Have whip, but don’t ever use it


I would like to respond to a letter from Councillor Roger Giles published in the Sidmouth Herald (“Electing to stand”, Opinion, November 22).

He bemoans the fact that a number of seats on East Devon District Council were uncontested at the last election in 2011 and that people were unable to express a view on who they wished to represent them – and correctly states that the Conservative group is by some distance the largest represented on EDDC.

Roger misses the point entirely in that Conservative candidates elected unopposed in 2011 put their hands up and took part in the democratic process when others with political affiliations or Independent did not.

They would have been perfectly happy to campaign on Conservative Party views they hold in common with fellow councillors, as they will again in 2015.

A democratic deficit in East Devon is hardly due to a lack of commitment by Conservative councillors and candidates who stood in all wards contesting the 59 seats on EDDC and winning a convincing majority.

There is a view that electors in the wards where candidates were returned unopposed were satisfied with their representation, although personally I agree with Roger that I hope that there will be contested elections in all wards in 2015 to redress the perceived issue of lack of representation and that the Conservative party will win a similar or hopefully larger majority to represent the best interests of all people in East Devon.

Those councillors elected in 2011 continue to represent the best interests of all electors (as indeed is the case with the majority of my respected Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues) who did vote for them in wards where there were elections held or indeed where people didn’t vote for them in wards where elections were held.

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Turning to Roger’s final paragraph, at the risk of repeating myself, Conservative councillors are free to express their own views and frequently do, often disagreeing vocally within both our group on EDDC and publicly with what is proposed (I note an example of this illustrated by another correspondent in the same edition of the Herald in support of Cllrs Hughes and Troman), and voting according to their views.

Flying under an Independent “flag” at EDDC (or anywhere else, come to that) is no guarantee that the best interests of all electors will be represented. Invariably a single issue with ancillary directly related ones is the overriding reason for Independents standing, holding back progress and directly disadvantaging their communities by paying little attention to other matters as a result.

I can confirm that at EDDC I have never used the whip (members being told how they must vote and this whip being declared to EDDC prior to the vote) despite the sniping insinuation from Roger that it may have been used and I challenge him to “walk the walk” rather than “talk the talk”.

I will pay £100 to a local charity of his choice if he can find a single Conservative Party member at EDDC who will state that they have ever been subject to a party whip during my time in that role – and equally if cannot then he must pay £100 to a local charity of my choosing.

All 41 Conservative members on EDDC are contactable directly by email, telephone or face to face rather than the more convoluted method of newspaper correspondence, but that will be entirely up to him to choose.

I look forward to him taking up the challenge so that he can do something rare – ie both tangible and beneficial for his local community

No doubt this newspaper will follow this challenge up!!

Councillor Phil Twiss

Honiton St Michael’s ward (Conservative whip, EDDC)