He is one of Ledbury Town Council's newest and youngest councillors, a bright young man of evident integrity and honesty, courageous too in putting himself forward for election in 2015 at the age of eighteen. Many people applauded his achievement, even if some didn't much care for his Lib-Dem affiliation.
More honoured in the breach than the observance, Ledbury's 'convention' was that the town council should be a party-politics free zone. What this led to was the absurd situation that people would stand for the Conservatives for County Council elections, but at the same time, be badged as an 'Independent' on the Town Council ballot paper. How does that work? Debbie Baker and Phill Bettington successfully pulled off this chameleon trick.
The reality is that a large fraction of Ledbury town councillors are either card-carrying Conservatives, or close fellow travellers. It was always joyfully ironic to listen to them berating Liz Harvey for bringing 'politics' into the town council. (It will be remembered that in successive county and town elections, it was solely Liz who had the candour to declare openly that she was standing on a party ticket, IOC.)
In the same vein, young Cllr Eakin decried my criticism of the way in which Ledbury's ill-starred Neighbourhood Plan was being managed. 'You are being nakedly political,' he announced bitterly to the uproarious gathering. 'Your comments are biased and unfair and are aimed at political advantage'. His manipulative town council buddies applauded delightedly... 'well said', 'hear hear', 'absolutely', they cried out.
It didn't go down quite so well when I pointed out sarcastically that he was the first town councillor to have stood on a national party political ticket for donkey's years. (Martin Eager for the Conservatives was the last I think). 'Ooh shame' roared the baying ladies and gents. 'Leave him alone... stop bullying him... how awful'.
Matthew approached me at the end of the meeting and told me angrily that my political vendetta on behalf of It's Our County against the town council was unacceptable and disgraceful. I politely disagreed, and we have not spoken since.
From this incident, I draw two conclusions: Matthew has the best of intentions but he has also been misled by his would-be political operators. Among the political top brass of the town council and the Herefordshire Lib-Dems, there are people who hate Liz Harvey, and by extension, all her friends even if, like me, they are not IOC members. They do so because she, and her IOC party, refuse to toe the line and increasingly pose a mortal threat to the county's political status quo. She, like Cllr Eakin, is also well-intentioned, intelligent and honest: rare qualities around these parts.
Matthew clearly wants the town council to function transparently and democratically, and that all the people involved with it, including me, openly declare their affiliations and motivations. Anything less is a deception.
On this, Matthew and I are in accord. I say this to him: please continue to be your own man, and to do what you think is right. Do not always believe what you are told by people holding an already sharp axe next to a revolving grindstone. We might not agree, but at least let's believe we are speaking the truth as we see it.
My door is always ajar.