Saturday, 29 August 2020

The Moral Turpitude of Cllr Ally Simcock

Stoke-on-Trent Conservatives have got much to be cheery about. A full roster of three MPs (well, two if you discount the always-absent Jo Gideon), the City Council's leadership, and four new councillors. That's right, Stoke's Tories announced yesterday that four have crossed the floor - three (former) City Independents and one from the Labour Party. Eh, what?

Let's look at these councillors more closely. The first two from the CIndies were no surprise. In fact, it was more a case of why it took them so long. Shaun Bennett is a former Tory who was deselected by his party as a council candidate for publicly opposing the 2010-11 grand council coalition the Tories then participated in. He's also happy to defend homophobes, but this is all bygones as far as the local Tory machine is concerned. The other is Janine Bridges, one of the more unprincipled chancers to have taken a seat in the chamber. This is the second time she has left the CIndies, and previously served as a cabinet member in the last Labour administration. Noted then for her right wing views on social security and the NHS, it says everything about the poverty of the local Labour Party that she was allowed to ascend to this level before jumping ship back in 2015. Ho hum. The third councillor, Lesley Adams, is someone I know less about. Loads of grey blurs in the council chamber and only enough hours in the day.

And then there is our fourth turncoat. Councillor Ally Simcock was elected for Sandford Hill for the first time last May on a Labour ticket, but not just any old Labour ticket. Unlike your usual clutch of careerists and place seekers, Cllr Simcock made a big play of her socialist credentials. She apparently gave good interview to the local government panel and spoke convincingly about her Labour and socialist values. Indeed, moving with the Corbynist times she had the pose most appropriate to the situation. She talked up her mining origins and how her late Dad was out in 1984-5 for the full stretch. Indeed, as recently as 16th August this year she wrote on Twitter, "Standing on the picket line aged seven with my dad, fighting for miners around the country and living on the breadline for a year, all to stand up in solidarity against pit closures ... that is what ignited my activism." Funnily enough, that tweet is now deleted. Curiously, despite tweeting on every topic under the sun since yesterday's announcement she's neglected to say anything about her new found friends. If I had dumped on the politics, the values, and the heritage one claims to be proud of, I'd be a bit sheepish too.

Why then? According to the pre-prepared statement given to The Sentinel it's because the local Tories are "doing stuff" and "divisions" in the local Labour Party. It might surprise readers to learn Stoke Labour in 2020 is a becalmed oasis compared to the fun and hi-jinks of recent years. The Labour Group are about to elect a new leader, but the debate can hardly be described as acrimonious. And in all the party is settling into the long haul of winning the city back. In other words, there is no principled reason for her departure. Some local comrades have speculated about the pieces of silver a committee chair or a cabinet position Council Leader Abi Brown must have dangled in front of her eyes to secure Simcock's defection. I'm afraid to say the situation is likely to be worse than that.

Anyone coming into mainstream politics with half a critical brain can't avoid recoiling at the sycophancy and slavish deference some councillors and members show senior people, regional officials and (especially) MPs. All it would have taken for someone like Simcock to cross the floor were the regular cosy chats with the two Tory members, a bit of flattery and ego massage from the council leader, and the chance to hang out in public with these "important people" to bask in their glow. As far as Cllr Simcock is concerned, trading in her "socialism" for the Tories was no more bother than switching a selfie filter. They made her feel good, and ultimately that's all that matters. What the Tories are actually doing to the city's most vulnerable people is something, I strongly suspect, she has given zero consideration to.

It might be tempting to bash Stoke Labour over this, but defecting councillors are a fact of political life. They afflict all parties and happen for all kinds of reasons. Even our old friends the Socialist Workers Party once had a direct defection of a councillor to the Tories, and any mitigation parties can take against unscrupulous peddlers is limited. Considering this particular case, as Simcock was professing left wing politics she hardly ever bothered with actual meetings of the party. And for all the nice things she said about miners' heritage, she was not involved in trade unionism at all. Warning signs? After the fact, yes. But then again there are other councillors everywhere who fit very similar profiles and stick around for years.

For once, this is not a symptom of Stoke Labour's collective failure. Opportunists happen, and Cllr Simcock thinks there are more opportunities to be the Big I Am in the local Tory party. But here's the real kicker, as she will find out soon enough. The flattery will stop and the texts and phone calls will cease. Quickly, life as voting fodder for cuts and ridiculous vanity schemes are going to get routine. She'll never be a prominent face nor, for that matter, fully trusted by her new confederates. Once a scab always a scab, and not a few Tory backbenchers and members are going to be wondering when she'll do the dirty on them. I will not be at all surprised if in three years' time we hear on the grapevine she's been in touch with such-and-such a councillor begging for re-admittance to the Labour Party. It's happened before, and contrary to what the MPs and the Council Leader have told her, she's no one special. Here's then to the next three years before she loses her seat and fades from the memory.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

She has just been given an extra 12k on top of her Cllr allowance for a cabinet position with the conservatives. Not bad for a new councillor.

