‘Politicians must convince voters that their ideas are right and not just tell them we know best’

First published in Skipper

So, farewell Alec Robertson. The leader of Cornwall Council was unceremoniously dumped from the role yesterday in a rare show of councillor power at the authority.

It may be ironic, but it was councillor Robertson’s insistence his grand shared services scheme was the only way to protect Cornish jobs that ended up costing him his own.

When, just a few weeks ago, a meeting of the council voted to place the plans on hold, surely the leader must have thought it would be sensible to apply the brakes, even if it was only done to temporarily placate the opposition.

Instead, in a statement as bizarre as it was arrogant, the ruling cabinet committee literally told the rest of the council to stick it - and that they would press ahead with the scheme anyway.

Their argument was they had already discussed the concerns listed by other councillors and dismissed them as not worth stopping for.

From the moment that decision was taken, councillor Robertson was doomed.

It immediately wound up his opposition to a level previously not seen, but, more damagingly, it gave the public an impression of a leadership out of touch with the electorate. Politicians must convince voters that their ideas are the right ones - they can never just tell them ‘we know best’ and ignore all other arguments.

That bad decision led to yesterday’s vote, and one of the more dramatic council meetings seen in recent times.

It started with a vote on whether to hold a secret or an open ballot on the leader’s future - with three-quarters of councillors voting for the secret option.

That decision led to a lot of criticism on social media - with people understandably unhappy at such an important vote being taken in secret.

As far as I understand it, there had been efforts made to force councillors to vote one way or another, and the majority felt the only way to get a true result would be to hold it in private.

The debate itself was fractious - with security being called at one point, and talk of death threats and backstabbers.

However, although it was colourful at times, it was notable for the honesty of the speakers on both sides, and was dealt with a sense of gravity befitting the circumstances.

I am sure there will be many people delighted to see the back of councillor Robertson.

However, we are talking about a man who has, despite facing harsh criticism at times, always tried to do what he believed was best for the people of Cornwall, and for that he deserves credit.

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