Thursday, 4 March 2010

Conservatives Call For Hartley's Head

#rdgpol - After spending last month on the defensive Conservatives in Reading have gone on the attack in what some commentators are calling a pre-emptive strike to take over control of the Cabinet.

Local tories have called for Reading's lead councillor for Education, Park ward's John Hartley (Labour), to be removed from his position by lodging a motion of no confidence against him.

But because the council remains in the balance Conservatives can also be seen cranking up the pressure ahead of a vote on 30th March.

Cllr Richard Willis attempted to build some anticipation for the move by preannouncing via the #rdgpol hastag that he would publish some 'key news' on his blog.

Subsequently he described the Conservative position, explaining why Cllr Hartley should be axed.

It all relates back to statements Cllr Hartley made during a debate at the 26th January council session on a motion against homophobic bullying which were later shown to be untrue.

Here's how Reading List covered the debate at the time.

Church ward's Cllr Tim Harris proposed a motion to agree a resolution against bullying, but Cllr Hartley responded that the council is already a member of Stonewall's 'Education Champion's Programme' to infer that the motion was unnecessary.

Conservatives were attacked by LibDems for sending out 'mixed messages' on gay rights, which obviously struck a nerve as tory leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty accused opponents of 'politicising' the issue.

And now Conservatives sense an opportunity to exert a price for the hit they took.

Cllr Hartley defended his inaccurate statement by pointing his finger at council officers for providing him with bad information, arguing that it is water under the bridge as RBC now in the process of signing up to the programme, adding that,
"There's no disagreement between the three main parties on the substance or importance of this issue, but the Conservatives are clearly in a mood to make mischief because we're nearing an election."
But Conservative critics continue to circle around Cllr Hartley, stating that his consistent non-attendance at 'vital' council committees within his portfolio shows he does not take his duties seriously.

And Park ward candidate for the Green Party, Rob White, has offered his view.

Rob picks out the low levels of casework his opponent does for residents, suggesting this is indicative of Cllr Hartley's capacity to undertake all the responsibilities he has accepted.

However he gives his opponent the benefit of the doubt, saying it must be shown he deliberately misled the council for it to be a sacking issue, otherwise an apology should suffice.

Meanwhile the result of any vote looks to be very much up in the air as it would depend on LibDems who hold the balance of power - and they appear to be sitting firmly on the fence. Cllr Kirsten Bayes expressed her caution towards the move,
"We'd need to see the details of the Conservatives' motion, and to hear Cllr Hartley's explanation on any concerns. It's important to be fair to everyone involved."

Oranjepan says:
Conservative group leader Cllr Cumpsty was extremely wrong - as recent events have shown, it is obvious that bullying is a highly political matter!


Update: Linda Fort offers a friendlier assessment of the political challenge facing Cllr Hartley.

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