Every now and then a letter writer in the Hartlepool Mail will make a plea that all the Councillors put politics to one side and all get behind the Mayor for the good of the town. The latest person to make this naive request being the Mayor's Father. It might surprise some people to learn that I don't sit at home trying to think of ways to put Hartlepool down and so I would be delighted to get behind the Mayor but of course it's not a one way street. I cannot recall any occasion where the Mayor has shown the slightest interest in working with me on anything. He is the Mayor, he has the power to choose who he does or doesn't work with and he has on many occasions been very sarcastic about me and my habit of asking questions. After one Council meting where the Mayor was not only sarcastic but made an attempt to have me removed from the chamber on some pretext I asked him why he felt it necessary to be so unpleasant and rude to me. His response was something like "Well, YOU started it!". If that is how he feels I am sorry, I try never to be personal but some people seem to take it all personally which is a shame.
I was first elected as a local Councillor in 2002, in the same local elections as the Mayor first won office. I can honestly say I was proud, excited and keen to do my bit for Hartlepool and the people who voted for me. (I was also very surprised to have won but that's another story). I naively assumed someone would interview me, explore my background, qualifications and experience and suggest where I could be of most use to the Council and the people of the town.
I remember reading an interview with the Mayor in the Hartlepool Mail not long after his election. He was asked about his cabinet and he told the Mail he intended to speak with EVERY COUNCILLOR before making up his mind on Cabinet posts and Portfolios. Well, 5 years on, I am still waiting for the Mayor to speak to me!
As I soon learned the only thing that decide what committees you sit on and influence what contribution you can make is POLITICS. This is why Hartlepool is run by the Officers. Not because Council Officers are power hungry demons intent upon running every aspect of people's lives. Hartlepool is run by the Officers because the Councillors (including the Mayor) are all too busy playing politics to do anything else. The Mayor repeatedly says he wants to stay out of Party Politics (look at the make up of his cabinet to see how successful he has been there) however the Mayor is actually a very good politician who knows all he has to do is keep the football supporters happy and Hartlepool Council Officers sweet and he has a job for life. The Mayor doesn't need to bother about anyone else because there is his core vote and provide he keeps them he is in clover.
Getting back to politics. The best way for me to ensure something is passed, or something is supported is for me to oppose it. You can guarantee anything I'm against the Labour, Lib-Dem and usually the Tories and many of the Independents, will be all in favour of. Anything I support is immediately voted down. Hartlepool Council Chamber isn't a group of people all trying to do their best for the town, its several groups of people all trying to do their best for their party or themselves. There are some exceptions obviously but not that many. I can't say I know very many people all that well in the Council, I think its inappropriate to foster personal friendships with Officers and most of the other Councillors would be too suspicious of my motives to take a hand of friendship if it was offered. I think the best way to sum it up is a quote I heard on TV once-
"This is politics, there are no friends here, just enemies and temporary allies of convenience"
All in all that sounds pretty accurate to me.