Saturday, January 27, 2007



A few things to say before I criticise Cllr John Mortimer :

1. If I point a finger, three are pointing back at me.

2. I don't personally dislike Cllr Mortimer - or his Labour politics.

3. I am a hypocrite.

Cllr John Mortimer has opened himself up for criticism - and the accusation of hypocrisy - by appearing to have 'changed his tune' over the Council Housing issue.

This may well be very unfortunate for him - and any other Labour councillor in the same situation - four months before the County Council Election (and possible General Election).

Other political hypocrites, including my Independent self, will pounce on this hypocrisy for electoral advantage. Well, that's politics isn't it !?

My attention was particularly drawn to Walter Shuttleworth's letter in the Crawley News this week ("Councillor has changed his tune", January 26).

It appears that Cllr Mortimer "vehemently supported" the selling-off (transfer) of Crawley council houses to a private housing association, when the Council was Labour-controlled....but then when the Council unexpectedly became Tory-controlled, he appears to have changed his tune, by saying the sell-off (transfer) was a "total mess".

Let's just hope, for Cllr Mortimer's sake, that he did not personally take advantage of the 'right to buy' for his own home...

My experience with politicians, Richard, is that one of their traits is hypocrisy, save for some honourable exceptions who don't last long in the political field.
I am sure John or someone else will have written to the papers to correct the Shuttleworth bloke's letter.

When the Labour council first proposed going to ballot for transfer there were half a dozen Labour councillors who voted against or abstained and John was one of them.

In fact I think it was him who proposed an amendment to just scrap all plans for transfer, so you could say that he in fact "vehemently opposed" the transfer and Walter S is about as wrong as you can be.

I believe he did purchase his own council house, but thats another matter.
Aren't you missing the point here, Skuds ?

Shuttleworth's letter states :

"...the original Labour-controlled council's decision" was "to hive off these valuable assets to a housing association".

Isn't that correct ? 'NuLabor' policy re-inforced Thatcher's 'right to buy' policy in 1997. They did not change it at all.

That's how I read it anyway - I'm sure you (or your cerebral Danivon) will correct me if I'm wrong.

Local Labour politicians - including John Mortimer - did not object to national policy on council house 'sell-offs' (just like no-one in the local Labour party openly objected to 'Bliar's War'), so Shuttleworth has a point - doesn't he ?

As to Cllr Mortimer's possible purchase of his council house (at a knock-down price) being "another matter"....

You wish.
For John Mortimer's sake, it would be better that the issue was thrashed out now - rather than during the 'silly season' of elections.

The Con Party, especially at County level, will 'make mincemeat out of him' nearer the time of May elections. And you know it. So best sort it now - and hope it won't return to haunt him later.

Of course, we all know the Cons are beyond hypocrisy...but we know that fact will be lost during 'election fever'.

The Cons (and the BNP) are going to play very dirty indeed, I predict. The 'gypsy card' is unlikely to work for them this time - and they know it.
I find this extremely saddening, because John M has been pivotal in opposing the attacks by WSCC/HDC/Developers/English Partnerships (& 'Partners')in the Parish of Ifield (eg Ifield Golf Club and Ifield Brook Meadows/Village Conservation Area).

Let's just hope that he keeps as vocal in his opposition as he always has been...and doesn't keep his mouth shut at the critical moments...
Well, the council's decision was to go to a ballot, reluctantly. John has never been shy about voicing his dissent to that and to the government policies which appeared to make it necesary.

I say "appeared to" because some of the figures that decision was based on now look like they were wrong.

The entire Crawley Labour party were opposed to the government policy and voted at conference for the so-called fourth option.

"Let's just hope that he keeps as vocal in his opposition as he always has been...and doesn't keep his mouth shut at the critical moments..."

I don't think there is much danger of him keepnig his mouth shut :)
You avoided my point, Mr Skudder - as you well now.

Spoken like a true (former and future) politian ;)
Well, it's one thing to be a complete cynic, but you undermine it by swallowing whole what you read in the papers, Richard.

I'm trying to work out whether Cllr Mortimer has recourse to anything more than just a letter - such as a libel case - given that Shuttleworth's letter was

a) untrue
b) intended to defame (as a hypocrit)

I fully expect a robust response from John as soon as he can, as he's not the sort of person to take accusations lying down.

I had expected you, Richard, to have known better, given that Mortimer was mentioned in press reports very recently.

Right to Buy is a different matter, and I don't know whether John did or not, and whether it would have been from the Council or from the New Towns Commission.

As it is, Richard, the Labour Government has changed the Right-to-Buy rules, contrary to your statement. The maximum discount was introduced, meaning that the most a buyer could get off the price is £38,000.

So, Richard, when you correct your false assertions, you can cast stones at Skud...
Oh, and the Labour Group did not 'vehemently support' transfer. They proposed it as an option, but stated that the Council position would be neutral and that a 'No' vote would not cause major cuts, just some difficulties.

