Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fears for Two Tiers -- Part II

I said yesterday that Labour councillors were feeling sore. But their aches would seem to have nothing on those of Oxford East’s present MP, Andrew Smith.

This is the only way to explain his outburst in yesterday’s local rag. Under the banner ‘Unitary bid was wrong’, Mr Smith opines that Oxford should have put in a totally different bid from that which was submitted.

Hold on – this is the bid which had cross-party support in Oxford, was signed by the Leader of the Labour Group and was described as ‘excellent’ by at least one leading Labour councillor. It is also the bid which Mr Smith claimed to be promoting in the corridors of Whitehall.

There was no sign in the past months that Smith was out of step with his local Labour party, no hint that he would have advised the Council to have acted differently.

On the contrary, he was telling his comrades that his chats with his former Cabinet colleagues were winning the day and that he’d been assured Oxford would be on the shortlist. So, Mr Smith must now look at himself in the mirror and feel he’s got a face like an omlette.

The result is that he’s tying himself up in all sorts of verbal contortions. He’s now singing the praise of the ‘excellent’ County Council – I wonder if he’ll join the campaign launched in the same issue of the Oxford Mail by a long-term Labour County Councillor to get the Leader of the County a knighthood (Arise, Sir Kaiser K).

He’s also saying that the city should have gone it alone in its unitary bid, without talking to the other districts or having the vision to look beyond its own boundaries. What a recipe for constructive joint working and sound financing of improved services that would have proven! Probably best that you keep your thoughts to yourself, Andrew.

It seems to be a case of ‘blame anyone but me’. Andrew Smith isn’t doing himself any favours. It would be much better if he were man enough to shoulder responsibility and admit he’d failed. Indeed, if he had any good grace, he would apologise to the city that he’s let down, but I’m not holding my breath.

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