I’ve always been sceptical about the amount of publicity that sometimes gets accorded to Councillors who resign in protest at their Party’s national policies. Inevitably such decisions are often complicated by personal and local issues at their council, and the resignation of a councillor doesn’t really have any impact on Ministers’ decisions.
That’s not to say that such resignations lack the capacity to be politically embarrassing, of course. All parties have over-indulged in crowing about defections to them from their opponents, which has resulted in any defection getting national media attention regardless of its actual importance.
It must be quite frustrating for MPs who are making good points about important legislation to find their media profile in the doldrums while unheard-of councillors end up in the national press because they’ve changed the colour of their rosette.
Take Councillor Elaine Costigan, for example. A few days ago she left the Conservative Group on Sandwell Council and joined Labour. She was the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, but let’s put that into context. Here is the breakdown of Sandwell Council by Party, as it stood after the 2010 local elections:
- Labour - 56
- Conservative - 12
- Lib Dem - 4
This is not an earth-shattering event, or a crucial tip in the balance of power in Sandwell. It’s certainly doesn’t deserve to be a national news story – indeed, I’m not sure it’s even the biggest story in Sandwell.