Stephen Tall, Lib Dem councillor for Headington in Oxford, has stepped down from Oxford politics. One of the better councillors, it seemed to me. I am not much interested in the politics, only in the general level of intelligence and sense of objective rightness amongst those who spend our money, and Tall seemed to me to bring some applied decency to a largely contemptible local political scene.
His comments on those he leaves behind are worth quoting:
My pet hate is meetings of Full Council: five hours of torpor in which councillors grand-stand to no purpose in the unrequited hope of being quoted in the local paper. It is an oddity of Oxford politics that most councillors rub along together pretty well, and can find more to agree on than disagree… until they sit in the Town Hall council chamber. At which point, some form of collective guilt takes over in which councillors fear they’ve betrayed their principles by cooperating with opponents, and decide to turn into mindless, partisan morons.
I only once attended a council meeting, when a decision in which I was interested had been called in. There was nothing to be achieved by the calling-in – the decision could not legally have been reversed – but that did not prevent the, um, less thoughtful of the elected members from raising the issue. The spokesperson began by accepting that she could not carry the objection, but rambled on for ages making – or rather not making – her point. There were perhaps a dozen councillors there, some of them quite intelligent people who could have been doing something useful for the city, but convention required that they sat there listening to this dim little woman trying to get her name in the papers. If I had to do it more than once I would have strangled her.
I am sure that some of the Oxford Labour Group are brighter than that (oops, I didn’t mean to identify them, too late, damage done), and Labour do not have a monopoly on time-wasting stupidity at Oxford City Council. It is always a source of regret, however, when a good councillor goes.