With the dust starting to settle on what was a very stormy Council meeting, the dilemma is how to portray these events. There is only one approach, tell it how it was.
Work commitments didn’t allow me to arrive at the Chamber till 4 p.m. As I entered the building, I could hear the uproar cascading down the corridors of power. Clearly in full swing, I envisaged the Chamber as a scene from the “Gladiator” film.
With the debate ongoing, I took my seat. With an air of mendacity, I could tell things had been tense. The dynamic duo of Councillor WAGGGOTTT and Councillor Ian Malcolm looked fraught, and the Mayor’s gavel lay smoking next to her like a prop from a Dirty Harry film.
To the agenda: what item were we up to? The televising of Council, my god, after 1hr 40m, the EGM still had not finished. With an amendment on the table from Councillor WAGGGOTTT to look at the issue with all interested parties, Councillor Alan Branley had seen through the rouse. The altered motion would see it filed, committee'd, binned, watered down, delayed and finally rejected. Prevarication and argument prevailed. When Alan Branley asked Councillor WAGGGOTTT for a straight answer yes or no to the question "was he in favour of the televising of Council meetings for public consumption",the leader visibly shrunk to the size of a "gonk" and refused to answer the question. Like a child watching an episode of Doctor Who, WAGGGOTTT was gripped with fear. The Labour Daleks however, backed him to the hilt, ably assisted by the drones in the Liberal Party and the Conservative cohort. The good old TV Doctor only has one assistant, the Labour Party has 5 (six when the Conservative “Master” turns up. Clearly time travel has not reached Scotland yet – but more of that later).
A short interlude followed, but there was no ice cream as the atmosphere was to hot. Refreshed and replenished and looking radiant (was it the blood transfusions or sheer anger/fear/embarrassment) the Councillors returned to the Chamber for the second half. As they walked to their perches, the only thing missing was the theme tune from the “Rocky” films!
“Once unto the breach dear friends, once more!”
To the full meeting then. Procedural points – fine. Mayor’s correspondence from the public – except there was none, even though two had been sent. The Chief Executive (I can’t remember which Ward she was elected to represent) had ruled them out of order. Apparently you’re nor not allowed to write to the Mayor anymore unless it only contains what Irene Lucas wants to hear. Perhaps letters to the Mayor should go like this:
The benefit of this approach is that it avoids controversy, something which Ms Lucas has an allergy to.
On to the public question time, and I was reminded of Councillor Leader WAGGGOTTT’s earlier comments about the public fielding questions, something about a scam to hijack the meeting. The first four questions came from Labour party members i.e. they were planted – now that’s a scam! The only time wasting subject not covered by them was “The Sex Life Of A Tennis Ball: Theory or Reality: Discuss”. The first question was tabled and the clocked started: we only have twenty minutes to save the Borough, and Defcon 5 had been activated. Step forward one Councillor Clare, beautifully clad in a Safari coloured suit (he was in the Lions Den!) but there was no need for the Daktari impression. Onto his speech, a tone penned in poison ink in response to a question on saving the planet. Councillor Clare went on for 14 minutes and left the Chamber devoid of oxygen. Doesn’t he know that hot air destroys the planet? Defcon 4 reached. With only 6 minutes left for public questioning, it was left to Councillor McAtominey to provide the next answer. It took him 1 minute to rise from his seat: that’s only 5 minutes left then. In true filibuster form, the filibuster finished of the clock (boy, that man can eat time, I’d hate to see him in front of Greggs)
“That’s it” cried the Mayor “time has expired”. “So has democracy” came the cry from the public gallery.
Next on the agenda were Councillors questions, again the front runners were asinine Labour submissions. I think they managed to pose 3 questions – I can’t remember, I saw some interesting fluff on the floor next to me!
It was left to the section on committee minutes to light the blue touch paper. Again the Branleys dominated for the voice of reason, grappling with WAGGGOTTT and Co, the debate being the equivalent of verbal mud wrestling. As each committee minutes came up for the Labour stamp of approval, the Branleys said “Excuse me Mayor, if we could just clarify…..”. Defcon 3. Facts did emerge from this session, particularly a Councillor who had been arrested! Sorry said the Mayor, these issues are confidential. Not to a certain Councillor McCabe, who in receipt of an electric shock, leapt out of his chair to defend the Council against claims of missing ballot boxes. Clearly 3 hours too late for the debate, he was unaware we weren’t actually talking about ballot boxes and skips. To humour him and not interrupt his stride, other Councillors gazed on like disappointed parents! It was about now that things started to get a bit grizzly, with the Councils bingo board showing Defcon 2. Up stepped one Councillor Audrey McMillan, she of Election Petition filed in May 2007. “The innocent must be protected” cried Audrey. Sorry Audrey, but ballot boxes are inanimate objects and have no legal rights. Plus they can’t be found as well you know. How convenient! The gallery had a giggle at her stance – Oh no, don’t giggle at Audrey! As she turned to face the public her shoulder pads flexed - she spat the words to the public – explain what you’re looking at? Decorum stops me! Defcon 1 engaged and ready to fire!
The Gallery was in uproar and with Audrey ready, willing and perhaps able, I thought she might even vault the divide and enter the public enclosure like a mosh pit diver (that’s someone who can jump very high for you older readers). “I will not have name calling” said the Mayor. “I will not have squabbling from the public gallery” reiterated the Mayor. “Why not” replied the Gallery “Councillors do!”
That was it – the Mayor had had enough. If order was not restored, the public was out. Sorry Mayor, but Audrey spoilt the party. Down came the gavel, out you go. Sorry Mayor, Audrey spoilt the party (did they not get the message). The gavel again, now it’s the police.
Up jumped the Councillors and of they went to the refreshment tent, well, bar. The public were left to their sombre fate. Years in jail, files in cakes, tunnels dug into walls, slopping out, Porridge etc, but without a nominee to bend over and pick the soap up in the shower! However, 10 minutes later the Mayor reconvened the meeting. The jails were full and clearly the Police would not be coming, something about a cat up a tree, or more to the point, how could you arrest the public for exercising their democratic right: this isn’t North Korea you know!
Equipped with a motion to adjourn the meeting, the Mayor saved face. The Branleys defended the public’s right to air their views, but Labour would have none of it. Backed up by Brian T Scott, Head of Corporate Governance i.e. the Councils lawyer and a man who can walk around whilst appearing to be asleep, the meeting was conveniently called to a halt. On came the statins by the bucket full, and Councillors were revived from a state of epilepsy. In the gallery were the great unwashed, a rabble who had dared challenge the hegemony of Labour. They must be punished.
They are lunatics!
However, the lunatics have a habit of taking over the asylum!