I'm under attack. Or, at least, I would be if they hadn't fluffed their lines. What my opposite number in the Labour group, Ed Turner -- a hard-working councillor, by the way, and an asset to the Town Hall -- intended to say in Council today was something like: see that man sitting there ouzing insouciance when we can make him tremble with the revelation that tergiversation would most aptly be his nom-de-guerre.
Perhaps I haven't quite caught Ed's tone, but you get what he meant. I stand accused of changing my mind. What is more, they say they have the evidence to prove it, brandishing a copy of a Focus leaflet from last spring.
Let's pause for a moment to reflect: what benighted soul was set on duty going through the back-catalogue of Stephen Tall's website to unearth this gem? Have they outsourced it to some god-forsaken corner of the country where there is nothing to do in the evenings except to surf virtually, presumably in the hope of finding soft porn and having to be satisfied with Headington residents' surveys instead? And do they really think that if we post something on-line, we don't want people ever to see it?
That aside, I should also say that, in principle, I'm in favour of changing my mind. It's good gymnastics for the intellect; it's evidence of being at least slightly more alive than brain-dead; it's something we should all, everyone of us, try now and again. The problem for Labour is that, in this case, no about- turn, no volte-face has occurred.
The detail, it will not surprise the more avid reader(s), relates to recycling. In the leaflet, I am quoted as saying:
We do not believe wheelie bins will be suitable in all parts of the city –
especially in areas like New Headington with a lot of terraced
housing opening out straight onto the street. Every household
should have a choice between a wheelie bin and sacks.
According to my accusers, those sentences can not accord with the policy the LibDem Council is now implementing. To which I respond: I stand by what I said and I stand by what we're doing. It's only someone who really hasn't been listening -- or only listens to their own voice -- who could imagine there's any conflict.
As I have written recently, the policy we have is to encourage as many people as possible to take a wheelie bin as the safest and best receptacle for waste but, at the same time, the Council is being flexible. We know that there are some houses where it might be difficult -- like the terraces facing straight onto the street that the leaflet mentions. Some residents living in those houses have actually chosen to take a bin to sit out the back; others have elected to take sacks. There is an element of choice -- something which was lacking when Labour first proposed the new scheme and when this leaflet appeared.
It must be said that local Labour's godfather across the water has insisted that they changed their mind from their early policy of imposition. If so, that's all to the good -- there's very little from what they're saying and what we're doing. The only difference is that I, for one, never envisaged the 'aesthetics' of a bin being a reasonable basis on which to want to refuse to join the recycling revolution. That's the banner under which Labour are now fighting. The defence of sensitive aesthetes is fast becoming the workers' party's clarion call, Labour's only USP on this issue.
In the end, Labour must be desperate if they dig out old Focuses and try to point up a contradiction when there is none. I suppose at least they are showing an aptitude at some sort of recycling. Let's hope this mastery of recycling proves a transferable skill and they actually start helping the real thing. Then they might actually prove that their support for the scheme is not just fine words belied by their actions -- and I could gladly change my mind about them.