Despite the controversy, Conservative MP Malcolm Moss calls for Party unity and pays tribute to Geoffrey Harper's role as leader of Fenland Council.
In the aftermath of the surprising resignation last week of Fenland Council’s Leader, Councillor Geoffrey Harper, no doubt speculation, and uninformed speculation at that, will be rife.
However it is worth reminding ourselves of some fundamental truths:
- Fenland is the fifth best performing council in England according to the Audit Commission, achieving the classification of “excellent” as measured by Government criteria.
- Geoffrey Harper is one of the most experienced politicians in the region let alone Cambridgeshire with a lifetime of service for which he was rightly awarded a C.B.E.
- Because of prudential management the finances of Fenland Council are in as good a shape as you could hope, enabling services to be protected, despite reductions in Government Grant.
- Conservative councillors number 39 out of a total of 40 in Fenland and, given human nature, opposition very often springs from within (as opposed to other political parties) in such circumstances.
Speaking personally I have much to thank Geoffrey for since he has served the Cambridgeshire North East Conservative Association in the very highest professional way for over 25 years. He was the Agent from 1983 to 1988 and was instrumental in my famous victory against Sir Clement Freud in the 1987 General Election. He later went on to serve with distinction at Conservative Central Office.
Let us also remember that he took over the Leader’s role at Fenland (somewhat reluctantly) at a time of considerable turmoil in the Council and has steered the situation to one of stability and success.
As I pointed out before there are now 39 Conservative Councillors on Fenland but they would do well to contemplate why they are where they are! Are they so deluded as to believe they would have been elected as “Independents”? Of course not; they are councillors because they are on the Conservative ticket.
I have lived through enough upheavals in the Parliamentary Party to know that divided parties are ultimately rejected by the electorate. Loyalty is the key; to the group and to each other and the hard-earned gains of the last 25 years will not be yielded up lightly.
As for Geoffrey he was considering retirement anyway but this was delayed by a vexatious challenge to the Standards Board which they fully and rightly rejected. He retires from the leadership with both his integrity and reputation intact and he will continue to enjoy my full support and gratitude.