Plain Jane 160514So another shake-up for our beleaguered local government. In-fighting and power struggles down at Cecil Street are nothing new, of course, but I am genuinely sorry – and not a little shocked – to see Clive Hart resign as leader of Thanet District Council.

I do not know enough about the shenanigans that led to his making this decision – his Facebook statement sounds like that of a man who has just felt the final straw land on his already straining back – but I am sure of this: hopeless and incompetent as our council as a whole can appear at times, you can divide the parts of its sum into two distinct camps that have nothing to do with manifestos.

There are those who, despite being the sort to actively seek a position of local power and responsibility in the first place (personally I would rather chew my own leg off), are in it for the “right reasons” ie. they actually do want to help make Thanet a better place in which to live and work, and have a sincere interest in dealing with its pockets of deprivation and boosting its fortunes on a wider scale.

Then there are the others, who enjoy the column inches and the lunches, are thrilled by the sound of their own voice (perhaps I have missed my vocation after all) and see every debacle as an opportunity for another promotional sound-bite and a chance to get on YouTube.

Let’s face it, TDC does not need much to give it a bad name – with its fine history of corruption, pretence, prison sentences, ludicrous charades (I am old enough to remember the Councillor’s-mate-dressed-as-Sheik Gate, as well as all the forged money and rumours of back-handers) – but the latest crop of self-seeking party-hoppers, who will jump on whatever bandwagon happens to be rumbling by, if it gets them an interview, sure as hell aren’t helping much to polish up the image.

This is not a party-political rant either – there are a selection from both groups across the board – but more an expression of sadness that the former are driven to despair and resignation by the latter and that it is always the few rotten apples that we recall. I understand that by the time you are reading this, Councillor Iris Johnston will be heading up the Labour lot and I wish her well. I do not know Iris in any depth but I have seen her in action at GGGs (Gatherings-of-Great-and-Good) around the isle and, as I once commented at the time, I like a woman who bears down on the drinks tray with the same alacrity as I do. I would also like to see a woman have a go!

My colleague Mike will be delighted because he has been so rude about the feisty Ms Johnston over the years, that he clearly harbours a secret and unrequited passion; and we should all be relieved for now, as I fondly imagine Iris to be the right-reasons kind and they are the only ones who, long-term, will get us through. Let’s hope she has the stamina and steel to deal with the rest of ’em!


“WELL, I wish you luck with that,” said a PR who I would not normally associate with being easily fazed. “I’d be terrified,” added her colleague. They were talking about my forthcoming appearance at the new and excellent Whitstable Literary Festival with the legendary Lynn “Demon” Barber who has interviewed anyone who is anyone, asks killer questions, and had the guts to quiz Jimmy Savile when nobody else dared. By the time I got on stage, and the fifth person had asked if I was scared, I could feel myself clutching her memoir “A Curious Career” (and it’s certainly had its moments) ever tighter to my thumping chest. She was fabulous. I loved it. Bring on Paxman or John Humphreys. Or, who knows, maybe even Iris…


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