The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform. That much at least has been realised by the little gang lounging on Ledbury Town Council's couch of luxury and incest.
In this way, the scandal of the wife-beating ex-mayor, Martin Eager has been scrupulously managed. Initial support from his cheerleaders evaporated and in the interests of stability, he was told at a morning meeting in the town council offices that his time was up. Fair play, they spat him out a like a rancid mouthful.
Barging his way through the throng of shoppers around the Tuesday market that dreary morning, Eager knocked an elderly lady out of the way in his haste to get home. Storming up the Homend, his face was wild with rage. A couple of sharp-suited men with calm expressions, assumed to be lawyers, emerged from the Church Lane offices soon after; good work chaps - would that be about a grand?
The morning's drama wasn't quite ended. Former mayor Debbie Baker troubled herself to put the frighteners on a local resident who was gathering names under the Market House to request a parish meeting to discuss 'Eager's suitability for mayor'.
'What you are doing is illegal,' she said darkly. 'You should be very afraid around here you know'. What could she mean?
Once the parish meeting had been requested, the Town Council went silent. Then, at the last possible moment, the town clerk, Karen Mitchell wrote to the dozens of signatories to say that the 'in view of Councillor Martin Eager's resignation from the position of Town Mayor, the meeting will not be convened'.
Move along now. Nothing to see here.
Except the parish meeting went ahead anyway, convened by local residents within the legal framework, attracting a crowd of over sixty people. It was a long discussion, characterised by restraint, intelligence, and the passing of several important resolutions.
Town councillors were futilely invited to attend and explain their reasons for proposing, seconding and voting for Martin Eager's mayoral ascension. It made for a forlorn scene to see the empty chairs, each of them occupied by their grimacing mug-shots taken from the council's web site, helpfully enlarged and mounted by a professional well-wisher.
Five of the decent ones attended, Liz Harvey, Andrew Warmington, Nina Shields, Nick Morris and Harrison Wilce. For the record, three apologised: Andrew Harrison, Jayne Roberts and Noel Roberts. The rest had been instructed to keep away. It was considered that silence would be the best strategy. The hoo-hah over Eager was said to be a lot of hot steam, nothing will happen, it'll blow over and there'll be a show of support at the next town council meeting. I quote.
One of the things that most rankled the public at the meeting is the clandestine manner in which the town's mayor is decided. An inner circle of the gang goes into conclave and decides who it shall be. Then there is a nomination and their councillor acolytes are expected to vote in the approved way. Who knows, it might be them that get lucky next year?
There is no pitch for the job, no hustings, no discussion or debate. The process is neatly packaged and skillfully streamlined. This "democratic" process would gladden the heart of any old revolutionary apparatchik in Maoist China or the old Soviet Union.
Among other sensible suggestions, local electors proposed that an alternative, more transparent process be adopted, that nominations for mayor be lodged a week or two before the council vote, so that nominees' credentials can be considered.
At last week's town council meeting, this suggestion was decried out of hand. Duly, the election went ahead. Annette Crowe nominated her best friend Elaine Fieldhouse. There were other good nominations, but Fieldhouse clinched the vote as was foregone.
The evening before you see, under the cover of a (closed) Neighbourhood Plan meeting, Fieldhouse had been anointed. Present behind the locked doors were cllrs Crowe, Manns, Barnes, Eager and a few friends, plus the town clerk, Karen Mitchell.
When I alluded to this discussion during the ensuing 'public participation' segment of the council meeting, there was uproar, as apoplectic councillors, including the new mayor, once again unbuttoned their dignity in a screeching onslaught.
The lady doth protest too much methinks. Could I have touched a raw nerve?
It seems now that a ripple of paranoia is lapping over the body-strewn shores of Ledbury Town Council. There are even rumours that that the town council is having the meeting room swept for bugs.
Rather than imagining themselves in a Bond novel, perhaps they should look a bit closer to home for the source of the leaks, ask themselves if there just might be a well-placed informant in their midst, someone with more conscience than they, who keeps spilling the embarrassing beans.
Battered and splattered, the council is now in lock-down and a red flag has been hoisted. There will be no quarter, much less surrender.
That bloody camel. Everything was fine until it started poking its nose in. Now there's a bad tempered caravan of them camped outside busy shitting all over the place.
Best of luck Elaine.