Which has the shortest lifespan; the average Chelsea manager, or the common shrew?
Chelsea managers win that one, even if they win nothing else. But it’s a toss of a coin as to whether their lives are shorter than the average Leader of Spelthorne Borough Council. The last half a dozen Spelthorne Leaders have held office, on average, marginally over 14 months.
The last one survived only a matter of weeks. On Tuesday this week, the Council convened an Extraordinary Meeting to formally remove Cllr Edgington from office, after he had lost an election as leader of the Conservative Group a week or so previously. Cllr Edgington had been elected leader of both the Conservative Group and the Council after the death of Cllr Watts in October 2015.
There were allegations, and an allegation about an allegation. The police had been involved in a previous fracas, and they are now considering, it seems, that alleged allegation. But it is still not entirely clear what Cllr Edgington had done to attract this ire.
As it happened, the vote to oust him never took place, as he resigned less than a minute before the vote was due, tossing down his badge of office as he did so, and flouncing out of the Council Chamber. Two other councillors left in sympathy, one of them Cllr Edgington’s fiancée. Cllr Harvey was then elected Leader in Cllr Edgington’s place.
There was a complaint about how strenuously the Conservative councillors had been whipped – one of those who left apparently resigned the whip as he did so in protest. But before you get excited, this was no bedroom farce. All a very suburban Am-Dram production, unlikely to trouble any West End impresarios. And the whole thing was finished off by an (awful) rendition of the National Anthem.
Bad theatre apart, there is an important point at issue here. Councillors have two responsibilities: firstly to represent the residents of their wards, and secondly to control the business of the Council. Every time they self-indulge in this by now traditional game of Stab Thy Neighbour, they neglect those responsibilities. The last time this happened, during the protracted Leadership upheaval from Cllr Packman via Cllr Leighton to Cllr Watts, so we discovered, the Council took it upon itself to start negotiations with the Jockey Club about building 2000 dwellings on Green Belt at Kempton Park.