Day 141 – Tony to run for Mayor

Tony Hare announced yesterday in the Times & Citizen that he would be running for Mayor as an Independent candidate. His comments on the schools debate included:

“To change to a two-tier structure will cost a considerable amount of money, and the construction, upheaval to children at a vulnerable time, and the additional travelling for children in rural areas will all be for what?”

“To change the existing system while using the same teachers, teaching the same children and using the same curriculum, for the same duration, with no guarantees of any better results.”

Quite. Well said.

There are now 5 candidates declared openly and of those positive sounds in public for a sensible decision on schools have been made by Parvez Akhtar (Conservative) and Tony Hare (Independent). James Valentine (Labour) has not had much press at all yet so we don’t know his views. Dave Hodgson (LibDem) and Apu Bagchi (Independent) had personal profile pieces yesterday in the T&C which (to be fair) were not policy platforms, but neither has made a public commitment yet either.

Of these, Dave Hodgson has solidly refused to make his position clear. Yesterday on this blog Michael Headley confirmed that the LibDems (the largest group) will have a free vote on the issue, which of course isn’t the same thing at all – potential Mayors need to show leadership, and it beggars belief that a man who attended a briefing for his party from both sides back in April or May, has spoken to SMS as part of our councillors’ meetings during the summer, and who is a governor of John Bunyan, does not know which side of the fence he sits on yet.

This is not about what the Consultation Report will say either (as Nicky Attenborough tried to get away with on Monday evening), because the Consultation Document made it very clear which way the “Sir Humphreys” of Bedford Borough were going with this.

It is about leadership. Or rather, a distinct lack of it from a man who may well be elected Mayor on October 15th.


20 Responses to Day 141 – Tony to run for Mayor

  1. DB says:

    Will SMS be putting their backing behind a single candidate?

  2. savemiddleschools says:

    SMS have not promised support to any single candidate above any other. We are happy to talk to anybody of any political hue to explain our reasoning and to try to persuade them to support three-tier openly.

    Our preferred option is for all candidates to support three tier, and, once this has been confirmed when they are in office, we can all go back to our normal lives.

  3. Fred Bagnall says:

    I disagree with the assertion that the candidates for major should have a definite opinion on 2/3-tier.

    I would expect the “Consultation Report” to present a much more detailed argument for the move to 2-tier than the consultation document. It should also focus on the reservations (to put it mildly) that have been expressed with regard to the proposed change and how the foreseen problems could be overcome. That will leave some remaining ‘costs’ to be set against the anticipated ‘benefits’.

    There are also financial concerns to be resolved but, at this stage, in my view, it would incorrect for the would-be mayors to adopt a position that could not be influenced by well-reasoned and documented arguments if such comes forward. I, for one, do not want a dogmatic major who cannot work in cooperation with different views because that will lead to our ‘Rainbow’ council disintegrating back to political party stalemate. Whoever wins will have to work cooperatively to get anything through the 3 party plus independents council.

    I expect candidates to listen to both sides of an argument. The council does not employ professional officers to completely ignore them. They do not have to be obeyed but you must at least listen with a partly open mind.

    I’d welcome a commitment to work hard to improve the quality of education offered in the Borough ahead of worrying about potholes and bus shelters but I do not want to turn the election in to a referendum on 2/3-tier.

    • Baldrick says:

      So if we take the same argument you will not be voting Conservative or Lib Dem at the next General Election because they have both said they will cut public spending without discussing it with the senior civil servants or actually seeing the books to allow them to make such a definitive statement. We all know the country is in a financial mess – we don’t have to wait for a change in government hue to know that. In much the same way we know that there is no conclusive evidence to support a move to two tier – if there was it would have been used as the borough’s trump card during the consultation to convince a very sceptical public.

      The councillors standing both as independents AND within parties have had more than enough time to look at the arguments, will have had opportunity to speak to borough officers AND hear both sides. As I said before, if there were any other arguments for going to 2 tier then the borough and other authorities before them would have used them already. To not have an opinion about the biggest current issue in local politics with all the information already available in frankly ludicrous.

      It will cost too much, most of which will have to come from the local council tax payer or schools budgets for an entire generation, be underfunded (especially in the primary sector)and cause massive disruption. All this at a time when the country is £175bn in the red and even the current government are talking of 10% cuts across the public sector.

