I have written before about how Conservative councillors should be deselected more often.
But I am concerned to hear about the proposed deselection of Brian Bailey, the Conservative councillor for the Gowy ward of the Cheshire West and Chester. He has been on the council almost continuously since the early 1970s, including being the Conservative Group leader for a number of years. Just two years ago he was the Mayor. He has the highest vote in his ward – indeed, he has the highest vote of any councillor on the authority.
Due to a re-drawing of the boundaries, all the councillors have to re-apply for their seats for this May's election. Brian was summoned to a special meeting and told that he would not be eligible to submit himself to be a Conservative Party candidate for the council this time. His initial understanding of the reason was that he had not done sufficient campaigning for the Party during the year he was the Mayor of the Council. Yet the tradition in Chester is that the Mayor is impartial, so that, whilst campaigning for one's party is not strictly forbidden, it was certainly always understood to be frowned upon.
Since that basis for deselection was transparently absurd, he was subsequently told he had not been sufficiently active in campaigning outside his own ward during the last three months of 2010 – though there is no suggestion that he did not continue to work for his constituents, participate in his duties on the council, or campaign within his ward.
The idea that a senior councillor – a former group leader and Mayor – should be deselected on the basis that, although he performed his duties to the full and looked after his own ward well, he did not (for three months) assist enough in other wards must be virtually unprecedented as a basis for deselection. Usually councillors are only deselected due to some public gaffe or being discovered in some illegality or impropriety. I think they should also be ditched for being idle or just not up to the job. None of these charges stack up in this case.
Deselections should be for councillors who are disloyal or who don't pull their weight. They should not be for people like Brian.
It is for the constituency association to justify their conduct.