The Tories not only changed that to a 'vehemently' pro-transfer stance, but (in case you forgot), redid the figures using a more generous assessment of costs to produce a 'black hole' that Cllr Burgess apparently can't answer direct questions on.

For the record, John Mortimer always opposed transfer, and even the process. He was always supportive of the 4th Option (as is the whole Crawley Labour Party, including Laura Moffatt MP, and the national party through Conference).
Stop sounding like a bully, Danivon.

Why do you also choose to miss the critical point ?

Answer me this :

In 1997, when the Labour Party took office, did the Blairite government fundamentally change the council housing policy (including 'Right to Buy') of the previous Con party ?


If you answer me "Yes", and prove it, I will be the first to hold up my hands and apologise.

But you know, and I know, that the answer is "NO". The Labour Party fundamentally repealed nothing - in fact it actively sought to accelerate the council house 'sell off' and privatisation agenda - and you lot in the local Labour Party could do nothing about it (and did essentially 'sweet fa' about it - like other things)

You can bleat all you like, but that's the hard reality - so hard that you don't seem to be able to face up to it.

That's what Shuttleworth meant when he said in his letter : "the orinally Labour-controlled council's decision" was "to hive off these valuable assets to a housing association".

It's called 'selling the family silver', and the Labour Government (with little or no resistance from its Labour-controlled councils - including Crawley) has been doing that for playing fields, hot meals, social services, or whatever).

So don't start getting a fit of political self-righteousness, Danivon, it doesn't become you.

I don't know all the facts about this - and don't claim to have them - but I know enough to know that you cannot claim the high moral ground on this one.

If you want to fight me on this one, go ahead - but both of us will come out with 'bloody noses'.

I admire greatly what the local Labour party has done relating to council housing - including yourself and John Mortimer.

You have sent a clear message to your Blairite government - and you are likely to be punished in some way for your disobedience.

I personally wish you, the local Labour Party, had also sent a clear message about school playing fields, hot meals - and of course the Iraq War.
1. As I read it, the original letter was a personal attack on John mortimer and his record voting/speaking on the housing issue.

2. As such it was 100% wrong

3. The Labour group proposed a ballot , partly out of a sort of obligation to do so, and partly based on (now disputed) financial projections. BUT it did not promote or push transfer. The original decision was not to "hive off" the houses but to hold a ballot - placing the decision in the hands of those most affected without any sort of coercion.

4. Whether or not anyone bought a council house is not relevent. I have never bought one myself, but I can remember in the 80s when right-to-buy was pushed so strongly, and with such huge incentives, that many people found it so much cheaper to buy they really had no choice.

5. Some of us always wanted right-to-buy removed entirely, but the cap on the discounts is at least a start and not to be under-estimated.

6. We are not 4 months away from a county election. We are 28 months away from a county election. We are at least 6 months away from a general election, probably 15 months away at the earliest - but thats just a guess.

7. Not quite sure what point I am supposed to be avoiding?

8. I do hope the News kept the original letter from WS, including the sender's address just in case John wants to take any legal advice.
9. As far as I can find out, using only publicly available information on the internet, the only Walter Shuttleworth in Crawley lives in Furnace Green.

Might not be the same one, but it can't be that common a name.
Crawley council housing should not be seen in isolation to Brighton council housing - and Brighton is Labour-controlled.

They have gone to ballot - and the Argus letters page is worth a look today (30 Jan).

This is a serious matter...

I am seriously thinking of finding out - under the Freedom of Information - how Labour councillors voted (especially John Mortimer) in any meeting relating to council housing in Crawley - since 1997.

That would prove, once and for all, what the local Labour Party really thinks about council housing and privatisation.
No need to resort to FOI legislation. Just ask to read the minutes of meetings - many of which are available on the CBC website.

However... individual votes are not recorded by default, only the totals for and against unless somebody specifically calls for a recorded vote - which often happens.
Thanks for that, Skuds - saves time.

I will be expecting a recorded vote "against" by particular councillors when it comes to council house/privatisation issues.
My recollection is that John Mortimer would be the most likely to call for a recorded vote on housing.

Richard - what are we supposed to do? We can't tell Brighton what to do, we can only influence Crawley councillors. We have set our position, and the party agrees.

You may think I'm being a bully, but by whipping up John Mortimer's alleged hypocricy, and then when people point out that you are wrong, accusing them of 'avoiding the question', you are not looking any different to any other politician - or indeed person.

Did Labour change the right to buy? Yes - they reduced the discount, making it harder to exercise. In some high pressure areas, they reduced it further.

I'm not sure that I have a problem with the right to buy, or with a reasonable discount. What the problem was was what happened to the capital receipts from RTB. Labour has a policy of redistributing such income from rich authorities (like Crawley) to poor ones, in order to help them deal with their housing problems.

That is also a fundamental difference - you might even call it a socialist policy.
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