      If any mayoral candidate was to put forward a case for change of this magnitude at this time I would suggest that they needed to enter the real world.

    • Martin Hamilton says:

      The problem is that the officers in their wisdom have decided not to present the consultation report until after the election. The report does not need to be considered by the council until after the election and therefore would not breach purdah. It was due on 8th September on the borough website and in that case the mayoral candidates could indeed have considered the report as could the rest of us. Given how one-sided the first document was I think most of us could have a good guess at what the report will say anyway and that includes the mayoral candidates. Therefore, whilst we would all like to have good reasoned debate about it, it should be remembered that the borough was in such a hurry that it dispensed with all that in May when it acted to stifle debate and present it as a done deal. I’m afraid that was the style of politics that has upset so many reasonable people. My view, given that we can guess more or less what the consulation document will say, is that it is disingenuous of candidates not to express a view on what appears to be the only defining issue of the mayoral contest.

  4. SB says:

    Well let’s have a referendum on 2/3 tier. Bring it on!

    Believe me Mr Bagnall, I was quite prepared to listen with an open mind in the early stages of the consultation period. However the highly paid professional officers and all their expertise totally failed to convince me that my children would benefit from a change to 2-tier.
    Just out of interest, how old are your kids if you don’t mind my asking?

  5. SusanF says:

    Well I for one will definitely be using this election as a referendum and hopefully I won’t be alone. Any candidate who supports 2-tier or refuses to say either way will NOT be getting my vote. And I’m sorry to say, but I question the worth of any councillor who still cannot make up his or her mind either way even yet especially with the wealth of information that is now available to them on this subject. Let’s face it – they know fine well how they feel on this subject, but just don’t want it to affect their voting potential in this election.

  6. River Song says:

    Well wake up Fred! This sure is a vote on whether or not we should reorganise the schools in this area! I intend to break the habit of a lifetime and not vote for a candidate according to my party loyalty. I shall be choosing my candidate, based on their position on this issue, because dear Fred, this will be the biggest mistake for years and generations of children to come if this goes ahead.
    Frankly, I believe that any candidate who supports two tier is committing political suicide. Many, many parents will be looking at what the candidates say. I also believe that many people who wouldn’t have normally have voted will mobolise to support their local schools.
    How ridiculous to suggest that I should vote for a candidate who hides what he(and it is all men at this point) thinks on this issue. Why hide your ideas, unless you know the argument is flawed? Once again there is demonstrated an arrogant attitude towards the voters of Bedford.

  7. I V Dzhugashvili says:

    Are you a graduate of another school of apparatchiks? Since the purges of independent government servants I have lost track. Or are you already in the senior ranks of those who were employed only to force through one policy?
    It is so good to see your recommendation to ignore mayoral candidate’s true positions – for the voters to be the “useful fools” so beloved in my former empire!

  8. JamesD says:

    Firstly the Head of Wootton Upper says leave it to the professionals, that parents and voters should do as they are told. Now Fred Bagnall repeats the argument in a different guise. The education officers of Bedford Borough were selected by a former Chief Executive and the late Mayor to carry out their policy of a change to 2-tier structure. The consultation document was completely biased in favour of 2-tier, the “Consultation Report” has been written by these same officers- guess what it will say! If we had unbiased, evidence based analysis, not spun with advertising industry gimmicks, not carefully selected to only show one side of the case (remember the consultation meetings) and the late admission that the already parsimonious Bedford education budget would be cut even further to fund the change then I just may believe that the Officers of Bedford Borough are capable of making and recommending any sound actions.
    The education department of Bedford Borough has already prejudged the outcome by organising itself on Primary and Secondary lines, the so called BSF implementation team seems to spend all of its time promoting 2-tier.
    We can have no trust in the impartiality of those officers who have been selected for and have so demonstrated their bias to a 2-tier outcome.

  9. bobby says:

    If a candidate can’t tell you thier policies – what the point of standing – what are we to base our decisions on if there is no substance….. Whether they have dress sense – or perhaps we could pick names out of a hat!!??

    Whats more if the candidates haven’t thoroughly researched and formed an opinion on THE single most important issue is this election, i suggest they head for the showers now.

    Simple question to all the candidates, to which we the electorate require a simple answer – 2-tier or 3-tier?

