Tuesday, May 1, 2012
How many of our readers I wonder, remember that bloody awful game show 'Mr and Mrs' that used to be presented by that amiable northerner and former ventriloquist, Derek Batey?
As some of you might recall, each week contestants (all married couples), would be asked questions by Batey to see if they could second guess the answers their nearest and dearest had given previously. It was a kind of exercise in mental telepathy and lovey doveyness, as well as mind numbing idiocy.
Now after all these years, a similar show is doing the rounds in Tameside. This show isn't called Mr and Mrs but goes under the title of 'How to get your missus on the council.' Though the show as yet to play to packed audiences, it hasn't gone unnoticed in certain quarters.
As the local elections approach, Cllr. Clive Patrick a Conservative councillor in Tameside, has put out a leaflet attacking the local Labour Party for the number of couples who now sit on the council benches for Labour. Currently there are four couples who are all Labour councillors who have hit the jackpot. Kieran Quinn the leader of the council and his wife Susan, the Mayor; Denise Ward and David McNally; Jacqueline and Dawson Lane and Barrie and Ann Holland. But after the next local elections, this could increase to six couples.
In the Stalybridge North ward which is currently held by Cllr. Patrick, Labour is standing Janet Jackson the partner of Cllr. Jim Fitzpatrick, an executive cabinet member of Tameside Council. Jackson works as an administrative assistant for Jonothan Reynolds, the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde. His wife Claire, is also standing for Labour in Dukinfield/Stalybridge and if elected, will join Allison Gwynne, the wife of Andrew Gwynne the MP for Denton and Reddish, who is already on the council. Philip Fitzpatrick, the brother of Jim, is also a Labour councillor as was his father Joe. In Audenshaw, Labour are standing Teresa Smith, the wife of Labour councillor Mike Smith.
Although it's not illegal to sit with your nearest and dearest on the council, Cllr. Patrick evidently feels that there is something rather squalid about this. Others may share this view seeing it as some sort of racket or a way of augmenting the family income at the taxpayers expense. But Cllr. Jim Fitzpatrick who is also employed by Manchester City Council, believes that it is unfair to bring family into politics even when your partner, is standing for public office. Clearly annoyed by Cllr. Patricks criticism, he recently wrote on Twitter:
"Clive Patrick's latest leaflet in S/B north has a go at Jan Jackson and the man she lives with. (Himself). Jan has not mentioned the man he lives with."
Cllr. Fitzpatrick's remarks, have led to one blogger accusing him of homophobia. As the blog points out, Cllr. Partrick might well live with his civil partner who is a nurse, but there is no evidence that he's desirous of having his nearest and dearest sitting on the council with him or that his partner, is even involved in politics.
As councillors expenses have rocketed in recent years, it has become more financially advantageous to become a town councillor as jobs become more scarce and difficult to get. With average councillors expenses in Tameside of over £20,000 a year, it is little wonder that more people are now trying to jump on the bandwagon of town hall politics. In an area that is noted for low pay and poverty, many Tameside councillors now receive more in allowances than the wages paid to the average Tameside worker. Some council members such as Cllr. Fitzpatrick, claim even more in allowances. In 2010/11, he claimed £32,000 in allowances for being on Tameside Council. Perhaps this explains, as one of our readers recently pointed out, why so few Tameside councillors have full-time or part-time jobs outside of the council. With such generous allowances paid to councillors, why would one bother to seek employment?