I never thought that I'd see the day when a UK politician presented something crazier than the Tea Party Republicans do. I even less expected to find that crazy UK politician within my own home county of Cornwall. None the less, this year, it happened. What's even crazier is that he resigned, re-stood for election, and got re-elected. What's worse is that this politician is not a Conservative, not a member of UKIP or the ultra crazy BNP.
Oh no, this was an Independent councillor, unaffiliated with any major political party in the UK. Sit back, relax, and listen to a cautionary tale from the other side of the big pond, about a Cornwall councillor, disabled children, and council spending.
First, we must add in some relevant context to this tale. The UK Government is currently a coalition between the Conservatives, the UK equivalent of the Republicans, and The Liberal Democrats, a centre-left party not dissimiliar to the Democrats. That's enough to make you think that coalition would never work, but surprisingly, more than halfway through the five year term, it's holding together. Some activists in the UK have refered to it as a Con-Dem administration.
However in Cornwall Council, these two parties have been on opposite sides of the chamber since 2009. Conservatives once again were in coalition running the council, but this time, with a large group of independent councillors who held more seats than the Liberal Democrats. Cornwall is one of the few counties in the UK where Independent, unaffiliated councillors form a major political force, and will often work together, almost like a political party. The Liberal Democrats had been in charge of the previous county council from 2005 to 2009, but had been voted out of office for creating the current Unitary council, which combined the previous county council and 6 smaller district councils into one body. So, after the 2009 local election, they were the opposition to the Conservative/Independent coalition, along with 3 Green Party councillors.
Our story involves one of the Independent councillors, from a ward called Wadebridge East. His name is Collin Brewer, and he was elected relatively comfortably in 2009. At the time of his election, nobody knew that he was going to become one of the most hated people in Cornish politics. The incident that was to cause him to become the most hated man in Cornish politics happened in 2011 during an event at County Hall in Truro, the administrative capital of Cornwall.
The event was a disability forum, and Mr Brewer was speaking to a member of the organisation Disability Cornwall. Mr Brewer claimed that "...disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down."
Now, you'd think a comment that controversial would have been reported straight away. Nope, it wasn't reported to the public until February 2013, almost 2 years after the incident happened. Hey, I know the pace of life in Cornwall is a bit slower than in big cities, but not usually that slow!
However, the charity Disability Cornwall did complain to the council and the Standards Committee (yes, we actually have standards committees in UK politics, and they actually do hold people to acceptable standards.) reported its findings in February 2013. After that report, there were many calls for Mr Brewer to stand down as a councillior.
Collin Brewer put up a vigourous defence, claiming that he wasn't being serious, he was only trying to provoke a discussion on the issue of service costs provision, during a time when central government grants to councils was being cut back, and regulations prevented them from raising all the money that had been cut through local taxes like council tax and business rates.
Facebook was mobilised against him, a page that demanded his resignation garnered over 3600 likes. He was told he was no longer welcome as part of the Independent group on Cornwall Council.
But finally on 28th February 2013, Collin Brewer finally realised his position was untenable, and he finally resigned admitting he was wrong, and that he would probably be apologising for it for the rest of his life. He also said it was unlikely that he would stand in the local elections in May. Now you might think that this would be the end of the story and 99 times out of 100, it would be. But as Keith Olbermann once said about an unrelated story, "...this is the 100th time out of 100."
On the 5th of April, Collin Brewer announced that he would be restanding for the seat of Wadebirdge East that he had previously held, in the May local elections, once again, as an Independent. In 2009, he had been one of four candidates, but this time, he was up against 5 other candidates, one an Independent also, the other four represented four of the political parties in the UK. Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party). He stated that the decision was a response to local people who had asked him to stand again.
During the election campaign, the movement that had gotten him out of office, suddenly coalesced again, this time to persuade people not to elect him.
On my own Viewpoint blog, I highlighted the Wadebridge East ward as one of the stories to watch for that night. I didn't know if Collin Brewer was going to be re-elected, but I suspected it would be close. I thought it was too soon for him to have been forgiven for his comments, but I did wonder if he might have persuaded enough people that he hadn't meant what he said.
Come the following day, it was discovered he had won his seat back, by just 4 votes. 4 measley little votes gave him victory, a victory that he certainly hadn't deserved, nor should he have been allowed to earn. Disability Cornwall's chairman Steve Paget was "staggered" and "appalled" at the result. Almost immediately, the movement that had gotten him out once before, went into overdrive, in order to drive him out once again.
In the less than 3 weeks since his election victory, there have been a number of protests and tons of calls for him to resign once again. The leaders of all the political groups in the new council, Liberal Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Labour, Greens, even UKIP, have all called on him to stand down. The new leader of the Independent group, now in coalition with the Liberal Democrats on the new council, has taken the same decision, and said that Collin Brewer is not welcome as part of the Independent block. Collin Brewer is a councillor with no support at all in council.
But even that might not be enough to unseat him, now he feels he has a mandate for his views and an electorate behind him. He has gone one stage further now, in an interview with the Disability News Service, he linked the killing of disabled babies, to farmers killing deformed lambs, a situation that had occured recently due to a disease that was causing many lambs to be born with deformed limbs. Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating complaints about this interview, and more complaints are expected to be lodged with the police. Cornwall Council are also investigating.
As far as my research goes, no Republican has ever dared to suggest such an idea. If you do know different, let me know and point me in the direction of where it was said, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.
So you see, political crazies are not limited to the extreme right wing, they can appear from almost anywhere, even those unaffiliated with any political party or movement. Remain alert everyone, and watch out, for you never know when a political crazy will suddenly rear it's ugly head.
(Cross posted on my Viewpoint blog.)