Is it too late for Alec to learn from Alex?
The reason I say this is that council leader Alec Robertson this morning declined my invitation to talk about it on the grounds that it was "an internal political group issue." This confirms that Jan's removal from the committee, which had elected her as its chair, was nothing to do with competence or popularity. And there is no shortage of councillors, from all political parties and from none, who tell me that this is all about the worsening feud within the Conservative group at County Hall.
It's only a couple of months since Cornwall's Conservative councillors held their annual general meeting and Alec narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership. Then wheels started falling off his plan for Cabinet Support Members; he lobbied the government to approve the St Dennis incinerator project, despite having opposed it himself; and then he had to spend the best part of a week fighting fires caused by the Daily Telegraph's "credit card scandal" - a non-story of the council's own making.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, Alex Salmond is today reaping the rewards of what happens when you take a rather different approach to a very similar set of initial conditions. In 2007 the Scottish Nationalist Party leader found himself at the head of the largest group in the Parliament, with 47 of the 129 seats (in 2009 Alec had 50 out of 123 in Cornwall).
Rejecting the idea of coalition, Alex Salmond then lead a minority administration which picked only those parts of his election manifesto which could command broad support. At the end of the term, many commentators described the administration as being notable for its competence, rather than political ideology. Despite this Scotland remained a land without university tuition fees, but with good schools, an excellent health service and universal care for the elderly. Earlier this year the Scottish government even abolished NHS prescription charges and today Alex Salmond commands all that he sees, with no need to ask any other parties about anything in Scotland if he doesn't want to.
I suspect that Alec Robertson sometimes has to deal with some backbench members of his own Conservative group who are perhaps less pragmatic than those in Alex Salmond's party in Scotland. But the bottom line is that there is no point behaving as if you have an overall majority if the reality is that you "command" only 40 per cent of the votes. And in Alec's case, with a hopelessly divided group, not even that. As I have blogged previously, a cardinal rule of politics has always been to keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
What would it take, I wonder, for the Cornwall Council Independent group - currently junior partners in the Conservative-lead administration - to draw up their own list of key priorities and then do a deal with the Liberal Democrat and Mebyon Kernow groups, and other individual councillors? Or perhaps those on the Opposition benches at County Hall are currently having too much fun.