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Editor calls for a change of direction as county councillors choose new leader

Nigel Pickover, editor of the Ipswich Evening Star, yesteday called in a front page story to the county council’s new strategic direction to be ditched.

He writes:

Just a week from today Suffolk’s 54 Conservative county councillors will have elected a new leader – and our ‘ditch it’ clarion call is to whoever takes the helm at Endeavour House as leader.

The election is taking place because Jeremy Pembroke, one of the “key architects” of the New Strategic Direction according to Pickover, has resigned the leadership of the ruling Conservative group. That job means whoever is elected is also the county’s “prime minister”.

For the ordinary elector the problem is that we know little about the views of any of the candidates. Who would keep the NSD, who would modify it and would any of them ditch it?

We know that the candidates are Colin Noble, Guy McGregor and Mark Bee. It is suggested that Noble is the carry on as we are candidate, Bee the representative of change and McGregor the compromise.

But we know very little about how each of them would handle the job.

Suffolk Conservative county councillors use a method of selecting their leaders called the exhaustive ballot. This means several rounds of voting until a clear winner emerges (it is similar to AV),

Compare this to the process used by their Westminster colleagues. David Cameron was one of two people chosen by MPs to go to a vote of Conservative party members.

All this took place under intense scrutiny from MPs, party members and the media. The views of the candidates was clearly known and they were weighed against many factors including their appeal to voters.

No doubt Conservative county councillors are busy taking soundings from their constituents and Conservatives on district councils. But more light on the process would give whoever is the new leader greeter credibility.

One of the biggest problems facing the current county government is that there is a widespread belief that too many decisions are taken in what were once called smoke-filled rooms.

The home page of the Suffolk County Council Conservative Group might have shed light but all it says is: “Site under construction.”

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