Leigh Times
June 6, 2006

'Why we do not need people like Anna Waite to run the council'

From: Daphne Jopson, Beach Avenue, Leigh.

Sir, Howard Briggs' arrogant letter (23.5.06) could not express more clearly why we do not need people like Anna Waite to run the council.

Their assumption that they know best is how the Communist countries were governed; the cabinet system of the council reinforces this and is undemocratic.

Why are they so afraid to hold a referendum on a regional super casino?

In a democratic country this surely would be the fairest way of reaching a decision before yet more money is spent.

It could have been held at the local elections and perhaps resulted in a higher turnout.

As for the road widening scheme at Priory Crescent, if approved, it will be the most expensive road widening scheme per metre in the country, but then this is not their money, it is the taxpayers' and council taxpayers' money which they seem to think is never-ending.

Similarly a referendum should have been held for this scheme.

I note that an application has been submitted for another casino, at the Greyhound Retail Park, right near a council housing area.

Will this, if approved, help the poverty and deprivation in the town or create even more personal tragedies?

It is sad that Howard Briggs feels that councillors, other than Anna Waite, are so inept. Nobody is indispensable and hopefully all councillors will work together for their electors and prove him wrong.


From: S. Askham, Elmsleigh Drive, Leigh

Sir, Howard Briggs, in his letter of commiseration to Anna Waite following the loss of her council position, (Leigh Times May 23) appears to be using the letter to make a rather bitter attack on his fellow citizens who do not fully support all aspects of the various development proposals for our town.

He accuses them of being a minority shouting with the loudest voice, economically illiterate, ignorant, ill informed and in a total intellectual vacuum.

Hisi final comment that we are heading for an "abbys of poverty and deprivation which would be irreversible in our lifetime" if those differing views were given consideration is over-excited and is not worthy of him.

I wonder whether he might benefit from a rub down with a cool sponge to temper those comments which, in my opinion, demonstrate a rather discreditable intellectual arrogance.

He may be correct that only a minority of the population are against developments - such as the supercasino - but how does he know that?

The only indication of local opinion I have seen was the supporting one undertaken by Mrs Waite's focus group of less than 20 people against a separate survey of some 900 people by another local newspaper which was overwhelming[ly] opposed to the project.

Mrs Waite was removed from office by a democratic vote and, like many before her, may come to learn some humility from the fact that politicians are there to listen to all views - including "minorities who shout loudest" - and to explain in an atmosphere of "freedom of information" precisely where any wwhy they be so misguided as to dare to vote against them - and not treat dissenting voices as some type of inferior enemy within.



From: Keith Warren, Waterside Road, Paglesham East End, Rochford.

Sir, Howard Briggs' recent resentful and spleenish piece about Anna Waite's failure to win the Prittlewell Ward brought tears to my eyes. I cried myself to sleep.

The Tories do not have a God-given right to be the party in power. To imply, as Howard Briggs does, that only his party can lead the town to prosperity and full employment whilst the other parties must perforce create an "abyss of poverty and deprivation" is palpable nonsense.

To allude to the electorate's ignorance of "strategic issues" and to suggest that future Tory administrations ought not to "listen to those minorities" is presumptuous political arrogance of a kind that might well have caused the Conservative defeat in the first place. Perhaps the voters are not quite so stupid as he suggests?

If the election took place in an "intellectual vacuum" one presumes that all parties would have been equally culpable.

Politics at local or national level no longer engages with people 'intellectually', that is, through the presentation and discussion of ideas.

One might not have agreed with Edward Heath or Michael Foot years ago but at least their parties were distinguished by ideology. There is precious little ideology in politics today.

The two main parties' approaches to the education and health services make the point.

Both parties have fudged the ideological boundaries in an attempt to win votes, leaving the electorate with a confusion about 'principles' and a tedious mantra about 'choice', 'accountability', 'cost-cuttingn and the eradication of waste' and the 'efficient delivery of a patient-focussed service', whatever the latter politico-verbiage is supposed to mean.

If any proof of the paucity of intellectual debate is needed, we might look no further than the Tories' current antics at the national level in the shameless 'branding' of David Cameron - like Tony Blair before him - as the handsome young man of the future.

Rarely do ideas or clearly delineated and substantiated policies come into it. It's all about sound-bites, gloss and packaging.

And when ideas are brought to the fore, the politician ducks and dives and is slippery and evasive for fear of alienating some of the electorate and losing votes. Political principle? Eat your heart out.

If we hope to be engaged in political debate or inspired by our local or national leaders we are almost bound to be disappointed.

What we get at all levels and from all parties is bickering, point-scoring, dissimulation, U-turns, sleaze, corruption or risible foot-stamping of the kind seen in Howard Briggs' letter.

In a democracy - flawed and inadequate though it may be - the people make a choice. That few bother to vote may, as I have already implied, have to do with a general contempt for what now passes as 'politics' and has become time-serving, squabbling and posturing for the media.

Politicians have only themselves to blame for that. And if people do bother to vote, they may do so in between compulsive texting or discussing mindless prime-time programmes such as 'Big Brother', in which case they will select a candidate in much the same way that they grab a bottle of wine from a supermarket shelf: on the basis of the attractiveness of the outer label rather than through any knowledge of its contents. And why, pray, has this sad state of affairs come about?

If Howard Briggs and other politicians at local and national level want an intelligent political debate it is up to them to formulate sound policies based on a clear ideology rather than political expediency; it is up to them to promulgate those views in an intelligent, adult and articulate manner and it is up to them to create an environment and culture where true political debate is the norm.

Until that happens, voters will react capriciously, instinctively or with the same Letter-Britechnique they use for the text message: 'delete'.

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