Rebellion in the Tory ranks – keeping order on Peterborough City Council

He never actually resigned. Let’s make that absolutely clear.

inspection17:11 Friday 15th May 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PETER SWAN: Let’s focus on this evolving situation as regards Peterborough City Council. Now they say a week’s a long time in politics, and just seven days ago the Tories in Peterborough were opening the champagne after narrowly regaining control of the City Council. The Prime Minister even paid a visit to mark the occasion. But today it’s been a nail-biting few hours, as one of their number has been talking of resigning from the party to become an Independent. Sara who’s reading the news for you this afternoon and also producing is here to explain a little bit more about what’s been going on. Sara.
SARA VAREY: Well Peter as you say it all looked to be going so well. Here’s David Cameron in Peterborough just last week.
DAVID CAMERON: The people in Peterborough who worked so hard , who’ve done so well representing the people of this great city, that are seeing jobs being created, seeing businesses come to Peterborough, seeing great regeneration happening in Peterborough, homes being built in Peterborough, you won because you worked hard and you deserve to win. So have a celebration today, have a celebration over the weekend, and the work starts on Monday. I’ve got a small majority. John’s got a small majority. But I’m sure with the commitment and with the dedication you’ve all shown, you’re going to do great things for this great city. Thank you very much indeed.
SARA VAREY: Well the empties have barely been taken to the bottle bank and there’s trouble brewing. Tory councillor Gul Nawaz announced this morning he was thinking fo leaving the Tories.
PETER SWAN: OK. So just a few days. What’s he been thinking about?
SARA VAREY: Well summit meetings have been in progress all day. Peterborough’s MP Stewart Jackson said that he’d been in talks with Gul along with the Council Leader John Holdich.
PETER SWAN: So how then would this defection upset the balance? Clearly it’s very important.
SARA VAREY: It could be. The Tories has a majority of just one seat. They had 31 in a chamber of 60. That changed from 57, because this year they introduced new boundaries, and 3 extra councillors were elected, which makes a total of 60. Right? Are you following this?
SARA VAREY: So if it was tied, it would be 30 all. 30 all. OK?
SARA VAREY: With Labour .. because the Labour councillors hold 14 seats, so there’s no other big majority or bigger majority.
PETER SWAN: OK. So what is the mechanism therefore if it does end up tied?
SARA VAREY: The Mayor has the casting vote. And the way the Mayor is chosen has also changed.
PETER SWAN: OK. Right. So tell us more about that.
SARA VAREY: Under the new system, the longest-serving councillor gets the job, and the man who holds that title is David Sanders, who’s a Tory, which means there could still be a happy if somewhat precarious outcome.
PETER SWAN: Ok so that’s the mechanism of it all. Are we at an end now?
SARA VAREY: Well almost. Half an hour ago we heard that Gul had now decided to stay. He didn’t want to come on, but John Holdich has agreed to come on and he can fill us in.
PETER SWAN: Well I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll head over and get the latest from the roads, and then we’ll speak to John and see if we can unpick all of this. Because certainly a lot to take on board.


PETER SWAN: It’s been a very busy day in terms of Peterborough politics. The balance of power potentially looking like it may change, but now it looks as though it’s all going to stay the same. Let’s get a word then with the current Tory Leader of Peterborough City Council, John Holdich, who joins us now. Evening to you John.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good evening.
PETER SWAN: So you’ve had a busy few hours.

JOHN HOLDICH: I’d like to know where all this drink and champagne was, because I missed out.
PETER SWAN: Did it not get passed on?
JOHN HOLDICH: No. That’s unfair, isn’t it?
PETER SWAN: Oh dear. We’ll have a word with David Cameron.
JOHN HOLDICH: I thought Tories were the sharing party. There you go. After an election like we’ve had, we’re all a bit tired and irritable I have to say. I wasn’t going to let Gul go anywhere. He’s the best ward councillor I’ve ever worked with. He knows every crack in the pavement and every streetlight that’s out and gets reported. And he wasn’t going to go anywhere. I think he was tired. He’s a bit upset because he didn’t understand I think probably the way the Mayor is picked these days, because .. It’s been like it for three years. It’s the person most senior that hasn’t been the Mayor. And Gul is three on the list. But before the election the ones that were above him didn’t express an interest to do it. But after the election they have, which means that he has to take his place. Now he understands that now, and we’ve had a good conversation this afternoon, and you know as I say he’s a great guy and one of the best ward councillors I’ve worked with in my time of thirty eight years.
PETER SWAN: Yes, so the root of Gul’s frustration as it were was this situation regarding the Mayor, because there’ll be lots of people listening to this thinking hang on a minute, how can you be a Tory councillor one week and then after the election seven days later you’re saying you want to go Independent. It’s clearly quite a strange state of affairs.
JOHN HOLDICH: He never actually resigned. Let’s make that absolutely clear. He emailed me and said he wanted to come and talk to me about resigning, and that’s something completely different. And as soon as we sat down and had a chat and we knew which direction we were going in and he understood about where we were and he’s quite happy.
PETER SWAN: And I think I’m probably right in saying that these kind of issues pop up in local politics all the time. This one’s a little bit different, because it’s come out into the public. And I suppose a bigger story as well because of David Cameron coming over and it being such a big deal that the Conservatives have been so successful in Peterborough.
JOHN HOLDICH: Absolutely. And he’s been part of that success and he’s got himself elected and another candidate, a Conservative candidate alongside him as well. And we’re a team here. We’re not divided, and we need to keep good people together. And we owe it to the electorate, and he owes it to the electorate to do that as well, and he knows that.
PETER SWAN: So moving forward then, you’re all settled and you can focus on what you want to do. And this process regarding the Mayor as well, is that all resolved?
JOHN HOLDICH: Yes I think that’s all resolved. I have to say I felt like a football manager, telling his players at the end of the season you’re not wanted. (HE LAUGHS) Because you know I’ve got to put a cabinet. I’ve got to get the committee places together and all the rest of it. Not everybody gets what they want. But there you go. That’s the job. I took it and I shall have to do it, won’t I?
PETER SWAN: Yes. They say that’s one of the toughest parts of being a football manager, and I’m sure it’s very similar for yourself as well. John, thanks a lot for joining us on the show.
JOHN HOLDICH: Pleasure as always.
PETER SWAN: That’s John Holdich, the Leader of Peterborough City Council, after what’s been a very busy day.