Williams

Party planners: The party files, Pt. 1

Sunday 14th October, 2012
Party planners: The party files, Pt. 1

I’ve heard from several County Hall insiders that ‘Party planners’ is the most-talked about gossip for a long time. To the suggestion that I should have called it ‘Partygate,’ my ever modest response is that such a nomenclature should only be coined by somebody other than the author. One referred to ‘Partygate’ as having “gone viral,” and I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, this stuff is pretty septic!

So, this first update to ‘Partygate,’ a nickname for this scandal I’m sure you’ve already realised I’m quite agreeable to, concentrates on the background preparation to the 2008 election. With the others in the ‘Party planners’ series, ‘Partygate’ will reveal the lengths the Independent Group went to ahead of, during, and after both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Plotting the 2008 election campaign

Postal and Proxy vote application forms

Just why the IPG would want these on council computers bundled in the folders with the rest of the files I have is questionable, but, these printable PDF application forms are for voters to apply for proxy and postal ballots.

Postal and proxy-vote application forms

election_strategy_part_2[1].doc

This is the most ambitious of the prediction documents, and contains the damning sentence: “Rob Lewis to co-ordinate the election for the group.” It goes on to state that 32 candidates are “in the bank subject to signing.” Remember the reference to the use of the word “signing,” because I’ll be coming back to the act of “signing up” in a future update.
The heading “Cabinet 6 Election Responsibility” lists the candidates to which the six unopposed cabinet members were assigned to help the election prospects of. How lucky for Rob Lewis to have so many of his fellow leading lights free to help him in his co-ordination of the election campaigns for the lower-ranked party animals – not all of them were sitting councillors, and not all succeeded. Presumably, any councillor who’s lucky enough to find themselves elevated to the cabinet, has to sign a pledge to honour this “responsibility” should they find themselves in the enviable position of being unopposed at the next election.

12 Uncontested seats 08.doc

With such lines as “realistically 32 are almost in the bag” and “best case scenario,” you get the idea of this exercise. In predicting a large IPG majority, the one that really cuts to the heart of the issue, is: “This will give us a strong majority for the forthcoming term but will make keeping all the troops happy a difficult job.”
The outlook for the IPG is less ambitious than the previous document, and goes on to categorise under the headings: ’20 Safe Seats’ – wards where there is a degree of certainty that independent councillors will win, ‘8 Should Win Seats’ wards where independent candidates “should win,” then there are ‘9 Outside Chance’ where the candidates in the middle column are expected to win, and finally ‘The Rest’ – the list of wards where registered political party candidates are expected to win. The document was modified on 17th April 2008 at 9.18AM.

Book1.xls

With the passage of time came more humble predictions – this document is dated 4.22PM on Wednesday 30th April 2008 – the day before polling day.

And finally: ad.doc

One of the most critical arguments against post-electoral group-joining is that the electorate can be saddled with a councillor who wasn’t who they were led to believe they were voting for. Local Authority terms last four years, and constituents in the UK have no way of recalling their councillors. Incidentally, for a one-off, the current council term is actually five years, so it’s clearly of importance that voters know who they are voting (and have voted) for. If you vote for a Labour or Conservative candidate, you would have a pretty good idea of the morals, values and beliefs of the candidate, and might decide to vote on those political credentials alone. If that wasn’t enough to persuade you, you could at least rely on the party’s manifesto and like-minded peer-pressure to keep the councillor on track.

The trouble with party-politicising the word ‘independent’ is that the voters can, and often do, end up with the sort of representation that they didn’t think they would be getting when voting for an independent candidate, and the aforementioned ‘peer-pressure’ gets working overtime, for ulterior motives. Incidentally, the voters have absolutely no reason to even comprehend this when voting, let alone quiz their candidates on it, so it is not a case of voter naïvety.

With regard to the IPG (the only political party on Pembrokeshire County Council that’s not registered with the Electoral Commission) on the one hand is the argument that it is a political party without a manifesto or mandate from the electorate, and on the other hand are IPG denials that it is not a party, does not “do politics” and does what it does because that’s exactly what the people of Pembrokeshire voted for at the ballot box.

Given these two extremes, and the dogged way in which the IPG has defended itself against these accusations over the years, it would be astounding to think that the IPG would even consider bowing down to the argument, and to try to put things right. Well, I think I might well have discovered an attempt to do just that – an abandoned attempt – to promote the Independent Political Group as a county-wide cause for good. It refers to the council as a whole, rather than any individual candidate (though there is a photo of the then leader) and it says just how much better off you’ve been with a politics-free Independent-led PCC!

It would seem that this unified front to the electorate never got off the ground, as the document looks unfinished. Just make sure you’re not sipping coffee when reading the parting plea: “Do you want politics dictating what happens in local government?”

ad.doc

The party files, Pt. 2→

Going to the polls 2008


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2 Comments...

  • These documents are very revealing. A couple of things that struck me:

    1. The first file, which identifies Ken Rowlands as one of the party’s ‘certs’, was created on 5 April 2008 – a month before the election – and casts serious doubt on his claim to have only decided to join the IPG after the election.

    It will also come as a surprise to voters to know just how many other candidates the IPG claimed to have ‘in the bank’ this far ahead of polling day. I wonder if these candidates’ election material made it clear that they were intending to sign up?

    2. “…will make keeping all the troops happy a difficult job” translates roughly as: there will not be enough Special Responsibility Allowances to go round.

  • Dave Edwards

    The operation of the IPG as a political party and not a coming together of random independent minds after an election has, at long last, been proved by your investigation. Some of us have been looking for hard evidence for years without success, so well done!

    The use of council assets for political purposes is expressly prohibited under the Local Government Act and I am making a complaint to the Ombudsman today in respect of those councillors named in your blog.

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