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The Dragon Says: Conservative Party Turmoil – Do They Take Us For Fools?

Published on: 1 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 7 Jul, 2014

Dragon Says 470

You can’t fool all the people, all the time: Abraham Lincoln.

The big local news is that Alan Young has left his leadership of the Guildford Conservative Association (GCA), larded with praise for his efforts in a somewhat oleaginous press release.

Here is the real story: the county councillor for Cranleigh and Ewhurst was obliged to resign following a vote of no confidence said to be by a “significant majority”. According to some reports only a handful of votes were in favour of the chairman.

The GCA, with its role to select, support and raise funds for Conservative candidates, should have paid more attention to the wise Mr Lincoln. All is not peace and light within its ranks.

Alan Young

Alan Young: “I have had a wonderful and challenging time…”

The release stated: “When he took on the role in March 2013, Alan was clear on what he wished to achieve and, having reached all the targets he set himself earlier than expected, he is moving on to take up new challenges.”

Now call us cynics but we don’t believe one of Mr Young’s targets was to lose that no confidence vote and resign.

The vote was taken at a meeting of the association’s executive council, on which Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton, sits as a non-voting member. Reports that she was involved in the move to remove Cllr Young cannot be confirmed but they have been reported by several sources.

In the press release, Ms Milton said: “Alan will be greatly missed by all in the association.”

Well, not by some senior local Conservatives he won’t. One who spoke to us was vitriolic in his criticism. Another, close to the events, put his demise down partly to a “clash of personalities”.

So is Mr Young bitter? Not if you believe the quote from him in that press release: “I have had a wonderful and challenging time as chairman of the Guildford Conservatives…” That must be at least half-true. He was certainly challenged.

Now to what actually caused his premature departure. Despite his apparent happiness with the situation, Mr Young has not returned our calls to explain but it seems to be connected with a decision to deselect Cllr Monika Juneja
(Con Burpham) from the list of prospective candidates to stand in next year’s Guildford Borough Council election.

In his role as GCA chairman, he would normally chair the panel that reviews the sitting candidates and selects new ones. It seems that the panel decided that Ms Juneja, at time of writing still on police bail in connection with
the alleged misuse of the title “barrister”, should not be allowed to stand again as a Conservative in her Burpham ward.

The candidates’ review was in April, we have been told. Oddly, on June 25, Ms Juneja, when asked about her reported deselection, told The Guildford Dragon NEWS: “First I have heard of this. Not as far as I am aware.”

Is that credible? You can decide. One way or another these are not signs of a well-run party with good, straightforward communications, internal or external.

Last Wednesday, Mrs Milton, when asked to confirm news of the vote of no confidence in Mr Young said: “Conservative association affairs are private, not for the outside world. It is a private matter.”

Compare this with a statement from her party leader, David Cameron, the Daily Telegraph, July 6, 2011: “We are creating a new era of transparency.”

If only Prime Minister.

The way a party political association is run and the selection of candidates for elections is a matter of proper public interest. In less than a year, these parties and candidates will be seeking our votes and, if elected, they will be in positions of power over us.

If this was a controversial deselection of an MP the national media would be all over it like a rash and quite rightly. Political parties must be continuously scrutinised; it is the duty of the press to do so. And let’s face it, politicians have hardly assured us lately that they are all saintly.

In this case, Cllr Juneja’s position is particularly important. She is the lead councillor for planning. Drawing up a Local Plan for Guildford borough is probably the most important task the council has tackled for a long time.
It will affect us all and dictate the shape of the town and its surrounds for many years to come. There is much at stake.

But if Ms Juneja’s candidature is not even fully supported by her own association what should we make of it? It is very unusual for a sitting councillor to be deselected.

All is not lost for Ms Juneja, though. We have been told that the deselection decision can be overturned by the association’s executive. Presumably, if she is on next year’s ballot paper in Burpham that is what will have happened.

But the problem is not just about her future, important though that might be. This is really about the way politicians view the electorate. Are they really silly enough to think communications full of misleading platitudes impress or convince anyone? No, they simply encourage contempt.

And what should we make of those individuals and organisations (because it is not just the Conservatives) who push such stuff out? Do they take us for fools? It would seem so. Quite an insult.

