Every so often an event or moment presents itself that is so surreal or inappropriate that it prompts the thought “you couldn’t make it up”.
That was my immediate reaction when I first heard of an event to celebrate “Conservatism in Northamptonshire” in the form of a gala meal held on Friday, September 21, at an unknown location, to be announced to those attending just 24 hours before it started.
How insensitive is this for such an event to be staged within weeks of a Conservative-led county council, virtually bankrupt after several years of financial mismanagement and staggering incompetence, announcing a level of cuts to vital public services that the Council Tax payers of this county will have never been exposed to before.
Our local Tory MPs have, to a person, distanced themselves from this financial crisis that, to a person too, they have all helped create by voting for Tory austerity legislation that has slashed central government funding to county councils by 50 per cent in real terms since 2010 with further significant cuts planned by 2020.
Very soon residents of Northants will be left to experience a landscape that will see roads with more potholes than those negotiated by Dick Turpin with ever increasing Council Taxes to facilitate an occasional wheelie bin or two.
It would be faintly amusing if it wasn’t so tragic as the vital services for some of the most vulnerable people in our county’s communities are removed, the elderly, particularly in more remote locations, are left isolated by cuts to essential bus services and numerous vital local library community hubs still remain under threat of closure.
As the county faces a drastic reorganisation of local government to a two unitary authority future the disdain shown to the public by the Conservatives was exemplified by a sham of a public consultation exercise that was at best wafer thin and in reality simply went through the motions to rubber stamp a predetermined outcome; such were the constraints imposed on alternative proposals.
It is a similar disdain for the public that underpins this gala dinner that our Conservative MPs embraced on Friday, September 21.
The main invited guest was Sajid Javid who, until his recent promotion, was Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government as recently as this year.
As I previously mentioned you just couldn’t make it up.
As the closely vetted guests enjoyed their £50 a head meal, or £100 if you want the experience of sitting on the top table with Sajid Javid watching you eat, I wonder if they will spare a thought for the many others that are far less fortunate?
Their Conservative policies have directly contributed to a situation where the level of homelessness continues to rise in our county, many hundreds rely on food banks to prop up a fragile existence with relative, often in work, poverty impacting on many hundreds of our county’s residents.
With many of our county’s disabled people having seen their welfare support cut and single parent working tax credits reduced I hope whoever sponsored the Tory balloons at this gala meal at a cost of £2,000 may also reflect on more charitable ways they could utilise their spare cash.
I’m unsure what our Conservative MPs would actually be celebrating particularly as among their number include some of the most fervent supporters of Brexit which, whatever way you decided to vote at the Referendum in 2016, has hardly turned out to be a triumph of promises fulfilled or a smooth negotiation of a positive deal; as we head towards the cliff edge next March.
I fully appreciate the need for security for a prominent cabinet minister such as Sajid Javid but I suspect the secrecy surrounding the venue for last Friday’s insensitive celebration had far more to do with preventing the citizens of Northamptonshire staging a determined, peaceful demonstration against the very insensitivity and inappropriate timing of this gala meal.
One can only hope that the negative impact of Conservatism in Northamptonshire will indeed be remembered by the electorate at future elections at both local and national levels and that their damaging interpretation of government is suitably punished at the ballot box.