By Parmjit Dhanda. User of local libraries and former MP for Gloucester
Having taken a second look last night at the ‘controversial’ You Tube video which spoofs the Adolf Hitler ‘Downfall’ film, where Hitler resorts to lashing out at his lieutenants in the dying days of his regime in his bunker, I’m left scratching my head.
The subtitles have been adapted to the story of the closure of Gloucestershire libraries and it’s purely satirical. It’s about a man who has lost control, is clearly out of touch and is on the verge of losing it, as his empire crumbles around him.
Councillor Mark Hawthorne’s response to the You Tube video was extraordinary. Believe me, I’ve been the victim of all kind of verbal assaults in the past – not least from Cllr Hawthorne himself – yet for a politician to lash out the way he has (the film incidentally was not made by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries) and to bring the holocaust and Stroud War Memorial in to the debate is way over the top.
It’s the kind of wild response we used to get from a former leader of Gloucestershire County Council when his back was to the wall. Mark Hawthorne is in the same position and is displaying the same behaviours as former Lib Dem (and once Labour) County Council Leader Peter Clarke during the Schools Review early in my first term as Gloucester’s MP.
It was clear to me then, when members of my own party were coming to me and saying that public confidence had collapsed in the policy and that the leader had lost all control over the issue that something had to be done. It was hard. I never came in to politics to fall out with my own colleagues and a few dear friends haven’t forgiven me to this day and I regret that. But it was the right thing to do.
Richard Graham is now the MP for Gloucester, and this could be his moment. The plan to effectively force ten libraries in to closure and to water down the service of the rest – is soiled. Cllr Hawthorne and Cllr Noble’s own body language, behaviour and rhetoric no longer even tries to defend their policy. They’re more interested in looking for people to kick or creating smoke screens to hide behind.
It’s all too similar to the Schools Review. Some people tell me I won a second term as the local MP because of the alternative document I wrote with my former colleagues David Drew and Diana Organ which told the council to stop going down a path that had lost credibility with the public and had swerved on to the wrong side of legal process. I don’t know.
But what I do know is this. If my successor wants to be Member of Parliament for the long term, then he must seize the moment and stop his council colleagues. He has influence over them, as the MP he is their totem and they dare not cross him. Its hard taking on your own side, but this is his opportunity. If he chooses to hide instead, I can assure him from my own greater experience of elections, you can’t hide in that job.
Stand up and save the libraries, Richard. This is your job now.