Is it gerrymandering?

The electorate has had their say and Wootton and East Hunsbury Parish Council will now split thanks to that narrow majority at last month’s advisory poll which was formally waved through by the borough council.

Amid all the excitement, Aufona was interested to see the changeover in this biggest of parish councils will not actually take effect until 2015, some two years later than expected.

Now gerrymandering is one of those good old-fashioned political words that’s not seen nearly enough these days so in case you’re unfamiliar with the niceties of what it means, it’s a term used to define when a political party tries to manipulate an advantage in a particular electoral area.

And it’s a word which has cropped up in the Wootton and East Hunsbury situation. If you don’t believe me, then read the words of the leading Conservative Michael Hill, a former mayor, a borough councillor for Nene Valley and whose wife, by the way, is a member of WEHPC.

In an email on November 20 to The Mack raising concerns after the 370-357 vote on November 15 – but before it was formally rubber-stamped by the Guildhall – Michael warns: “Put simply A SEPARATE WOOTTON PARISH COUNCIL COULD WELL MEAN THE CONSERVATIVES LOSE NENE VALLEY AT FORTHCOMING ELECTIONS AT BOTH COUNTY AND BOROUGH LEVELS. I don’t make this assertion lightly,” (but in capitals, nevertheless, Michael).

He adds: “I believe that electorally our position is not so strong that we can risk bringing what should be the safest wards into play as a marginal” before signing off: “The present large parish works and I fear we are at risk of drifting into change primarily to enhance one man’s political ambitions”. That man is obviously not Michael, but Liam Costello who led the split campaign and who has publicly accused the Tory grandees of “gerrymandering”.

Duly, on November 23, Michael was able to inform the Tory top brass – including parish councillor Gonzo, obviously – that a compromise solution had been reached and any change would not take effect until 2015, by which time the county council (2013) and borough council (2015) elections will have taken place.

You can decide whether that’s gerrymandering. You might also ask if the Conservatives in and around the Tory heartland of Nene Valley have scored a victory - albeit a pyrrhic one - in the process?


BRILLIANT encounter between one of our reporters and the always affable Michael Clarke, chairman of the Northampton South Conservatives. Michael wandered up to Nick Spoors during Jeremy Hunt’s visit to town the other day.

MC: “Wie gehts? (How goes it for you non-German speakers).

NS: “Que” (Actually, it was what, Ed)

MC: Wie gehts?

NS: “I beg your pardon”

MC: Aren’t you German?

NS: No (Nein)

MC: Are you sure?

NS: Er, yes.

As anyone who knows Michael will tell you, he’s not just a Tory, he’s a tri-lingual one, speaking fluent French and German. Quite the clever one then.