Agreeing with Simon Heffer

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and his comments on Essex County Council’s Tories are worth noting:

Tory-controlled Essex County Council decided this week not to sue their disgraced former leader Lord Hanningfield for the £287,000 of ratepayers’ money he spent flying around the world with cronies and dining in style. This is a rash move.
In four and a half months, the council is up for re-election. I am appalled that Essex Tories have such a cavalier view of financial accountability. Anyone who votes to put them back into office next May is mad.

(Emphasis added)

I also believe that Labour voted with the Tories at last week’s Essex County Council meeting to block the Liberal Democrat motion on this.

Lord Hanningfield found guilty

News is just coming through from various people on Twitter that Paul White, Lord Hanningfield – former leader of Essex County Council and Conservative frontbench spokesman in the Lords – has been found guilty of six counts of false accounting. Sentencing will take place in three weeks, apparently.

UPDATE: There’s now a report on BBC News.

Maths, Hanningfield style

You may have heard that Paul White (aka Lord Hanningfield), the former leader of Essex County Council, is currently on trial on charges of false accounting in Chelmsford.

While I’m not going to comment on the substance of the trial until after it’s concluded, there’s one comment of his that’s been reported that does deserve some attention:

He said: “Essex is as big as Northern Ireland. So my job is something like the equivalent of being prime minister of Northern Ireland. It is bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Leaving aside the different roles of the Northern Ireland Executive and the leadership of a County Council, let’s look at the ‘bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia’ part.

The population of the part of Essex governed by the County Council (Southend and Thurrock are unitary authorities) is, according to Wikipedia 1,396,300, in an area of 3,465 square kilometres.
Croatia, by contrast, has a population of 4,483,804 and an area of 56,594 sq km. (source)
Lithuania has a population of 3,535,547 and an area of 65,300 sq km (source)
And Latvia has a population of 2,204,708 and an area of 64,589 sq km (source)

Again, leaving aside the difference between running an English County Council and an entire nation-state, I can’t quite see how one can claim Essex as being bigger than any of those countries. I think it’s clear that neither geography nor mathematics are amongst Lord Hanningfield’s strong points, which may go some way to explaining why he is where he is today.

An apology to Lord Hanningfield

I recently wrote a post based on an article on Conservative Home that appeared to have been written by Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council. Having seen the latest in their series of articles by ‘Lord Hanningfield’, it’s clear to me that Conservative Home have clearly been taken in by a clever con, perpetrated by someone pretending to be Lord Hanningfield in order to post views that he would never have.

It’s a clever con, because the call for Councils to be able to hold local referenda so they could abide by the opinions of local people on decisions is the sort of thing you would expect a Tory Council leader to be proposing in an effort to show just how in he was with the ethos of the Progressive Old Etonians and the Bullingdon Tendency, but to put these words in the mouth of Lord Hanningfield is the work of a master satirist, an Essex-based version of the Yes Men, perhaps.

For Hanningfield is the man who so majestically dismissed the concern and obejections of thousands of people in Colchester when he wanted to close two schools. Thousands against, just over a hundred in favour with even the local Tories pushing a different scheme to Hanningfield, but those schools are still closing because his Lordship has decreed they must. So, to have him as the mouthpiece for local decision-making – and that’s not even mentioning the County’s designs on Rivenhall Airfield over local objections – is a masterpiece of satire. Well done to whoever pulled this off!

Do as I say. No, just do as I say.

The irony might be amusing if it wasn’t affecting me and the people I represent but Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council and a man who’s never shed away from grabbing any power that comes within a few miles of him, believes County Councils should have the power to hold quangos to account.

The proposals are interesting, and might be worth discussing, especially if any of the quangos have the power to react in the same way Hanningfield does whenever anyone tries to hold him to account or question him.

Oh, and the first comment on Hanningfield’s post is most amusing too.