Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Strange Case of Councillor Hipkin

John Hipkin is, or now more accurately was, a well known city councillor in Cambridge. He was part of the Lib Dem group that currently controls the city council. During his many years service, he had served as Mayor of Cambridge. He was also a prominent figure on the planning committee.

However something he said in 2006 caused him to be thrown out of the LibDems. He apparently overstepped the mark and spoke out of turn. As we have learned to say these days, he went off message.

Councillor Hipkin went on record as saying that there wasn’t enough provision for family housing for large households in the city. It sounds like an innocent enough comment, but it seems to have set a cat amongst the pigeons in the ruling LibDem grouping.

“Within a matter of days,” Hipkin told the Cambridge Evening News, “I began to get complaints. I was told I was too bullying and too domineering in the way I chaired the west area committee and that I had deliberately ridiculed members of the public. There were complaints about the way I spoke and the way I expressed myself.”

His comments about the need for more family homes were then picked up by the council’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group which said that they considered his comments to be heterosexist, which translates as being biased towards heterosexuals.

Like I suspect most local residents, this was the first time I had ever heard of such a group. That they should see fit to raise their profile above the parapet in order to lambast a councillor for commenting on housing provision seems bizarre in the extreme.

So what is going on? Cambridge has some of the most expensive housing in England and there aren’t that many families that can even contemplate living here. So is there now some hidden agenda to give up on the time consuming process of rearing children and to turn the whole place into a playground for singles and gays? Or did Hipkin merely expose the awkward truth that the great bulk of the tens of thousands of new homes being planned for the Cambridge region are starter homes for keyworkers? Are these keyworkers going to have to sign a non-breeding pledge before they can take possession of their hutches? It’s time we were told.