‘This is a one of those years where it is a bad year to be Labour and it is a good year to be anything else but Labour.’
Or so says Councillor John Fareham, one of the only two Conservative Councillors in Hull City Council. Unsurprisingly, I happen to agree with him. But it seems I am not alone.
To give a little background information on the area, Hull is traditionally a Labour stronghold (it is, after all, the home of John Prescott and Alan Johnson, amongst others). Coincidently, it was also dubbed the “worst council in England” by the CPS both in 2004 and 2005, during the twilight years of Labour’s council-level rule there. But let’s not dwell.
Last year the council was given over to Liberal Democrat control. They had to form a minority administration and, according to Labour Councillor Gary Wareing, came close to holding a vote of no confidence in themselves last October. Yes, you read that right.
It’s a curious state of affairs in Hull. The way things stand, there are 59 council seats, with the Liberal Democrats holding 24 and Labour holding 25.
There are also 2 Conservatives and the rest are made up by independents of varying hue. With the Liberal Democrats set to make a number of gains, possibly even to the point of taking overall control, one might think that life is rosy for the yellow team these days.
Not so. Hull City Council does seem to have a problem with keeping its councillors in their own corners, with Liberal Democrats crossing the floor all over the place. 13 have left the group since 2002, including 2 who have made a break for it since the formation of their minority administration.
They have reputedly overspent to the tune of 5 million already. Council tax is well above inflation. All is not well.
Yet everyone in a position to know seems to be in agreement; they could pledge to make Smurf hats a legal requirement in Hull and they would still be set for an excellent year. While Labour are concentrating on ways to soften the blow caused by national government ineptitude and the Conservatives are fighting to take control of East Riding instead, Hull is wide open for a “yellow revolution”, as one enthusiastic Liberal Democrat I know put it.
I would have to agree, so long as they can keep their Councillors on their side of the ring in the future.