Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Labour representation in Cornwall Council Chamber is very short-lived

There were Labour representatives in the Cornwall Council chamber yesterday - but their presence was very short-lived.

As readers will know, no Labour councillors were elected in June 2009 (which came as news to Harriet Harman). But yesterday there was a small demonstration by students outside County Hall on the subject of the decision by the government to cut EMA - the educational maintenance allowance paid to 16-19 year olds from poorer families who stay in education. The demonstrators appeared to be a mixed bunch of Labour activists, Socialist Workers and anarchists and were joined by Labour candidate Jude Robinson.

As it happens, I agree with the demonstrators on the subject of EMA. Launceston has the lowest take up of post 16 education in Cornwall and I know that many of those who do study would struggle to do so without the EMA. There is no doubt that some who receive the payment do not need it, but the principle is a good one.

One person present and holding a placard wasn't so keen to talk however. My colleague Nathan Bale and I asked for his views but he refused to talk to us. It seemed a strange attitude to take for someone who was protesting outside County Hall but there you go. The rest of the people who had come along were keen to talk and we had a good discussion. We might not agree on everything, but on this subject we do.

When the full council meeting started, about six of the protestors came into the public gallery. Among them were at least two Labour activists. They held up protest leaflets for a while before deciding to start chanting just as my colleague Joanna Kenny rose to speak. They were hurriedly ushered out of the building.

It's a shame they decided to try to disrupt the meeting. I don't think they achieved anything except to lessen the likelihood that they will be listened to seriously in the future. I think they have a valid point in this case, but even if I disagreed I think it's good to hear a range of opinions from the public. Their actions just make it less likely that this will happen in the future.

Incidentally, I am told that one of the people ejected was the son of a senior councillor.

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