Napoleon once said ‘Never ascribe to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence’.
With TDC the issue of what is malice, and what is just incompetence, can be difficult to judge at times.
Today The Herald Express / Devon Live released this headline.
The headline is entirely misleading. The plan has not been rejected. Only a poor attempt to get around the previous stalled plan was rejected. It is a small victory, for which the councillors defending and pushing this plan did not even bother to show up. Because this plan was meant to fail.
The Herald Express knows this. It also knows that few people are going to read to the end of its badly-edited stories to the ominous bit about the MAIN outline planning permission attempt, which is stalled in appeal and will raise its ugly head in March.
Most people don’t realise, either, quite how far up the Council’s back end the Herald Express and its websites can be. The council executive says ‘bend over’; Rich Booth then tends to reply ‘And how much butter, your highnesses?' Just recall the ingratiating nonsense they printed last time Christophers won his ward. But again, perhaps this is down to the lazy ease of reprinting TDC press releases versus looking for objective truth. Again, malice may not be the driver.
So what is the effect of this headline, which seems to affirm victory for the people the editor clearly dislikes (see ANY Herald Express story concerning Newton Says No up until now). Well, we’ve had a flood of messages from people who are very much on our side and, having seen this headline, think the battle is over. ‘CONGRATULATIONS!’ says one. ‘Thank God we’ve saved Wolborough Hills… brilliant victory!’ says another. Of course it is nothing of the sort. This is what it is:
The Council’s planners today went through the motions of an expensive and deliberately frivolous application they knew would fail. While the Lib Dems and a couple of Tories that actually have a heart turned out to swat it down, the bulk of the Tory planning body were told to stay at home and let it fail. Because they knew that their friends at Devon Live/Herald Express would react with an inaccurate fanfare that tells most objectors ‘Well done, it’s all over, you can now take your eyes off what the executive is doing.’
If this sounds rather tin-hatted to you, then remember the Star Wars walker non-story that was cooked up months ago and then released at the exact same time as this planning atrocity. We’re getting into black ops with this council, which wants to do everything in the dark.
Yet there are democratic principles it has to be seen to observe, so it follows them to the bare minimum while issuing a distraction. This is what it does. And that seems to be what this abortively unplanned planning application was. If it had passed, this would be game over – at least for now. In that respect, it was massive. So why the hell didn’t the Conservatives turn up for it? Is there a more likely reason?
This is not to say that it worked. It didn’t. People are not stupid, and they follow what’s going on very closely. Nobody is laying down their arms, so if that is Thornley’s game then he’s failed.
So it may be malice, or it may just be massive, exasperating, expensive incompetence. But as usual with this council, it’s definitely one of the two.