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Monday, 24 January 2011

13 - Unlucky for some, or everyone?

As previously reported, every May the Conservative Group of councillors elects, or re-elects, their Leader who also becomes the defacto Leader of the Council in Kensington and Chelsea. For the last twelve years Cllr Cockell has been re elected unopposed. In the immortal words of Lord Acton: "Power corrupts. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely". Thirteen years is too long for a one person to hold the reigns of power in a democracy; hence why America limits the Presidential term term to a maximum of eight years. In Britain, the electoral system ensures (most of the time) that leadership is refreshed, though in recent years we have witnessed the shambles of leaderships (Thatcher and Blair) that went beyond their sell by dates.

The electoral safety net does not operate in Kensington and Chelsea because the Tories have a natural monopoly. The idea of any other party forming an administration in Hornton Street is remote. 70% of the vote is Conservative at local elections and most of this is on autopilot. And since the dustbins get cleared on time, voter apathy is rampant and only 30% turn out to cast their ballot. In these circumstances, Conservative councillors have a duty to the electorate to make sure that the right Leader is in place at the right time. The responsibility is in their hands.

Cockell's predecessor, Joan Hannam, stayed for eleven years as Leader. She stepped down after many of her councillor friends and supporters told her in confidence that she had stayed too long and it was time to go. Cllr Cockell, now in his thirteenth year as Leader, is a man in love with the trappings of power and has used the Cabinet system of Government to consolidate the power of patronage over councillors to ensure he clings to office. Young councillors know that stepping out of line will blight their prospects for ever and the older councillors know that stepping out of line will lose them their SRA's or deny them the prospect of SRA's. By driving up SRA's to levels that are the highest in the land, Cllr Cockell has created a patronage dictatorship. No one dares to tell the Emperor that he has no clothes.

If you need any evidence that the Gravy Train currently trolleying through RBKC is well and truly well oiled, look at the stops in H&F and Westminster where they receive much less in allowances.

The principal attribute of successful Leaders is their grasp of detail about their business. Not so Cllr Cockell. His world is one of rhetoric and fantasy. "A new school for unborn generations of children" (Statement at a Cabinet Meeting). "My Cabinet is worthy of 10 Downing Street" (Speech to Main Council Meeting). But ask him about traffic flows in Exhibition Rd and he does not have a clue. (Courtfield Ward Meeting). And history also tells us that when a major shift of circumstance takes place, like the economic crisis that we are in, new blood is required to identify and implement necessary change. The skill set and aptitude of the old guard is invariably out of tune with different times.

And leaders need to lead by example and demonstrate the core values of their constituency. Conservative values have thrift, honesty, openness and consistency at their core. It was only because of the new Freedom of Information Act that it was possible to unearth the extent to which Cockell was abusing his position to use tax payers money to travel First Class to American "conferences", dine at upmarket New York restaurants and entertain people whose names he "forgot" at weekend feasts in the Big Apple.

Read about it here

The publicity about his profligacy undermined Cllr Cockell's plans to move effortlessly from Kensington and Chelsea to a place in the House of Lords. A move that would have augmented his income stream from the Leader's £66k to a hoped for Govt job as Minister of Local Govt in the Lords (£110k). Cockell nursed this ambition for many years with his colleague Cllr Ritchie. In CCO she reigned supreme as Candidates Chairman, and he looked after her in the Town Hall where he rewarded her with a £53k Cabinet position. The planned Peerage never came, and of course there is now a problem because loss of the Leader's stipend of £66k would produce a financial crisis for Cockell who is dependent on the public purse. So he will try to cling to power with a new vengeance.

The Hornet sends this message to all Conservative Councillors in Hornton Street. "Enough is enough. Thirteen years is too long for one person to occupy the position of Leader. Consult and plan an orderly transfer of power in May 2011. Now is the time to start".

A number of councillors are able and willing to stand. The Hornet has been buzzing around and Cllrs Ahern, Borwick, Coleridge and Paget-Brown have all whispered their willingness to submit themselves for Leadership. Cllr Ritchie is more guarded but it is known that Cllr Cockell promoted her name vigorously when he feared for a time in 2010 that publicity about his expenses might force him out of office.

Go on, you know it makes sense.


  1. This is a vitally important subject for residents and Conservative councillors must not shirk their responsibility. Colleridge and Ahern are rich enough to lead by example and slash SRA's from their scandalous levels. They may also be more inclined to spend less time in the Town Hall and let officials get on with their job. Concentrating instead on the core responsibilities of leadership ie senior appointments, strategy and governance. And abandoning the self seeking culture of Trophy projects. Paget-Brown would miss the money. Cllr "preying mantis" Ritchie (the creature that eats its own) needs to be watched. She has already made off with the peerage that Cockell pursued with such vigour. Not bad for the one time secreatry and Liberal Party activist who is now a Conservative peer. Her brand of self seeking politics is not needed in Kensington and Chelsea. It is time for Cockell to go. Hubris and the absence of checks and balances has turned him into a political monster.

    But the times are new. Who is the Greenhalgh of Hornton Street?

  2. good post 04:37
    What do you think about Residents First?

  3. Just in case anyone is in any doubt about the need for change.......

  4. The worms are turning...

    There has been a strident shout from Hornton Street that "the Leader was apponted for four years (in 2010) so shove off and stop making trouble"

    Exactly so. Another twist of the dictators claw. But EVERY year the Leader is reconfirmed at the May meeting of Conservative Councillors. It has been a rubber stamp affair for the last 12 years.

    In 2010 Ahern, Colleridge and Paget-Brown took soundings with the Conservative Councillors and indicated their willingness to stand for election. Cockell (of course) heard of this, accused them of disloyalty, threatened a re run of the Thatcher election debacle, and warned them not to dare. The poodles scuttled back to their kennels.

    Cockell planned to stand down in 2011 and take up his expected place in the Lords. But it did not come through. And he is hanging on.

    But actually the job is more important than Cockell. You read it here first.

  5. does the fact that Ahern, Paget-Brown et al don't put themselves forward because they think they are not good enough?
    That tells us much about the quality level in RBKC

  6. what? the original post or the comment?

  7. Miss Hornet
    There is an imbecile who posts 'what drivel'ad nauseum. He is clearly one of the less articulate of Sir Cockle's associates. Could you ban to save him continuing making a fool of himself

  8. 8.02 the answer to your question is that I personally think that Residents First! is a lifeline for democracy in the Royal Borough. It is a substitute for the opposition party that we dio not have in Hornton Street.

    I was reflecting the other day on the different treatment that Cockell and Clements received after abusing tax payers funds and living it up on foreign jollies and entertaining their bits on the side.

    There is a robust Labour Opposition at the GLA and they booted Clements out. The sample crime was ££64 that he had improperly claimed to entertain his mistress and then tried to cover it up.

    In K&C where there is no opposition and Cockell runs as his personal fiefdom, he has spent ca £10,000 on jollies and personal entertainment. Including a claim for $400 to entertain Clements to dinner in New York and $200 to entertain a "friend" to dinner on a Saturday night in New York. He "forgot" the name of the person that tax payers paid for at the Four Seasons Restaurant, and poodle Myers personally sanctioned the expenditure.

    Long live Residents First!

  9. I think Victoria Borwick would make a good leader - she works hard for us in Abingdon and is a great GLA member for London.

    Cockell should go and go now before he brings down the conservatives in K&C and our council is run by a lib/lab pack.


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