If a week, or more precisely five working days, is a long time in local politics then nine weeks, or more precisely 45 working days, must be an eternity.
As the good people of Aldridge Central and South queue for hours under a blistering sun to cast their ballots in a by election to elect a new representative, it has been nine weeks since they were promised a public meeting and consultation regarding the future of the Manor House Youth Centre. It would be pedantic to point out that the decision to close the youth facility and flog the site off to some mysterious developer was taken ages ago by a cabinet bereft of any notion of civic responsibility. No amount of flannel and talk of consultation will alter the current status of the borough arsonist who is well and truly on standby to solve the problem once and for all. Silence on issues that affect communities is not unusual for a cabinet that scream from the rooftops how hard they work, how well they are doing and how they deserve to pocket increased allowances as the rest of us suffer but this time they have a legitimate excuse for ignoring the public that they are supposed to serve.
Purdah is the period before an election when any discussion on issues that may benefit or disadvantage a candidate cannot take place. This seems to be a reasonable and fair mechanism or self-denying ordinance as they say in local government. However, our bunch of shysters around the cabinet table are using purdah to stifle a major electoral issue that will expose their failings and result in lost votes; so much for open and accountable local democracy. Interestingly, purdah did not prevent Leader of the Council Mike Q Bird from announcing that Walsall must cut another £100million in services and staff two days before an election. Increasingly desperate to cling onto his perks, allowances and bonuses, he appeared on local television to blame the previous government, the current government, any future government and Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all for the fact that he is as avaricious as he is useless. Councillor Bird might wish to consider that purdah is designed to prevent local government making announcements which may commit a new administration to policies that it would never agree to. Given that it is likely that any carbon based life form wearing a blue rosette will win in Aldridge and given that it is unlikely that the “Independent” councillors at the big house on Lichfield Street will miraculously re-discover socialism, a change of administration is statistically possible. Therefore, by citing purdah to silence discussion about Aldridge Manor and then making a fairly colossal economic diktat, Bird gets this year`s award for monumental hypocrisy.
In a town that is struggling to survive, it comes as no surprise that secrets and lies are the bedrock of a failing and greedy cabinet. It would be pedantic to dwell on the missing receipts of European funding, the out of court settlements for whistleblowers, the disastrous Serco contact, the care homes scandal, the miraculous appearance of an £8million sweetener for the likes of Primark, the unexplained fires that destroy listed buildings, vote rigging, cannabis factories, celebrating being described as adequate, an Ombudsman report that was less than flattering and the incredibly toxic issue, in more ways than one, of the IMI environmental disaster in waiting. If only there was a credible opposition to this maladministration.
We can forget the Liberal Democrats. They must be the only endangered species on the planet that will provoke a global sigh of relief at the moment of their final extinction. Right wing loonies intent on occupying a vacuum will do just that and expire due to the lack of hot air. Then there is Labour; oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Ed Miliband should market the cleaner that removes egg stains from suits and pass it on in the hope of removing egg from the face of Chris Bryant. Bryant, a politician who deserves respect, blotted his reputation by falling into the trap of spouting policy intended for newspaper editors rather than human beings and we can only hope that he, and others like him, will take courage and expel Tories from the Labour Party. As for the Walsall Labour Group, “face palm” as my younger house mates might say. I cannot quite imagine Kier Hardie or Nye Bevan or Clem Attlee adopting abstention as a political strategy to bring about change. Opposition, it seems, is to state that the youth club in Aldridge will be shut down six months after the Tories intend to shut it down. No pasaran; the workers, united, will never be defeated unless you happen to live in Walsall.
It looks like we are on our own, kids; but not as alone as the young people of Aldridge. I`d like to help you son, but you`re too young to vote.