Cornwall Council confidence vote in Alec Robertson

Martyn Oates
Political editor, South West

image captionAlec Robertson is threatened with a vote of no confidence

A Cornish council leader is threatened with a vote of no confidence.

He stands accused of "paddling his own canoe" - that is, pursuing his own agenda in defiance of the majority view of his fellow councillors.

That could be a description of Alec Robertson, current leader of Cornwall Council.

But I'm actually talking about his predecessor David Whalley, Liberal Democrat leader of the old Cornwall County Council, who found himself in a similar predicament in 2008.

The motion to hold a no confidence vote in Mr Whalley was defeated, but then the whole process was repeated just a few months later in early 2009.

'Agreement' not fighting

Votes of confidence are not a routine part of the rough and tumble in the lives of local government folk.

The neighbouring unitary Plymouth City Council has certainly had its up and downs since it was created in 1998.

But for all the controversies that have troubled it, there has never been a confidence vote in the leadership.

As for the other top tier authority next door - Devon County Council - you have to go back to 1987 to dredge up a vote of confidence in the council leader

One Independent councillor in 2009 found the daggers drawn at county hall in Truro an unedifying spectacle.

And he felt sure Cornwall's voters would feel the same.

"They don't want people fighting it out in a room", he was reported as saying.

"What they want to see is agreement".

Well, whether they like it or not, they're getting a repeat performance.

And this time it's the real deal: it's not merely a motion on whether to hold the vote, but the vote itself.

Fighting his corner

After fighting off several challenges to his leadership, David Whalley decided to stand down as leader (and as a councillor) just ahead of the first elections to the new unitary authority.

image captionDavid Whalley stood down as leader ahead of the first elections to the new unitary authority

This was partly, he said, in response to "personal" attacks on him.

(However, Cornish readers won't need to be reminded of the host of self-inflicted problems which beset his administration - or of the Liberal Democrats' annihilation in the election that shortly followed).

Alec Robertson is fighting his corner vigorously, though now without the support of his former deputy Jim Currie who stood down last week.

Replying to Mr Currie's resignation email Mr Robertson commented (presumably ruefully): "You have done a great job of covering my six o'clock and I suspect more daggers will find their way through without you there to cover my back."