‘Have whip, but don’t ever use it’

29 Nov

A letter from Phil Twiss was published today in the Sidmouth Herald . SIN notes it refers to “my respected Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues” , which will surprise many members of the public who have regularly witnessed  disrespectful behaviour towards some of these opposition councillors. That’s not to mention the reprimands by the Standards Committee who have recognised bullying in the Council Chamber!!

Here’s Cllr Twiss’s letter:

‘I would like to respond to a letter from Councillor Roger Giles published in the Sidmouth Herald (“Electing to stand”, Opinion, November 22).

He bemoans the fact that a number of seats on East Devon District Council were uncontested at the last election in 2011 and that people were unable to express a view on who they wished to represent them – and correctly states that the Conservative group is by some distance the largest represented on EDDC.

Roger misses the point entirely in that Conservative candidates elected unopposed in 2011 put their hands up and took part in the democratic process when others with political affiliations or Independent did not.

They would have been perfectly happy to campaign on Conservative Party views they hold in common with fellow councillors, as they will again in 2015.

A democratic deficit in East Devon is hardly due to a lack of commitment by Conservative councillors and candidates who stood in all wards contesting the 59 seats on EDDC and winning a convincing majority.

There is a view that electors in the wards where candidates were returned unopposed were satisfied with their representation, although personally I agree with Roger that I hope that there will be contested elections in all wards in 2015 to redress the perceived issue of lack of representation and that the Conservative party will win a similar or hopefully larger majority to represent the best interests of all people in East Devon.

Those councillors elected in 2011 continue to represent the best interests of all electors (as indeed is the case with the majority of my respected Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues) who did vote for them in wards where there were elections held or indeed where people didn’t vote for them in wards where elections were held.


Turning to Roger’s final paragraph, at the risk of repeating myself, Conservative councillors are free to express their own views and frequently do, often disagreeing vocally within both our group on EDDC and publicly with what is proposed (I note an example of this illustrated by another correspondent in the same edition of the Herald in support of Cllrs Hughes and Troman), and voting according to their views.


Flying under an Independent “flag” at EDDC (or anywhere else, come to that) is no guarantee that the best interests of all electors will be represented. Invariably a single issue with ancillary directly related ones is the overriding reason for Independents standing, holding back progress and directly disadvantaging their communities by paying little attention to other matters as a result.


I can confirm that at EDDC I have never used the whip (members being told how they must vote and this whip being declared to EDDC prior to the vote) despite the sniping insinuation from Roger that it may have been used and I challenge him to “walk the walk” rather than “talk the talk”.

I will pay £100 to a local charity of his choice if he can find a single Conservative Party member at EDDC who will state that they have ever been subject to a party whip during my time in that role – and equally if cannot then he must pay £100 to a local charity of my choosing.

All 41 Conservative members on EDDC are contactable directly by email, telephone or face to face rather than the more convoluted method of newspaper correspondence, but that will be entirely up to him to choose.

I look forward to him taking up the challenge so that he can do something rare – ie both tangible and beneficial for his local community

No doubt this newspaper will follow this challenge up!!


Councillor Phil Twiss

Honiton St Michael’s ward
(Conservative whip, EDDC)’


4 Responses to “‘Have whip, but don’t ever use it’”

  1. Keith Tizzard November 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Mr Twiss makes some very important and relevant points about the need for contested elections. The first part of his letter is reasonable and considered. However it is sad and unfortunate that the tone deteriorates after that.

    He says “Invariably a single issue with ancillary directly related ones is the overriding reason for Independents standing, holding back progress and directly disadvantaging their communities by paying little attention to other matters as a result”.

    ‘Invariably’ means ‘without variation, in every case or always’. He is therefore saying that absolutely every independent councillor stands on a single issue. Does he really mean this? Roger Giles, my representative, is certainly not in this category. He represents his community admirably on a wide range of issues. Claire Wright gives every sign of representing her community fully and fights for proper democracy. I do not know the other independent councillors but I wonder how many stand on a single issue.

    Mr Twiss may have meant ‘one or two’ or ‘some’ but surely not ‘all’.

    Towards the end he becomes unnecessarily personal and provocative.

  2. Tim November 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Mr Twiss says he has never used the whip – which begs the question why the need to have one?

    By using the title of the Conservative Whip EDDC he makes it clear he has the power to use it if deemed necessary.

    Of course we know what happens to those party councillors who do step out of line, even if the whip is not expressed in the formal terms of a whip, they get shoved to the back benches. There are whips, and there are formal whips as Cllr Twiss well knows.

    We all hope to see fully contested elections next time around, even though, as is even recognised even amongst some Tories, a donkey wearing a blue rossette will get elected in some wards (and of course the same party voting practices goes for other parties in other parts of Devon where different majorities prevail). I am assuming he knows the meaning of a ‘safe seat’.

    With only 813 votes from an electorate of 5238, it would seem only a little more than 15% of his electorate felt inclined to show their support for Cllr Twiss, which is hardly an endorsement of his views.and perhaps makes Honiton St Michael’s, not quite such a safe seat. (http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/elections2011results)

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