Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The secret to Cheryl’s poll success 

IN national politics very little credence is given to the results of by-elections.

They are usually dismissed as being of little consequence to the political scene.

Can the same be said in local politics? Should we read anything into the quite stunning victory achieved by Cheryl Reynolds in last week’s town council by-election?

Recognised as one of Lyme’s community champions for her many successful fundraising projects for various organisations over the years, mainly for the young, Cheryl polled 877 votes to win the seat vacated by the controvesial, and in my view, totally unncessary, resignation of her brother, district and county councillor Daryl Turner. That number was undoubtedly boosted by the fact the by election was held at the sametime as the Euro elections, which would have got more people out to the polls.

But it was still a turn out of 44 per cent, a high number, twice as many as those cast in the last by-election when Stan Williams returned to the council chamber.

On each ccasion their opponent was Woodroffe schoolteacher Seoras Strain, who was unfortunate to come up against two local candidates. I don’t know whether he will go a third time, but he will stand a much better chance next May when a new council has to be elected and a fewer number of votes will get him elected.

Cheryl’s 877 votes, the most ever in a town council by-election,  even exceeded those cast for Lucy Campbell, who topped the poll at the last four-yearly election in 2010 with 827 votes. Cheryl  can rightly claim, therefore, to have a bigger mandate than any other councillor in the Guildhall.

There were two reasons why she was so successful. The first was down to sheer hard work: she distributed two election addresses, one to catch the postal voters and a second more comprehensive missive laying out what she wanted to achieve, low on platitudes by high on commitment,  both delivered to virtually every address in town.

That’s really hard work and Cheryl, a qualified herbalist who suffers from severe arthritis, deivered the majority of these, supported by husband Alan and a few supporters.
Brother Daryl is a great beleiever in getting out and about his constituencies, a hallmark of his success, and Cheryl has the same work ethic.

The second reason why she was so successful is that she correctly judged the mood of the town in their perception of the town council after a year of unseemly disputes and unacceptable behaviour.

The council made a big error at the recent annual town meeting by pretending all was rosy in the garden and that their woes were caused by this newspaper, and this column in particular. In doing so they underestimated the intelligence of the voting public.

What they should have done is to have apologised to the town, told them they were getting their act together with a new code of conduct  and would prove in the run up to next year’s election that they were worthy of their votes. No sign of that yet.

Cheryl attended a number of council meetings to see for herself and spoke a number of times during council meeting public forums as well as the town meeting.

It was seeing what was happening in the council chamber that encouraged Cheryl to stand at the by-election and she will take her seat at next Wednesday’s adjourned adjourned annual meeting another first.

The Mayor has already told her she will have to behave herself. Can we assumed that all other councilors have been given the same advice?

Not Michaela’s most onerous role…

IT CAME as no surprise that most the top jobs on Lyme Regis Town Council went to the gang of five. Well, they do have the votes with increasing support from the mayor, deputy mayor Anita Williams and Lorna Jenkin, they rule supreme. 

As expected, Mark Gage was returned to the most infuential position of chairman of the Strategy & Policy Committee.  What was surprising to many was that he was proposed by the Mayor.

No one was surprised that Michaela Ellis, 18 years a councillor,  lost the position of vice-chairman. As she was not consulted of any occasion during the past year, or ivited to partake in side meetings etc, Michaela will not be too bothered.

It will be interesting to see whether Councillor Gage involves his new vice-chairman, Lucy Campbell, in more of the decision making in the coming year.

Chris Clipson keeps Town Management and Anita Williams (Planning & Highways) and Lorna Jenkin (Tourism and Econimic Development) were both re-elected. 

Guildhall Gossip

WHAT is it about this council (or at least some of them) and confectionary?

In all the years I’ve been covering local government (I know, too long!), I’ve never come across so much eating of sweets during council business. In fact, I’ve never seen it in any other council, other than a serupticious Polo or Tic Tac being slipped into the mouth. 

It all started with Rikey Austin courting popularity asking all in sundry in the chamber of they would like “a sweetie”. 

Now it’s become a habit and if last week’s meeting is anything to go by, it’s time the mayor called a halt before they all end up with Type 2 diabetes. 

Mark Gage clearly has a sweet tooth. He got to his feet more times last week to pick a sweet than he did to speak!

COUNCIL EAVESDROPPING: Mark Gage to Terry O’Grady during last week’s marathon meeting: “What time is it?” O’Grady’s reply: “Past beer o’clock!”

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