a political tale that is more strange than sad, and more sad than good. I do not know Mr Swaine personally, having seen him perhaps once or twice. He came to my attention when I was MP for Reading East and he chose to engage in some mockery of my campaign to bring the "Biscuit Train" back to Reading, which campaign those with long memories and not much to occupy their time will recall. I had no objection to the mockery, it comes with the territory of political activity and public life; I was not one of those politicians who cannot operate without a fix of positive column inches in the local paper. And I still think that campaign was a good one, being as it was about sense of place. People don't care about politicians and their travails, but they do care about the place they live. Anyway, Mr Swaine soon developed a satirical site called muckspReading, which poked fun at Reading politicians, and especially the Labour Group, in control of the council at the time. It could be amusing at times, though was rarely subtle. Perhaps its most memorable epithet for the then MP for Reading West, Martin Salter, was "boundary-hopping", given the latter's propensity to campaign and appear in public almost entirely in Reading East. This caused Mr Salter to engage in some personal abuse of Mr Swaine, calling him a "tragic individual who needs to get out more", which was naturally enough reproduced on the strapline of muckspReading. Then Mr Swaine decided muckspReading was not enough.
For him the commanding heights of the Reading economy were within reach, and he duly became a candidate for election to the council in Katesgrove, not for a proper political party but for the LibDems. The seat he was contesting was held by the then leader of the council, Dictatorship Dave Sutton, Chirac groupie and friend of Hamas. Cllr Sutton was in due time defeated, amid roars of abuse from the Reading Labour boys around him (sig other and I cracked a bottle of something sparkling at this point, as you might expect) and Cllr Swaine took his seat. Outgoing councillor Dictatorship Dave had just one parting shot, and it was to call his erstwhile constituents in Katesgrove (at least that's who I think he meant) "moronic members of the public". He said afterwards he was tired when he said it. Emotional too, I should imagine. Anyway, a precious moment for those who care about probity in public life, hein?
Cllr Swaine began to find things out. He began to find out about some of the corrupt behaviour of the central core of the Reading Labour Group. He began to find out about the use of huge amounts of council resources to shore up the election campaigns of Martin Salter, and about instructions to council officers to destroy any negative references to Mr Salter. More seats were gained by non-Labour councillors. But it took the election of a Tory-LibDem coalition government nationally in 2010 for the Tory and LibDem groups respectively to gain the courage to govern themselves. Thus our hero becomes a front-bench councillor, rather I imagine against his own expectations. All this against the background of flurries of complaints to the Standards Board, some more frivolous than others, and relentless, lurid and personal briefings from Labour against Cllr Swaine to the Reading Evening Post, whose mission statement is to copy out Labour press releases. muckspReading had been stood down by now, as Cllr Swaine appeared to wish to be seen as a serious politician, rather than as (in his own words in earlier days on muckspReading) "a pillock".
One fateful night our hero, aghast at the lamentable performance of south London Labour MP Chuka Umunna on a BBC game show for the masses called I think Question Time, tweets words to the effect that Umunna is a politically inadequate muppet (he is, gorgeous isn't everything, Chuka) and imagines the response of Streatham's finest as "Is it because I is black?" Reading Labour do not do Twitter, they have barely entered the 1990s when it comes to "new media", so when these words were gently brought to their attention by a kindly nurse they decided that Something Must Be Done. Racist, they said. Will Not Do. That Man's Head Must Roll. Besides, he's been finding out about All That Stuff that led to Resignations and Police Involvement, to say nothing of Martin Salter's Free Car Parking Anywhere In The Borough Of Reading! So - well, nothing much happened. Basher McKenzie treated us all to a picture of Cllr Swaine which he left on his website for far too long. And, er... nothing.
As I write it appears that Cllr Swaine has been suspended from the LibDems and is therefore an independent councillor. An enviable position. But what of his own party, the LibDems? Locally they have come out of this very badly indeed. When a media firestorm kicks off after an unwary remark by a councillor, the local party should either issue a statement of support for that councillor or should suspend him or her. The Reading LibDems did neither. It was the national party which suspended, and seemingly expelled, Cllr Swaine. So Reading Labour got what they wanted. The expulsion of Cllr Swaine from his party and his resignation from the front bench of the council. Except that that leaves Cllr Swaine free to speak. Which can damage them far more than he could have done if he had remained in government. Which they didn't realise. Having learned nothing from the effect on the electorate of deselecting an MP. Rob Wilson is likely to be MP for Reading East for as long as he wants to be, especially as he is actually working in the constituency.
So now, whither Warren Swaine? The Reading Tories have had nothing (much) to say about him, and latterly they have shown signs of wanting to conflate any criticism they may have of their coalition partners the LibDems into the "Swaine affair". Which I suppose is clever politics.
All the above is my own musing on the topic. I would welcome comments, as I always do.