Why good men walk away

I was deeply saddened that Richard Ferris and Matthew Mahabadi decided to step down as councillors. Both are capable and diligent, doing good work in their wards and in the council chamber, writes cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council.

Sunday, 18th November 2018, 4:00 pm
Cllr Nawaz

Both are well respected by their constituents. I was grateful for their support of my leadership of the Labour Group; in turn, I supported them.

We live in turbulent times. I recall when I joined the Labour Party: the world seemed a different place. The suggestion that Donald Trump might run for President, for example, would elicit laughter. The term “Fake News” had yet to make it into wide circulation; it did not gain traction before 2016. Although I’d decline to suggest social media was ever at all gentle, it somehow had less of a sharp edge. It’s completely understandable why some might hit their limit and walk away.

Having said this, there is a place still for dignity in politics: I cannot say that the remarks published by the leader of the council could be described as dignified. He should have thanked Richard and Matthew for their service. He should have spoken for the entire city and said that we need more individuals committed to the city’s welfare like them. He should have risen above partisan politics and been an example for the entire city.

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It says much that he did not.

Several weeks ago, I described techniques used in the council chamber by the Conservative Administration to deflect hard questions and minimise real debate. There is one further tactic that has often been deployed: you will note that the Conservatives will more often say how awful their opposition is rather than talk about their achievements. Granted, given disasters like St. Michael’s Gate and the white elephant of Fletton Quays, they may not be able to claim much credit. Nevertheless, this technique reinforces the narrative that a bleak present is the best that can be hoped for; it depresses the aspirations of voters and thus turnout.

As has been seen in wards like Hampton Vale, which regularly hovers around 23% in local elections, low turnout has served the Conservatives well. In essence, they are happy to sedate, if not poison, democracy so long as it keeps them in power.

Hence, when Richard and Matthew resigned, Councillor Holdich stated things which were simply untrue: Richard and Matthew are diligent. They supported my leadership and I supported them.

Alan Bull was never a candidate.

Perhaps Councillor Holdich may have been stung by the critique that Richard and Matthew put forward, that the Conservative administration has been plagued by childish and petty behaviour; Councillor Holdich did nothing to dispel this charge.

I would suggest that in the time remaining to the Conservatives to run the city, that rather than indulge in the tired tactics of the past, they talk about their plans for Peterborough’s future. This is the Labour Group’s focus: we look forward to building on our vision in the coming months.