Fringe Box



Letter: My Reflections on Election Behaviours

Published on: 9 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 8 Sep, 2023
From: Robin Horsley
In response to: The Behaviour We Saw in the Last Election Should Not be Allowed to Become the Norm
Julian Lyon, a candidate for R4GV at the recent local elections, continues his party’s belated smear campaign against me and others. It is no credit to himself or his party.
During the local election campaign, a number of the R4GV candidates did make a commitment that if elected they would not seek to sit on Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee and that may have helped their campaigns.
Those individuals did recognise that potential conflicts of interest would be a problem and in doing so highlighted the unwise decisions taken previously by their party.
And I suspect that Trumpian protestations of “fake news”, in the absence of any evidence, were similarly unwise. People are not stupid. If you make allegations you have to back them up otherwise people will judge accordingly and they don’t take kindly to wild allegations without evidence – as the results showed.
But all that is in the past.
As far as the future is concerned let’s just hope we don’t see a repeat of the incidence of elected borough councillors advocating developer schemes to the electorate. The role of councillors is to represent their electors’ interests and needs – not the interests of property developers. It is to listen and to reflect. Not to tell people what is right for them or promote or advocate for anyone other than their electors.
Large schemes that impact an entire borough, as the original North Street scheme would have if approved, are very often voted on by a full council of all its elected members rather than just the smaller number of members of the Planning Committee.
That’s a logical approach. If a scheme is to have widespread ramifications it makes sense that residents all have their voices represented. But in the case of North Street it was clear that rather than reflecting their electorate’s views, some of the councillors were representing their own personal views.
So a full council sitting to decide the scheme just wouldn’t have been possible – too many were “pre-determined” and had made their position very clear so couldn’t be expected to vote on the scheme based on the detail with a clear objective mind.
It’s quite commonly the case that after elections those who fail to achieve their objectives cry foul and cast around for others to blame for their failure. In other happier instances, people accept the verdict of the electorate and look at what they can do to improve. But this not unusual so although it’s disappointing it is not entirely unexpected.
Politics does involve claim and counter-claim and then the electorate get to decide what they think is right. Telling the electorate they made a mistake, that they stupidly and unquestioningly believed things they were told, which are belatedly claimed, without evidence, to be untrue is just not a good way to rebuild.
I have reflected on the campaign. It was ugly. I was under constant attack from R4GV and their small band of supporters who seemed horrified that anyone dare question their approach or challenge their conduct. There was a sense of entitlement in it. R4GV didn’t just lash out at me, they lashed out at all their opponents as Mr Lyon continues to.
I hope they will stop and reflect as I have. I don’t blame anyone else. That campaign cost me a huge amount of time and money. But it was worth it. Sometimes you just have to try and make a difference and I believe that Guildford does indeed deserve better so I put my effort in.
Mr Lyon might like to review this Dragon article Recommendation for Guildford to Consider Congestion Charging which describes his party leader bringing in a paid consultant who suggested that the council considered congestion charging.

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Responses to Letter: My Reflections on Election Behaviours

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    September 9, 2023 at 11:10 am

    Mr Horsley writes:-
    ‘Sometimes you just have to try and make a difference’.

    So exactly what difference has Mr Horsley actually made?

    Here are some objective and incontrovertible facts:-
    * The North St site is owned by a property developer that has a lawful right to develop it.
    * The site is in the most sustainable location in the entire borough. The Council has set a Housing Target. There is therefore a public interest in the site being developed – rather than remaining an open air car park.
    * The Council has a legal obligation to approve planning applications that comply with the law.
    * The developer contends that its application is lawful and has taken the Council to appeal.
    * The developer now has two plans in the public domain:- the original plan now under appeal and a new plan intended to address the planning committee’s objections.

    Anyone ‘fact-checking’ these statements is led to the ineluctable conclusion that the North Street site WILL be developed by the developer along the lines currently proposed.

    At its public presentation in the Yvonne Arnaud theatre this week the developer stated more than once, in so many words, that is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ it will develop the site.

    Mr Horsley has made a lot of sound and fury. But it has signified nothing.

