The appearance within the ranks of UKIP of disgraced Cheshire East Councillor Brian Silvester was covered recently by Political Scrapbook – for which my thanks to Laurence Durnan for getting his coverage out of the Westminster bubble – but there is rather more to this than at first meets the eye. Silvester was one of the great survivors of local Conservative politics – until his recent conviction.
Old Brian knew how to play the local Government power game, but this also attracted an increasing number of enemies. When he stood against Gwyneth Dunwoody in 1992, some of the normally staunch Tory farming community could not get enough Labour posters and sign boards. He craftily stole the Crewe and Nantwich “war memorial” Council election, but at a price.
Market Square, Crewe: the war memorial used to stand where the checkerboard paving in the foreground can be seen
Crewe’s war memorial, a standing figure of Britannia, was removed from its old spot in Market Square. There was some highly righteous opposition. Silvester promised that, if the Tories were elected, the move would be reconsidered. They just scraped a majority. The move was reconsidered. And the memorial did not return to its old site. It was a cynical and false promise.
The war memorial, relocated to Municipal Square
Then, with the Tories in power, a long-standing scheme for the much-needed redevelopment of Crewe town centre collapsed. Still Old Brian survived. The former leader of Crewe and Nantwich Council, and one-time Mayor of Crewe, became deputy leader of the new Cheshire East Council. But, cast into a rather larger pool, the bigger and wilier fish soon finished him off.
First, Silvester was eased out of his deputy leadership role. Then, despite he and his brother having got away with it for over 30 years, his rented bedsits in Shavington (not really a “slum”, PS) were found to have breached fire safety regulations on eleven counts. Moreover, he had failed to obtain a multiple-occupancy licence for the premises. He resigned from the Tory Party before they kicked him out.
Sure, Silvester is an easy target for poking fun at UKIP, and Nigel “Thirsty” Farage may come to regret not having the admission door more firmly secured as soon as he and his pals saw Old Brian coming. But the more obvious question is for the Tories to answer: how did they allow this man to stand as a Parliamentary candidate, continue to be a Councillor, and lead Crewe and Nantwich Council?
And how did they allow him to become deputy leader at Cheshire East? Moreover, the thought enters that the way in which Silvester’s dodgy bedsits were unearthed was, as part of Cheshire’s Tories purging an unwanted outsider, an example that dirty tricks and low cunning are not confined to one party, and certainly not to those in the Westminster bubble.
That was the Crewe and Nantwich Life Of Brian. You lucky, lucky bastard.