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‘Emperor’ Ken a step ahead of his opponents
YOU have to hand it to the soon-tobe 80 year old leader of Hampshire County Council, Ken Thornber, he knows how to hang on to power.
You don’t hold the reins of the £2billion- a-year local authority for 14 years without managing to run rings around the opposition.
In this case the opposition just happens to be his own deputy leader of the Tory group, Councillor Roy Perry.
After persuading the former MEP (and father of Romsey MP Caroline Nokes) to withdraw his challenge last year for the leadership title and its £40,000-a-year allowance, Emperor Ken said he would stand down this spring. All he wanted was to see through the deep cuts his authority had to make in its budgets, he said.
And that was to be that.
Or was it?
Certainly as far as Councillor Perry was concerned it was a done deal. So certain was he of taking the throne at The Castle in Winchester, he didn’t even formally apply for the post of deputy leader again.
Why bother when he was to take the top slot?
Only cometh the hour for the transition of power and Uncle Ken reveals his hand.
He has no plans to stand down after all. Or if he did, then he has been forced to change his mind – reluctantly you understand – after several Tory members approached (in humble pose, one assumes) begging him to stay.
Quitting now would send the wrong signal to voters who would see it as a split in the party before next year’s local elections, he was persuaded.
Dear reader, we can only imagine the surprise on the face of Councillor Perry when King Ken announced he would after all be standing in the ballot for leader; a ballot he then won by 25 votes to 23.
Accusations that Councillor Thornber ‘bribed’ members with a promise of extra spending power for their own voters I will address elsewhere, but how gutted Councillor Perry must have been.
He was even more gutted, one presumes, to realise he was also out of the race for his old post of deputy leader, that now going unopposed to close colleague of Emperor Ken, Councillor Mel Kendal.
So in one fell swoop, King Ken holds on to the throne, removes his uppity deputy from his post, and installs his own man as the heir apparent.
A masterclass in political survival.
And as for a united Tory party going into next year’s local elections – I wouldn’t bank on it after such bloodletting, would you?