If that’s a pro-Pugh stance …

By Keith Newbery

Friday, January 24, 2014


THIS ISLAND LIFE POOR old M. O’Crowley got himself into a bit of a tizzy last week, accusing La Hofton and me of being apologists for David Pugh in a letter to the County Press.

It was part of a spirited defence of his chums, Andrew Turner and Carol Dennett, at the top of whose Christmas card list the aforementioned Mr Pugh is thought not to feature prominently.

The cellar-dweller and I were alleged to have "entertained Mr Pugh’s cause", during which she was accused of "writing venom" and readers were urged not to forget my "pro-Pugh stance".

La Hofton is more than capable of fighting her own battles, so I’d like to raise one tremulous hand in my own defence.

The following are extracts from columns I’ve written about David Pugh in the past seven years.

"It was a bit disconcerting to wake up the other morning and discover that my hard-earned council tax was now under the control of someone who looks and sounds like a patrol leader.

"Power is hard to acquire and even more difficult to retain. It is rarely given up willingly and certainly not to someone so apparently ill-equipped to handle it as young Mister Pugh.

"But you have to question why a 27 year old wants the job and exactly what he has done to deserve it.

"Actually, we know why he wants it — because he is consumed by politics, loves the Island and is frighteningly ambitious. Enthusiasm and personal aspiration are all very well but they are no substitute for experience.

"The Island Council has a budget of many millions of pounds and employs hundreds of people. Running it is an awesome responsibility and the fact remains that if David Pugh had applied to become chairman of a company of this size, he would have been laughed out of the interview room before his buttocks hit the soft furnishings."

Don’t look away M. O’Crowley, there’s more.

Here are samples of my views on the education reforms spearheaded by Mr Pugh.

"In the increasingly intense arguments surrounding the crucial minutiae of the various options, it is easy to overlook the great deception being perpetrated upon the Island electorate.

"This is not a question of comments being misinterpreted or taken out of context. It is an outright lie visited upon Islanders by an achingly ambitious young man and his cohorts

"'You have three options to choose from’," is the message from David the Boy King, "but all three will involve the closure of 23 primary schools and one middle school. Let us know what you think."

"You can imagine Mr Pugh’s reaction if he wandered into M&S for a new suit and was told he could have anyone he wanted as long as the colour was navy blue. That, in effect, is the extent of the choice and consultation he is offering tens of thousands of Islanders with a vested interest in the education of their children or grandchildren.

"It is not consultation in any meaningful interpretation of the word. It is nothing more than a series of loaded options from people who, to their immense shame, have already made up their minds and think they can con us into believing we have a role to play in their deliberations."

Get the idea M? Even you might be prepared to admit these paragraphs hardly constitute blinkered, unequivocal support for the former council leader. Indeed, more discerning readers might even regard them as criticism.

On revisiting these words, Mr Pugh himself is probably thinking: "If that was his pro-Pugh stance, thank goodness he didn’t adopt an anti one."

The problem with people such as M. O’Crowley is they tend to exist in a deluded bubble, where objectivity is blinded by friendship (in his case, for Mr Turner and Ms Dennett).

He is joined there by the increasingly hysterical Cllr Chris Whitehouse, who is only too anxious to vilify those who do not support his call for the beatification of Andrew Turner, as a "nasty cabal" and "poisonous".

The objects of his malevolent outbursts include people who have been championing the Conservative cause on the Island for far longer than he and who happen to believe the right to freedom of choice and opinion remains a basic tenet of the party.

I have been outspoken in my denunciation of the crafty fandango Andrew Turner has employed when it comes to swerving around the Westminster expenses rules and will be again if he has another go at siphoning off public money in a questionable fashion.

He knows what he did was legally acceptable but morally reprehensible, though he’s more likely to ask David Pugh to be best man at his wedding than admit he was wrong.

It may surprise people to know (including the gentlemen in question) that I have actually enjoyed the company of Messrs Turner and Pugh on a few occasions over the years (even if they haven’t enjoyed each other’s).

This is because both men are political animals who know the score and quietly revel in the rough and tumble of local politics.

Unlike apparent ingenues like M. O’Crowley and Cllr Whitehouse, they realise you cannot be precious if you wish to take part in politics at any level.

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