Ken said...

Is it just me, or is Stoke just a bit ...odd? Maybe it’s because it lies between two major conurbations without being one itself. There again, I might be biased since I got lost thereabouts trying to find out exactly where in the 5 towns my destination lay.

Anonymous said...

Short term self interest nothing else. Not community or party interest.

Anonymous said...

Spot on regarding the reality of the dynamics- thanks for the read.

Anonymous said...

Greed and of course the folly of ego.

A Stokie in exile. said...

Well Phil, a great piece. We left the patch physically some time ago but it is great to play catch up. My family history, more than proven though a recent 100 years, through mining too and trade union action and politics is well established, now on a global basis. I am with you spiritually though. Self interest and egos seem to be the essential criteria for the those who want to be important in politics in North Staffs. Gone are the days of philosophy and the real daily issues of poor people, poor education, poor housing and health - a legacy of industrial production, of course. Dirty water, dirty land and the air not too good. Not much to bother about really. But your piece suggests an intellectual insight and sheds some light on the future of this great place. Thank you, there is always hope.

Mick Glover

Phil said...

Okay, so she sold out everything for 12 grand extra. Pathetic.

But it begs the question. Why should she get this whereas loyal backbench Tories get nothing?

Anonymous said...

Because they are daft. No background in politics or the party, no real life background in social care. Recently elected as a Labour Councillor. Not just daft maybe submissive. Loyalty does not count in the Conservative Party in Stoke on Trent it would seem. That is their message. Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

They get nothing because they have no backbone. And they are a bit rubbish .

Anonymous said...

Wow. Anything goes what a ragbag party.

Unknown said...

Labour aren't that bad 😀

Anonymous said...

Do you think they will bother to give her any political education- general and on Tory policy.... values etc. or does that not matter. Was that part of the deal with the 12 k.

Alex Dawson said...

With respect Mick, the air is no longer dirty and there’s more green open space in Stoke on Trent than any comparably sized city. As a former Londoner that moved here in 2002, I can tell you that there are very many worse places to live which will cost you a lot more.

A lot of people who live here do a very good job of talking it down and trashing their own city - quite literally sh@tting on their own doorstep.

My view is that the Tories here have quite cleverly and successfully tapped into a layer of better-off workers and modestly comfortable pensioners by offering a clean managerialist approach and simply by not being negative about the city and, unfortunately, not being associated with Labour which, rightly or wrongly, is associated with the many misfortunes the city has had visited on it in past decades.

That is not to say the Labour Party itself should not own this failure, in particular the fact it continually and consistently puts up fraudsters, liars, shysters and incompetents for election and continues to operate in a ludicrous “Malcolm Tucker” style with stitch ups, machine politics and vile bullying. Phil is right that, at the moment, things are relatively Ok compared to how they have been in previous years, but it’s clear the party has a long way to go to even begin to restore any notion of credibility outside of a few key wards.

I suspect, unfortunately, the Tories will rule Stoke for many decades to come - both nationally and locally.

Anonymous said...

I agree Phil 12 grand pathetic. Loyalty does not pay.

Anonymous said...

Is that an extra 12 thousand on top of a basic of 12 thousand. Total 24 . Have I read this wrong. Good earner if it is a side job. No experience necessary either. What a wake up call.

Anonymous said...

Someone senior in the conservative party once said to me that 'those who get on in politics put themselves first not a party'. Perhaps even at this level.

And yes your post reads as though it is about someone that is just about 'the self'. Past, present, future... and they pay for it.

Phil said...

Your analysis of why this (probably) happened is the most important thing here. I've thought for a long time that sheer careerism explains an awful lot of what goes on in the centre and centre-left. I think what stops more people recognising this is just how low the stakes, and how small the benefits, are in all but the highest tiers of politics. What this story shows is that it's quite possible to be motivated by careerism, even if you're never going to be more than a slightly larger fish in a small pond. Other examples of this mindset may well suggest themselves to anyone who's involved themselves in their local Labour Party.

Anonymous said...

Yes careerism is alive and well even at the council level . Councillors also still have a great deal of influence and control over services and large budgets in the city at cabinet level. Careerism nonetheless. Added small perk of an extra 12k.

Anonymous said...

My Mum brought a family of 4 up on 12 thousand . Yes nice extra 'perk'. She was a full time worker.

Anonymous said...

The proverbial will hit the fan in the local party regarding this. Cllr Simcock was allegedly not eligible to stand for election according to the party's rules. It needed an intervention from retired former MP Joan Walley to swing it for her. The connection between the two will be through her work at Port Vale F.C. which is on Walley's old patch.

Anonymous said...

Very sad state of affairs. Disappointing.