Saturday, 12 December 2009

Leadership Contest Speculation Begins

The Lincolnshire Echo is reporting that A former Conservative Group Leader has emerged as the favourite to take control of the West Lindsey District Council Conservative Group. Apparently, sources described as 'close to the Echo' - whoever they are - have revealed that Cllr. Ian Fleetwood, Conservative (Bardney Ward), is the front runner to replace Cllr. Bernard Theobald (Wold View Ward) as the Leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Cllr. Fleetwood previously held the position of Conservative Group Leader at the authority and is also a Lincolnshire County Council member representing the Bardney and Cherry Willingham Division. The Lincolnshire Echo have clearly forgotton that whilst Cllr. Fleetwood may have once been a contender it is hard to fathom how, following the suspension of his driving licence for a drink-driving offence earlier in the year, he emerges as front runner. Cllr. Fleetwood also represents Lincolnshire on a number of committees at the European level and so is often out of the country.

The Lincolnshire Echo also suggest Councillors Lewis Strange, Conservative (Kelsey Ward), and Chris Underwood-Frost, Conservative (Scottor Ward), as also being considered for the top job.

Cllr. Strange, who is County Councillor for the Ancholme Cliff Division, is an unlikely choice following publicly defending the achievements of Cllr. Theobald leadership although he is genteel, personable and one of the longest serving members of the Conservative Group, it is unlikely that as a portfolio holder on Lincolnshire County Council he has the time to commit to also being leader a district authority.

Cllr. Underwood-Frost is certainly known to have some limited ambitions in direction of the leadership, he would likely make a good leader in the inter-rim but may lack a desire to steer the council in the long term.

According to the Lincolnshire Echo's report Acting Leader Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward) and former Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association Chairman until March of this year, has ruled himself out of the running for the leadership but said he would continue as a 'caretaker' until a new appointment is made.

The paper omits a number of other likely contenders who would make good Group Leaders: Former Deputy Group Leader, Cllr. Mrs. Meg Davidson, Conservative (Fiskerton Ward) and Chairman of the Council, Cllr. Mrs. Jessie Milne, Conservative (Lea Ward).

The Lincolnshire Echo suggest that a new leader could be confirmed at Monday's extraordinary council meeting or be left until the new year. I suspect that a Group Meeting will not select a new leader until after Tuesday, 22nd December 2009 and most likely not until the new year.

One change that is expected is to have two deputy leaders rather than the current system of just one. Following the Conservative Group's victory in the May 2008 local elections Cllr. Theobald was elected by the group as leader, Cllr. Mrs. Davidson was elected as Deputy Group Leader and Cllr. Theobald appointed Cllr. Duguid as Deputy Leader of the Council so having two deputies is not so unusual. If the leadership of the group changes there is also the possibility that other officers - such as the Chief Whip - may also be re-appointed.

The paper quotes Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen) as saying that an announcement would be made
"when the time is right".

"We have had a meeting about it and that is all I can say."

"We are satisfied with the progress made. We wanted someone with good political experience and all the qualities necessary for good leadership - lead by consensus and democracy rather than any other less inclusive qualities. We don't want anyone to take executive decisions."

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