I confess that, although I noticed Tony Cox’s tweet at gone 11 on Wednesday night, the significance didn’t dawn on me at the time.
Breaking news: 11 litter bins to be culled in Shoebury as part of Labour/Lib Dem/Independent Party administration cuts in Southend.
— Tony Cox (@shoeburyblogger) February 11, 2015
It seemed unlikely for a number of reasons. Firstly, in my experience, local news rarely breaks so late at night in the middle of the week. Secondly, if it does it isn’t usually about litter bins. Thirdly, is this what the Conservative Party of Southend-on-Sea is reduced to?
But actually, there was a story here. You see, the information which Tony tweeted, was released in email to the borough councillors the next day. So how did the chairman of Rochford & Southend East Conservative Association get hold of it some 12 hours before the elected representatives of the voters of the town’s residents?
Who is the Tory mole in Southend Borough Council?
The plot thickened this morning, with a second tweet from former-Cllr Cox:
@warelane I was given it by an elected councillor!
— Tony Cox (@shoeburyblogger) February 13, 2015
So with his admission that it was from a councillor — and not, therefore, leaked by a council employee, or found forgotten on a train — can we put our spycatcher skills to the task and figure out who it might have been?
Why not? There’s only 51 of them, after all.
Well, actually, there’s decidedly fewer who could have been behind this. Given that most councillors would have received the information 12 hours later than Tony Cox, it is only really those in positions of profile or significance who would have had early access to it, and therefore could be culprits of the leak.
It could, for instance, have been one of the cabinet members.
This, to be honest, seems unlikely. For one thing, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Tony would use this a stick with which to beat them. If you were feeling particularly cynical, you might perhaps think that Independent
Party Group councillor for Shoeburyness, Mike Assenheim, would leak it as a weapon against his ward colleague Anne Chalk who, let’s say, has been a bit uncooperative.
But Mike is quite a team player, with no love for the Tories. I don’t think it was him.
It could, I suppose, have been one of the group leaders. Now, three of them are in the above bracket — the Independent
Party Group’s Martin Terry, Labour’s Ian Gilbert, and the Lib Dems’ Graham Longley — and are all cabinet members. UKIP’s group leader — or whatever he officially is now — James Moyies is unlikely to, given that he has little time for the Tories, and even less for Cox.
John Lamb? Well it’s certainly the most likely option so far. As Conservative group leader, Cllr Lamb’s style has been either reserved or ineffectual, depending on your political bias. He certainly could have leaked it, though that would suggest a talent for political game-playing which I haven’t thus far detected from a commander marshalling his party forces in a disorderly retreat within the town.
There is, though, another option.
There is a Conservative councillor who inherited Tony Cox’s old portfolio in opposition, when Tony lost his seat and the Tories lost power. This councillor also chairs the Place Scrutiny Committee, which has oversight of litter bins. And, if my little birds are to be believed, he has previously leaked internal information for political advantage.
I won’t say his name here, but it may or may not rhyme with bark chewit.
Whoever Tony Cox’s litter bin spy is, it is a little worrying that the Conservative Party are receiving information ahead of elected representatives of the people. “…you are either in front of me or behind me!”, says Tony Cox, but you can bet that he’d have been the first to complain when he was in administration.