It’s been another one of those weeks in British politics. Eventful, even by current standards. If there was an I-Spy book of political observations, this would have been a bumper week. An election, a milkshake attack on a right-wing candidate, and a couple of resignations (including the PM). I’ve observed Tory leadership candidates circling awkwardly around the carnage like an underage teenager in an off licence. They want to take the plunge, and the rewards may be spectacular; but the possibility of public humiliation weighs heavily. Be it through immediate rejection in front of their peers, or success followed by a spectacular hangover – there can be no winners; just many, many losers.
This has been the first ministerial resignation since I took office and it was the big one, the Head Honcho. As our outgoing PM sobbed tragically over the lectern outside Number 10 it got me thinking, rather prematurely, about how my end would come. They say all political careers end in failure, so maybe I should prepare myself.
A quick bit of research reveals that my options are fairly straightforward. Left unattended, I will be required to face re-election in 4-years time. The uncontested nature of my appointment seems to suggest that this would provide a relatively binary choice: i) stand and be ushered in along with my colleagues, ii) don’t stand, and be replaced by a new-comer. I’ll pencil in a preliminary ‘sounding out’ at a Christmas drinks evening a few years hence; this is clearly where naive new candidates are initially groomed. Of course, in the unlikely event that the nominations exceed the number of seats, an actual election may be required; but there is plenty of time and blogging to be done before we need to think about that.
Far more intriguing are the options for leaving office whilst sitting. These fall into two broad categories: voluntary and forced.
Voluntary exit seems as straight forward as a letter of resignation to the Chairman, and it all seems pretty much instant. I can’t see myself ever initiating this scenario, other than as a pre-emptive measure to negate a forced departure, but it is good to know the safety valve of a swift exit is always there. I may fashion myself a lectern just in case, and draw up blueprints for a very local press conference. I’ll get the wife to arrange for some local hacks to cover the story and create some social media coverage. I’ve always enjoyed the blunt questions shouted from off-camera at such events, punctuated by the flash of cameras. “Are you going to return the money Councillor?”. “Do you have anything to say to the child that fell off the roundabout?”. “Were the safety assessments up to date Councillor?”.
Forced exit, as you would expect, is rather procedural and throws up some amusing scenarios. For example, I am fascinated by the grounds for expulsion due to non-attendance. Under the Local Government Act 1972, I can be relieved of my office if I do not attend any Parish meetings over a 6-month period. Six months! It undermines the gravity of my position somewhat that it is deemed, in the eyes of the law at least, that I can adequately meet the objectives of my role through two 1-hour gatherings per year. I probably spend longer topping up my windscreen washer fluid and checking the tyres on my car each year.
The only other significant grounds for forced dismissal is a substantiated complaint from a Parishioner. This would need to be formally raised to the District Council and then formally, and independently, investigated. I could imagine my Brother creating some mischief on this front, but fortunately he is not domiciled in my Parish, or even the UK. The wife could legitimately initiate such proceedings, but she currently seems very supportive of my endeavours. So save for a tremendous failure on my part that would inspire a largely unengaged electorate to complain, I should be fairly immune to this means of departure.
But that’s enough talk of the ‘end game’. We need not fetishise about the resignations and power games that characterise our Parliamentary politics at present. We choose not to indulge in the poisonous rhetoric that surrounds Brexit. We, at the bottom rung of British politics, are better than that. We are a collaborative, focussed, pro-active team. We have work to do, and we are ready to do it. Life is what happens to us whilst we’re making other plans, so let’s focus on the here and now. I’m very happy for my departure to come as a massive surprise.