Dale needs his friends now

IT'S difficult not to feel a great deal of sympathy for former Ipswich council leader Dale Jackson over his treatment over the last six months.He was forced to resign as group, and council, leader after he was reported to the Standards Board for England after writing jokey letters to the daughter of Conservative colleague Stephen Barker.

IT'S difficult not to feel a great deal of sympathy for former Ipswich council leader Dale Jackson over his treatment over the last six months.

He was forced to resign as group, and council, leader after he was reported to the Standards Board for England after writing jokey letters to the daughter of Conservative colleague Stephen Barker.

It took six months to convene a meeting of the Adjudication Panel for England which took less than 90 minutes (surely a record in itself) to decide that while he had been extremely foolish, he hadn't actually broken any rules.

Morally he has a point when he says he wants the leadership of the group back. Practically it was never going to happen.


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And when his Conservative colleagues told him so on Monday night, he reacted by leaving the group meeting after just five minutes.

That's just like Dale - instinctive, impulsive, entertaining. They're qualities that politics needs if it isn't to get thoroughly boring.

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Unfortunately they're not the kind of qualities some politicians look for in their leaders - and after Dale's resignation in April, new Tory leader Liz Harsant has done very well to unite an administration that could easily have fallen apart.

She's a natural diplomat. She negotiated a new deal with the Liberal Democrats in May when frankly the coalition looked as if it was in serious danger of falling apart two months earlier.

I'm not convinced that the LibDems would have signed up for another year with Dale at the helm - especially if he insisted on pushing ahead with controversial plans like the east bank link road.

The administration isn't perfect - and it is upsetting the opposition (but that's what they're there for) but in one independent expert's view it's "ticking along nicely."

Given that - and the difficult arithmetic for the administration - it was no surprise that the Tories chose to stick with their safe pair of hands rather than opt for a more flamboyant hand on the tiller.

But there's got to be a place for Dale in the political life of Ipswich. He now needs to go about rebuilding his relations with his colleagues. He might find more sympathy and more people willing to help him make a comeback than he imagines.

SUFFOLK'S Conservatives have frankly got themselves into a dreadful mess over their treatment of Keith Myers-Hewitt - and frankly they're starting to look two-faced.

On the one hand, Conservatives on Stowmarket Town Council have taken the decision that they aren't prepared to sanction anyone using racist language and have thrown him out of their group.

At Endeavour House, however, the Conservative group has given him a ticking-off but have said that's the end of the matter.

That is a very strange mixed message - racist language is unacceptable in Stowmarket but tolerated (although not condoned) in Endeavour House.

In May the Conservatives may have won control of the county council - but the party only took one out of 13 seats in Ipswich.

Ipswich prides itself as being multi-racial, and the decision by the Adjudication Panel, and then the county council Conservatives, to take no action against Mr Myers-Hewitt has been greeted with confusion among Tories in the town.

On the record they've gone to great lengths to avoid making any comment on the situation - but it's clear they're not at all happy.

And being Ipswich Tories, it's not difficult to find someone who'll share their views off the record.

One leading member told me this week: "I can't understand why they didn't throw Mr Myers-Hewitt out of the Tory group at the county council. It's almost as if they don't want to win any more seats in Ipswich."

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