  10. bobby says:

    PS shame the Tony standing for mayor isnt Tony Dadd

  11. William says:

    Isn’t it better for a mayoral candiate to wait to make a decision once they have been elected?? Wouldn’t you rather wait for them to see the ‘public consultation’ document (which hasn’t been published yet) to help them form thier opinion.

  12. There is a bit if a circular argument here. The public ‘consultation’ documnent should be published then the mayoral condidates could express their views about it. not publishing the document can’t be used as a smoke screen to avoid making one’s opinions clear.

  13. River Song says:

    No william, because where have they been for the past 6 months whilst everyone has been making their views clear in a variety of forums? May I politely suggest that a candidate may wish to read this blog and hear the arguments which have been clearly and eloquently expressed against this change.
    Additionally I would expect a mayoral candidate to keep up with national as well as local politics. Perhaps they should be listening closely as all the parties declare the need for cuts after the next election. Where will we be in the middle of a massive change like this then?

  14. KDev says:

    What a pity that the pro 2-tier spin has had such an effect on William, Fred and some Mayoral candidates. How many times does it have to be shown that there is NO evidence to show that 2-tier provides better attainment at GCSE than 3-tier. That there IS overwhelming evidence available that changing a stable education system from 3-tier to 2-tier leads to a disastrous reduction in attainment for the generation of pupils during the change. If the “Consultation Report” does not follow the mass of evidence openly available against any change in school structure, then it will reinforce the view that the “professional” education officers in Bedford Borough were recruited only to force through the policy of the previous Chief Executive and the late Mayor of Bedford Borough.
    The Lib-Dem mayoral candidate is an Upper School Governor and so far refuses to state his previous strongly held pro 2-tier opinions, the Labour candidate, another Upper School Governor, has at least maintained his public position as pro 2-tier. The “grey suits/skirts” of the local Conservative party appear to be unable to bear the democratic selection of a Conservative candidate who, on the night, appeared to be an outstanding choice; who has at least looked at the evidence and has opted for the retention of 3-tier. That leaves the Independent mayoral candidates – so far I can only detect that one has stated a strong position to retain 3-tier has anyone seen clear statements by the other two?

  15. River Song says:

    Interesting points you make KDev. I have been a member of the Labour party since I was old enough to join, but intend not to vote for the party candidate on this occasion and because of this issue. In fact, I am very close to returning my membership card and expressing this view and explaining why. Many other friends, relations and acquaintances who were Labour voters also intend to vote for an alternative candidate who has expressed a committment to maintaining 3 tier education. We have made this decision due to all the reasons clearly explained in this blog over the past months. I wonder how many other people will be searching for an alternative pro 3 tier candiadate they can trust?

  16. Baldrick says:

    I do find it incredible that there are still people out there, despite the publicity surrounding this issue over the past few months that think more information is needed to allow the mayoral candidates to make a decision!

    The arguments in favour are still on the borough website, the arguments against are on this blog. Both are linked from this blog! The ONLY reason why someone would not wish to make a decision as a potential candidate is in the vain hope that the electorate might trust them to make the decision for the right reasons!

    …and if William and Fred are so keen on allowing the mayoral candidates to be furnished with the consultation outcomes report perhaps they would like to lobby the borough to have it released BEFORE the election rather than using purdah as an excuse not to release it!

  17. KDev says:

    River Song,
    It is a huge dilemma when personal party loyalty and conscience is challenged by such an important single local issue. The disaster that faces the children, and the finances, of Bedford Borough if the change to 2-tier is forced through outweighs every other consideration for me. That the cost of building primary schools was to be taken from schools annual budget was the final straw.
    Any change from 3-tier will be made because of the self interest of the “educational elite” in Bedford and the pressure they have put on local politicians and council officers. That local political parties have still put up mayoral candidates who are backing the proposed change or who are hiding their personal views does not make any sense to me. If this is the example the Labour and Lib-Dems want me to respect then they have lost touch with reality.
    I am way past anger on this – I will base my vote and I will actively canvass in the Mayoral election, in the next general election and the next local elections on the behaviour of the political parties and their representatives’ action over any proposed change from 3-tier schooling in Bedford.

  18. River Song says:

    KDev, I feel you are not alone and I agree with your comments. I feel that candidates should think very carefully about whose advice they listen to.

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