Scarborough Council By-Election Countdown (4)
During the run up to the North Yorkshire County Council full-term full Council elections on 2nd May 2013, it would be all too easy to let our attention stray away from the local interest of the two Scarborough Borough Council by-elections in the Esk Valley and Streonshalh divisions. (Their respective Nominations Lists are reproduced at the foot of this article).
So Real Whitby will be reporting on any incidents and accidents that may have a bearing on which way voters are likely to swing on Polling Day.
Observant readers of the two most recent editions of the Whitby Gazette (Fri. 12th April and Fri, 19th April 2013, respectively) will have noticed a discernible bias in the newspaper’s coverage of the candidates for the Scarborough Borough Council by-elections in the Streonshalh and Esk Valley wards. Conservative candidate Janet MacDONALD appears to have ‘double-dipped’ the Gazette.
The way in which the Whitby Gazette has allowed a Conservative candidate for Streonshalh to present herself to the electorate not once – like the other three candidates – but twice, falls some way short of the impartiality for which the Whitby Gazette at one time stood as a local by-word.
The Whitby Gazette has also printed Janet MacDONALD’s photograph for a second time.
In fairness, Whitby Gazette Chief Reporter Ms Alex FREDMAN has published an amendment, stating that the Gazette had “published the wrong information for Janet MacDonald” in their previous edition – though without explaining from whence the information had come, to whom it actually applied or how the error went unnoticed until after publication.
However, a closer examination of Janet MacDONALD’s (ostensibly self-penned) ‘revised’ text reveals that she has now been permitted to take a rather unsubtle side-swipe at fellow Streonshalh candidate Derek ROBINSON.
Janet MacDONALD’s final paragraph reads:
“If elected I promise to provide the strong, effective, hardworking voice that Streonshalh Ward needs and deserves, as I would be part of the controlling group of Conservative borough councillors, not an isolated ineffectual voice”.
Let us be completely clear that this is indeed a side-swipe at Derek ROBINSON in particular – he is the only truly independent candidate; the remaining two candidates (other than Derek ROBINSON and Janet MacDONALD herself) are representatives of the Labour Party and the UK Independent Party, respectively. Thus, she is clearly referring to Derek ROBINSON – the only non-affiliated candidate – and to no-one else.
Nevertheless, one might anticipate that Tina DAVY (Labour) and John THISTLE (UKIP) may also feel that they have received only half measure, by comparison with the Conservative candidate.
Without any doubt, then, Janet MacDONALD has enjoyed what amounts to double-exposure coverage (both in words and pictures) as compared to the other three candidates, and (and this is far more serious) has been allowed to single out Derek ROBINSON (widely considered the front-runner for the seat) with remarks clearly intended to demean his candidacy as “isolated and ineffectual”.
It is also noteworthy that Janet MacDONALD is propagating an untruth; here follows the explanation as to why that is the case.
There are 50 seats at Scarborough Borough Council, of which 26 were, until recently, held by Conservatives. Now there are 24, because there are presently two vacancies, brought about by the resignation of former-Councillor Sandra TURNER (Conservative), for personal reasons, and former-Councillor Tim LAWN (Conservative) in the immediate aftermath of the exposure of his undeclared pecuniary interest in land holdings at the heart of the York Potash Ltd NYMNPA Planning Application, bringing the Conservative total down to 24.
Since there is now no Conservative candidate for the SBC Esk Valley by-election (the Conservative candidate John ALDERSON has dropped out), it is mathematically impossible for the Conservatives to achieve more than 25 seats (50%) – and with them the overall majority necessary to qualify them as “the controlling group” – even in the unlikely event of Janet MacDONALD being elected in Streonshalh (and readers may remember that the very well-known and long-serving SBC Councillor Dorothy CLEGG scraped home by a mere thirty-three votes in Streonshalh last time).
So Janet MacDONALD’s claim that she would be “part of the controlling group of Conservative borough councillors, not an isolated ineffectual voice” is manifestly untrue.
There are, of course, precedents for cases of this sort – where one candidate, taking advantage of an unfair opportunity, makes a false statement to the detriment of another candidate. The Electoral Commission quite rightly frowns upon the scurrilous manipulation of the public perception by such unfair means.
Incidentally, the Janet MacDONALD who is contesting the SBC Streonshalh by-election appears (judging by her telephone number) to be the same Janet MacDONALD, who is presently Chair of the Scarborough and Whitby Conservative Association, and who has declined to respond to emails of 21st December 2012, 9th January 2013, 16th January 2013 and 30th January 2013, attempting to lodge Formal Complaints against the ten SBC Conservative double dippers. (Mr Robert GOODWILL – Conservative MP for Scarborough & Whitby – was copied in but, quite predictably, he has stayed out of the matter. It is a topic he is wise to avoid).
How unsurprising, then, that Janet MacDONALD is apparently willing to go on the record as the Conservative Chair who, in virtue of her non-responsiveness and persistent inaction, must now be assumed to condone double-dipping – at least as perpetrated by her fellow Conservatives.
The ten Conservative SBC/NYCC double-dippers are:
- County & Borough Councillor Andy BACKHOUSE
- County & Borough Councillor John BLACKBURN
- County & Borough Councillor David JEFFELS
- County & Borough Councillor Penny MARSDEN
- County & Borough Councillor Joe PLANT
- County & Borough Councillor Jane KENYON
- SBC Councillor Derek BASTIMAN
- SBC Councillor Lynne BASTIMAN
- SBC Leader Councillor Tom FOX
- Former SBC Councillor Ros FOX