    He has not changed the destiny of the North Street development one iota.

    The same cannot be said of Mr Rigg. It is an objective fact that his input significantly changed destiny of the development. Under his influence the height, the number of flats and the area of the retail space was reduced. I happen to think that the development could have been better. Many Guildford residents would have gone further than Mr Rigg. I’m among their number. But it is certainly the case that Mr Rigg’s input made the plans better than they were before. Imperfect they are. But they were previously even worse.

    I also happen to think that Mr Rigg and R4GV should have tried much harder to fulfill their manifesto pledge to revise the catastrophic Conservative Local Plan – which, more than any other single factor, is responsible for the lack of any height policy in Guildford.

    What has Mr Horsley achieved? He has injected a large dose of poison into the body politic.

    He writes: ‘I don’t blame anyone else.’ That’s objectively false and untrue. He blames R4GV pretty much exclusively- and Mr Rigg and Mr Lyon in particular. He has made them appear personally liable for the planning application – which is objectively not their application. Neither has ever had any responsibility for the application – for which St Edward is exclusively responsible.

    The planning system is dysfunctional. It was before R4GV was elected. It remains so now. It will continue to be in the future. Mr Horsley has put the blame for this obvious fact at the door of one party and ignored the contribution of the main national parties that have run Guildford for the past fifty years.

    Mr Horsley commented that

    “It seems the editor [of the Dragon] is unaware of the circumstances if the scheme fails to be approved – the council then has the opportunity to own the entire site and then can either work alone or with a funder or development partner to build something much better.”

    He backed up his statement with this:-
    “And as the Lib Dems have said in the piece, linked above, they could either finance development as a council or work with a partner to develop the site.”

    Mr Horsley’s contention that the Council could buy the site is objectively false and untrue. The Council does not have a legal right to compel the developer to sell the site to it. Mr Horsley could confirm that by writing to St Edward.

    What is the market value of the site? I have no idea. But the developer has stated that it has spent £15m on the planning application. So presumably that is the least it would accept to sell the site. The Council is at risk of bankruptcy. It is pretty certain it does not have access to £15m – or whatever the open market value of the site may be.

    Mr Horsley has just adopted third party political statements without checking their veracity. That’s perfectly acceptable if Mr Horsley is an officer or member of the Lib Dem party. But it is disingenuous for a person who pretends to be disinterested and impartial and to have done a lot of work to get his facts right.

    The Dragon has had the temerity to write an Opinion Piece that points out (albeit obliquely) that Mr Horsley has got his facts wrong. Instead of having the decency to correct his mistakes he has targeted the Dragon with his vitriol. He would serve the public better if he took the trouble to get the facts right. The Dragon may not be perfect. But it is a much more reliable reporter of news and events than Mr Horsley.

    Like Mr Trump, Mr Horsley is oft in error but never in doubt.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    September 10, 2023 at 9:26 am

    We should be promoting community cohesiveness within our borough not driving the wedge of “he said, she said”. Mr Horsley admits he spent a lot of his own money to denigrate a political party – telling others to vote for any one but this one.

    I did not view his film, I did not wish to be diverted by his expensive arguments. Local elections should be about the person not the party.

    As for “predetermination” – it is an utterly nonsensical concept. Take the new sewage works. There is over a gigabyte of paperwork. Anyone who watched Yes Minister will know of the trick of burying decisions and issues in piles of paper. Hidden in the middle of this pile was the fact that there is serious concern about leachate. Anyone reading that section would automatically predetermine there was a cause for concern before any meeting to decide if the plan was viable. If they hadn’t read the paperwork they shouldn’t be deciding if it went ahead or not.

    So I say we have some tremendously knowledgeable people in our borough each and everyone will predetermine the facts before deciding – because that is what professional knowledgeable people do. Not agreeing is no excuse for ignoring expertise.

    Next time lets have a level and polite playing field. Perhaps Mr Horsley could go on a cruise during election time and spend his money researching the ‘Aral Sea Effect’ ie the lack of water in the South East a far more worthy cause than what I see as election manipulation.

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