Lib Dem Cornwall council leader to quit

by Stephen Tall on March 12, 2009

Under a somewhat misleading headline, Leader quits after critics’ abuse, the BBC reports:

The leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley is standing down as a councillor, complaining of personal attacks against him. Mr Whalley made the decision just weeks before the start of a new “super-council” which will unite district councils and the county council.

The headline implies that Cllr Whalley has been hounded out in some way – I don’t know the politics of Cornwall well enough to comment (though I do know how heated have been the debated about unitary status), but Cllr Whalley’s quoted comments don’t seem to back up the BBC’s pejorative interpretation:

Mr Whalley, 65, who was elected leader in May 2005, told BBC News that he would be standing down on 4 June when elections take place for the new unitary authority, One Cornwall. He said: “One of the negatives of politics is that it does get very personal.”

Former head teacher Mr Whalley said he could not have coped without the support of his wife, Val. He said: “If affects the family more than the individual, when they see things like calls for resignation and people being personal about me, they take it personally themselves. When I see abuse of politicians, locally and nationally, I think it is unacceptable.” …

“I agonised over whether I should stand for the new council,” he said. “I’ve been involved with politics for 30-odd years and decided it is time to step aside for a younger person. I think we have improved things a great deal and the fruits of that will be shown over the next three or four years.”

As Lib Dem campaigner Phil Hutty says over at his Cornish Pips blog:

The real story should not be the effect of personal attacks on him, but that fact that he has for so long he has stood up and tried to effect real change in our society.

Standing for public office takes guts and is something an increasingly less amount of people are able or willing to do. I sure there would have been many things we would have disagreed on but at heart was his wish to serve his constituents and for that we should all thank him for his service.