Would media coverage have been more negative if the GCA had told the whole truth? We don’t think so. Anyone with any interest in politics knows that there is a level of in-fighting in all organisations: it is human nature. Perhaps there is more to it, perhaps Mr Young deserved his fate? It is hard to know.

But does it not occur to them that we are grown-ups, that we can stomach this kind of news without running for the hills, that we actually appreciate honesty?

To return to Mr Cameron: in the 2010 election campaign, he was reported by the Daily Mail to have said: “We are a new generation, come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability.

“And when we say we will take power from the political elite and give it to the man and woman in the street, it’s not just because we believe it will help fix broken politics: it’s what we believe, full stop.”

Seems the Prime Minister needs to have a word with his Guildford team. The smoke-and-mirrors crew still appear to be in charge down here, although we are not sure they can see through the smoke themselves.

PS: one thing the Guildford Dragon would like a bit more openness about is the “Chairmanship Club”. Can anyone help us with that?

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Conservative Party Turmoil – Do They Take Us For Fools?

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 1, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    History seems to repeat itself.

    Bernard Parke is a former Conservative constituency chairman

  2. Mary Bedforth Reply

    July 2, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Conservative Party Turmoil – Do They Take Us For Fools?

    Answer Yes!

    I wish that local government had not become party political and did not follow the edicts and policies of ‘central control’.

    Bring back the Ratepayers and Independent councillors.

    PS A fine piece of journalism from the editors.

  3. Michael Bruton Reply

    July 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    There was a time – and not long ago – that we had an effective MP who stood up for Guildford in David Howell; a council Chief Executive who fought to protect the green belt/countryside from rampant development in David Watts; and a council leader who knew how to lead and who listened to what the electors wanted in Cllr Andrew Hodges.

    How can things have gone so badly wrong both within Guildford Tories and at Millmead itself? How come that our council ends up recently in ‘Private Eye’? How come that the Dragon itself can make such a forensic and (sadly) accurate analysis of the mess which is now the Guildford Conservative Association?

    Do they (Guildford Tories) take us for fools? Yes they do. And they will surely be punished in the Borough Elections of 2015 as a result.

    (Michael Bruton is the former Conservative Surrey county councillor for Guildford East and a campaigner for green belt protection.)

  4. Ben Paton Reply

    July 2, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    The Guildford Borough Council (GBC) mouths fine-sounding principles, the ones enshrined in its code of conduct. But it does not appear to live up to them.

    I have been told that the Standards Committee of GBC had not even met for two years until recently. And who was the Lead Councillor for governance during this period? The Lead Councillor for Planning over whom hangs a cloud of suspicion amid a police investigation of her claims to be a qualified barrister.

    The Guildford DRAGON News is right to be cynical. The GBC and its Tory-led Executive seems to excel in double-speak. When they don’t like what their council tax-paying voters say to them during consultation, such critics are branded “politically motivated”. This smacks of arrogance.

    When they push through a local plan without first deciding what the Housing Requirement should be, they tell us they have acted in this way because the matter is “so important”. Is it so important that common sense should not be applied?

    If it is so important, surely it is better to get it right than to get it done in a hurry.

    We voters are intelligent enough to distrust the party-political press releases, which clearly are an insult to those of us over the age of 12.

  5. Roland McKinney Reply

    July 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Great article. Thank you Dragon.

    Cllr Juneja was elected as a councillor in May 2011, and had no obvious experience in planning, or indeed of council affairs. To place someone with this level of experience into the hottest seat in the council was an astonishing decision by Cllr. Mansbridge, especially when the stated intent was to roll back the green belt.

    This is not intended in any way to cast aspersions on Cllr Juneja, but is certainly intended to question the judgement of the leader of the council. It would have been more courageous for Cllr. Mansbridge to take on this role himself, knowing, as he must have done, the controversy this policy would generate, and face the inevitable criticism himself.

    Instead, he placed a rookie councillor into the role. It is such decisions, which have no obvious justification, that are tearing local Conservatives apart.

    Sadly for all in the borough, this level of misjudgement has been carried over into the process of developing the Local Plan, and is obvious within the plan itself.

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