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Tories wearing traditional robes versus Labour.

Lonesome robes ahead for the Conservatives

Labour’s Bruce Dowling was elected Mayor of Hastings with Cllr Judy Rogers as his deputy at the Mayor Making ceremony on Wednesday 4 June. However, the more interesting part that very few people remained to see, according to HOT journalist Solomon Curtis, was Hastings Borough Council’s first full council meeting since the local elections.

A striking dynamic image made it instantly clear that the next two years will see two polarised political parties at Hastings Borough Council. The Conservative group majestically entered St Mary in the Castle in their Hastings Borough Council robes in contrast to the modern Labour group. It felt like the Darth Vader music should have been played to accompany the fancy dress. However it was ironic that the Conservative group wore the old-fashioned robes, as their young(ish) leader, Rob Cooke, and his small conservative group looked far more youthful than ever before as he delivered a forward-thinking speech urging Cllr Birch to consider the council takes on board new forms of technology to reduce council spending; whilst his two new young councillors, Liam Atkins and Rob Lee, looked across at an older Labour group.

The full council meeting was a spectacle to be seen. After watching the state opening of parliament that very day on the news, I was glad that we have our own ‘Punch and Judy’ House of Commons at Hastings Borough Council. Labour, with three times as many councillors as the Tories, clearly rejoiced at their victory or, as the Conservatives put it, “arrogantly celebrated”. Nonetheless, both parties were ecstatic that UKIP had been defeated in Hastings. Although, no mention of the Liberal Democrats. Clearly people have forgotten who they are already!

“Sorry I don’t even know your name.”

Speeches were loudly and elegantly delivered to an audience of about 10 (most of whom were from Hastings Youth Council). Labour’s rising star, Cllr Warren Davies, a teacher, went back into teacher mode when he told Tory Rob Lee off for outrageously laughing at how a single parent required support from the council as she had lost her benefits from the coalition government. Cllr Davies humiliated the new Maze Hill ward councillor further by announcing, “Sorry, I don’t even know your name.” Cllr Lee then had the arrogance to tell Labour councillors that they should be ashamed of themselves after his appalling behaviour. Clearly, as a new councillor he hasn’t had much limelight yet so probably just needed to speak and get a clap to fulfill his satisfaction. Might have been better for the Tories if he had kept quiet after his encounter with Cllr Davies.

The Labour group however seemed very different. With 24 councillors, their biggest group ever, one would expect difficulty in controlling such characters. The word ‘socialist’ was used at least four times by the group whose behaviour would remind many of the days of Militant Tendency and old-school union-led Labour. Therefore in completely juxtaposition to the national Labour Party and Ed Miliband preaching “responsible capitalism.” A liberal-minded person like myself may worry about how ‘socialist’ the radical local group may become. There were points where I was expecting a chorus of the Red Flag to begin. Although that would have been quite enjoyable! No surprises however as Jeremy Birch’s Labour party has always been to the left of the Labour party.

“Thank God I wasn’t a pupil at William Parker.”

This was followed by Old Town Cllr Poole making the point everyone was waiting for, that Maureen Charlesworth was the only female councillor for the Tories compared to Labour’s six female councillors. Former conservative leader Cllr Peter Pragnell calmly spoke of his disgust at the rowdy personal attacks from the Labour group…only to then make a personal attack on Cllr Davies with the admittedly hilarious comment, “Thank god I wasn’t a pupil at William Parker”. Hypocrisy? He then went on to explain how the Tories probably agree with 80% of what Labour are trying to do. That will be something that Cllr Birch definitely doesn’t forget. By the way, Cllr Birch was elected to serve as council leader for the next four years.

After seeing this performance of a meeting that to be completely honest had no real outcome, I would very much encourage a large group of HOT readers to go along to the next full council meeting. It’s important that we as the public attend these meetings and see how the councillors behave then.

Solomon Curtis is a member of the Labour Party                                         and a former vice-chair of the British Youth Council.


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Posted 18:26 Thursday, Jun 5, 2014 In: Home Ground


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  1. patricia stephenson

    Very politically biased article more like – if these robes have no traditional connection between the council and Members – why were they issued in the first place?

    Comment by patricia stephenson — Friday, Jun 27, 2014 @ 18:00

  2. Mark Fisher

    Well Paddy, the robes have absolutely no traditional significance to them, they are meant to look like 18th century robes but were actually most likely created 50 years ago. There is no traditional connection between the robes the conservatives wore and Hastings Borough Council so Solomon is 100% right to label it “fancy dress”.

    Very witty, insightful, entertaining article.

    Comment by Mark Fisher — Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 @ 10:02

  3. paddy stephenson

    I would question why Solomon considers the Tory groups traditional attire fancy dress and something of a laughing matter – surely it is good to see Members upholding this tradition to wear their Hastings Council robes at important meetings? And these traditions ought not to be described as fancy dress. This was a biased article and it is in poor taste to mock those who wish to see traditions maintained.

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 @ 09:46

  4. paddy stephenson

    Warren Davies sets a bad example to his pupils with his rowdy personal attacks on the opposition. He seems incapable of holding a reasoned debate with the opposition. He is in my opinion, a bully and is an embarrassment to watch.

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Sunday, Jun 15, 2014 @ 16:17

  5. Clive Gross

    The last sentence is perhaps the most important here…people need to go along to these meetings – more especially Cabinet and Planning than full council as that’s where the key decisions are made. Unfortunately, unlike in other local authorities such as Eastbourne, there is no public right of address at these meetings, but just knowing people are observing and interested might make this lot up their game.

    Comment by Clive Gross — Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 @ 16:50

  6. Eva Cat

    Council meetings, of course, make no actual decisions (or very few) – all the decisions are made by the cabinet. Council often debates the decisions that cabinet has made, but can’t change them, so there’s not much point to it. Many council meetings have no press at them, and no members of the public either. So as the debates makes no decisions, the whole show is of dubious value – unless people go along to watch of course, so try it, as Solomon suggests!

    Comment by Eva Cat — Saturday, Jun 7, 2014 @ 19:19

  7. Nick Perry

    Notwithstanding our lack of success at the ballot box, I can safely say that I am glad to have been spared this experience. I wonder why people get turned off poltics?! Best wishes, Nick Perry (Lib Dem candidate for MP, Hastings & Rye)

    Comment by Nick Perry — Thursday, Jun 5, 2014 @ 22:30

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