Chester hearings report

In Cheshire, News, North West on October 15, 2011 by dadge

Well, it was an interesting afternoon, and the 3-hour round trip was definitely worth it. I arrived just after 1, just in time to see the current and former MPs for Macclesfield, David Rutley and Nick Winterton, giving their talks.

At 1.45, just after I’d been told that I was about to be called to speak, the phone rang from Birmingham for my live interview with Ed Doolan on Radio WM. I was a bit distracted, but it went okay. My presentation to the hearing went well, I think (It was certainly different!) and the speakers who immediately followed me mentioned that they supported what I’d had to say. I didn’t have any notes for my talk, so you’ll just have to imagine what I said 🙂 but it included my counterproposals for Cheshire.

David Rutley, Nick Winterton and some local colour

Other speakers included Richard Soper, Charles Fifield, Laurence Clarke, Derek Twigg MP, Terry Largan, Gareth Anderson, Stewart Gardiner, Chris Ward and Gabor Bartos.

Gabor, a former mayor of Poynton, spoke about how the town had been “faithful” to Cheshire when the Tories threatened to put it in Greater Manchester, which reminded me immediately of the story of the Sopron plebiscite. Poynton, Cheshire’s answer to Sopron? Now, there’s a thought.

There weren’t many members of the public who’d “just come in off the street” as it were, but there were a few, which was good to see, and the AC made them especially welcome.

I had a slight run-in with the MP for Halton, Derek Twigg, when I noticed that he was criticising the Commission for proposing to split Halton between 3 seats. I asked him what his thoughts are on his party’s counter-proposal, to which he replied “I haven’t come here to discuss that.” And no wonder! His own party proposes to split Halton between 4 seats!

That, plus the fact that I criticised Labour’s proposals in my talk, plus the fact that the event was dominated by Tories, meant I started to feel a bit like I was turning into a Tory…*

The reality is that the Tories must take most of the blame for getting us into this mess into the first place. They’re the party of government and they and the Commission were responsible for laying down the terms of reference for the current Review. It’d be nice if Stephen Mosley and David Rutley now try to dig a bit deeper into finding out whether it really was their government’s intention to make the Review so farcical.

Mark Savill, the Assistant Commissioner, appears to be very good. I’m not sure how he was briefed, but he seemed interested in all the metadiscussion about whether wards can be split and whether the 2011 wards can be used.

It was noticeable that he would not allow any discussion of counter-proposals, except when they were being presented by a speaker. This seemed a shame (How can the Commission evaluate them if they aren’t discussed?) but I sense the reason is that it’s to avoid confusion. All the counter-proposals will be made available early next year, but it would be good to be able to discuss them as well as just to comment on them.

Anyway, one man cleverly got round this restriction by changing his phrasing from “What Labour proposes…” to “If anyone proposes…”. Ha!

*At least I wasn’t wearing a suit. If you haven’t seen Zelig, I recommend it.


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