UPDATE Mon 20:30: The Crescent Radio debate that Paul Rowen jilted actually occurred during the afternoon and not last evening as stated. The management at Crescent Radio appear to have been put under the impression that Rowen has the power of life and death over them when it comes to renewal, and can er pull the plug on their station. Which ain't quite right. And, we hear, Wera Hobhouse - the LD super-sub - threatened to WALK at half time, such was the animosity towards Rowen. "I am not answerable for Paul Rowen" she said OWTTE. Which is odd as that was the job she had been given to do.
Radio Four's You and Yours this morning included a caller pointing out that Paul Rowen - as Council Leader - sold the town's market for a quid. Not popular. Even the Tories in the Town are now thinking they're better off with Labour! And Crescent Radio's audience has certainly been given a clue as to the respect Rowen has for them.
Now read on ..
John Leech has missed two of the four main hustings/information events in Manchester Withington constituency, and arranged a third on an evening when he was certain Lucy Powell, the Labour challenger could not attend. In fact he has condescended to appear in only one serious debate with a large audience and excellent potential for planted questions, organised heckling and getting away with his rather feeble achievements.
The first event Leech swerved was an RSPB discussion - with similar held all over the country - attended by the four main parties. And given that this was before nominations closed these were the only four known certain candidates. Honest John Leech gave two different reasons for his swerve to two different interest groups who asked.
First, he disingenuously blamed election regulations and Labour. Claiming that the regulations could require him to count part of the cost of the meeting in his election expenses return. Actually not necessary where the known candidates are all invited. And actually sending a Sub to represent him (Wera Hobhouse) would surely mean he should include a notional cost anyway? If it were true. And to this he added the news that his expenses in 2005 had been challenged by Labour and he wanted to be above reproach.
Although his submission was ridiculous and he had clearly overspent I did not officially challenge this myself, I didn't live in the constituency then. I don't know that anyone did. Certainly I can find no sign of any challenge via the Electoral Commission and I don't think I even got a reply when I tried an FoI request for any and all such complaints. I did ridicule his very ridiculous return in letters to local papers.
Second, and far more likely, was Leech's story as given to the Politics Society at the University of Manchester Students Union. Honest John told them, speaking of the same event, that he had sent a sub because he (thinks: had a contempt for democracy and) wanted to stymie any and all opportunities for Lucy Powell to appear on the same platform, giving her equal status. Leech also swerved a Churches Together event without advising the organisers of his absence. Though as none of his cronies were there this did seem a premeditated slight.
What an indictment of Lib Dem blether on being a new broom.
The Rochdale incumbent Paul Rowen, another Libdemologist first termer and sometime two-jobber councillor and MP, has also been swerving. Not sure he's done a single hustings or information meeting. Tonight he was booked to discuss his ideas with Mudasir for the Cons and Danczuk for Labour in a Radio Crescent programme.
This being a station in the immediate area, targeted at muslim families. He failed to show up .. and he too sent Wera. This has been a particular problem for the station. They have fallen in with his demands that they don't give his opponents (much) publicity for years. And now, when everyone and their dog whistles is talking about Rochdale and immigration, he has completely ducked their timely event.
Similarly he missed the Palestine debate at the last Lib Dem conference. Apparently because he'd had a big drink the night and early hours before and was under the weather. And he missed another community events to discuss this situation too. At Castlemere. Wera was there .. but it was his former aide Dave Hennigan (below) who made a scene and tried to participate. He had been banned for disrespecting the community. And Rowen eventually sacked him for being such an embarrassment - though he's still lurking about the scene. Secret agent Hennigan?
Rowen missed that community debate, breaking a promise to the Castlemere Centre and local muslim voluntary organisations because he was en route to Europe on a jolly .. where he failed to speak in the right debate in any case. But likely had a good time, rich food, fine wine, trappist beer, and hale fellow well met all round.
The tweets within this post summarise much of the above. Click to enlarge. Read from bottom up, insofar as it matters. I love twitter. Follow me.