I was astonished at read the comments of a blog reader and politician I have respected for many years in response to "Democracy Lives?" on April 4.
He has fought strongly for democratic interest and looked for support in that process for numerous years - certainly for the 20 that I have known him.
I cannot agree with him now, however.
His comments about councillors standing down to avoid a fight for paris seats is very worrying for if we can ignore the individuals and consider the principle, looking coldly, analytically, and without prejudice at what he wrote.
First - he says three people have taken an interest in the parish and chosen to stand for election.... Well, providing they are qualified and properly nominated like any other candidate they are entitled to stand. That they may be from a political party is not something with which I| agree, but they have that right.
Second - Because of that, other candidates (sitting councillors) have decided they will walk away. Wow!
Whatever happened to the right of the majority democratically to decide who represents their best interests? When did it become the God-given right of the minority (a handful of village 'elders') to decide they know better? To wait and see if there is to be a competition - then stand down - is an appalling interference with the rights of the village to decide. It is not just which faces fit. It is also whether they want a change in direction, an opportunity for new ideas to be tested against the established ones, and indeed whether they want any political interference in village life.
For all I know the councillors standing down may be the best in the world. So, too, might the parish council of Cliffe and Cliffe Woods. Yet these are undemocratically, self-appointed councillors, unelected by the masses. (It's my blog and I am entitled to describe the method being argued for as 'unelected'.)
It is a great pity for any local authority to lose valued, contributing members, but it is the right of the majority to be able to make that decision, whether it is a correct one or a wrong one, whether the majority ends up with a black, white, purple, green, blue, red, yellow or blue-and-yellow body in charge. That is what democracy is about. Anyone who takes that right away from the public is robbing it of a hard-earned right.
Cliffe is not the only place where this happens. It is going on across Kent, and probably further afield.
These are people who can slap a 43 per cent increase on the village precept (as has happened elsewhere in Medway) with inpunity. As I have said before: there is one rule for boroughs and counties, and none for parishes when it comes to charging for services.
These same people could - within the span of the new council's life - take on greater roles that until now have been democratically provided by district council, borough council, county council, regional authorities and government. Yet the candidates standing down are stealing that right from the people they have been able to represent without challenge.
They say they are saving the parish money - more likely saving their own faces.
Nothing democratic here - just crass cowardice when faced with a small challenge.
Meanwhile, I hear that Derrick Singleton has moved within the council but has not left its employ. I am delighted to correct the record.