Thursday, 11 June 2009

Nick Rushton.

So Nick has decided to stand down from the cabinet and will not seek to be the new deputy leader.

The rumour mill at County Hall has been in overdrive on this exact issue for the last month - ever since we broke the story. In the end this result was inevitable really. I must have had the same will he/won't he conversation with dozens of people.

If he had stayed, or even tried to, serious questions would have been asked and the pressure would have been cranked up another notch on him, the Tories and the council. This, for the moment, will relieve some of that pressure.

What has happened in Breedon has been damaging to the council and its administration. I have no idea whether anything that happened was illegal - that is for the police - I don't know whether it breaks council rules - that is for the standards board. What I do know is that the public and other politicians, including Conservatives, are uncomfortable with what has happened. The council itself believed it serious enough to report it the police after all and it is not the "non-story" Andrew Bridgen seems to think it is.

The priority for the powers that be at County Hall, both politically and at officer level, has been that they do not want the council to be tarnished permanently by what happened. It is a kind of Gordon Brown situation, the longer Nick stayed the keener the spotlight on him and therefore the council.

It was also inevitable that in the end someone had to go for this and it was Nick. I am not saying it was anyone else's decision other than Nick, I honestly don't know. I know it will have been difficult for him for him to do this, I suspect he may not have wanted to, but he will also be aware that in politics that he must be seen to do the 'right thing'.

As political reporter I have got to know Nick personally over the last two and a half years and he has been at the heart of many stories I have written, has always been helpful and was a good cabinet member for transport. I have no qualms about saying that I like the man.

I have tried to use this blog to give people an idea of what being a journalist is like. This story is another good example. In politics you rely a great deal on contacts, you get to know them, you speak most days, you see each other a lot, you gain eachothers' trust. He or she helps you with stories, tip-offs, quotes, and in turn they get their message across and improve their profile. It is part of the game and sums up my relationship with Nick.

But then something like this happens, they are on the front page for the wrong reasons, you have to ask difficult questions and sometimes this is the result. This too is what happened with Nick, and is the other part of the game.

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