Edinburgh Council coalition talks: Liberal Democrats seem scared to seize the reins of power, like Monty Python's Sir Robin – John McLellan

Some readers may recall Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knight whose valour in the face of danger was somewhat questionable.

Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:55 am
John Cleese, Neil Innes, Michael Palin and Eric Idle dressed as Arthurian knights on the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Picture: John Downing/Express/Getty Images)
John Cleese, Neil Innes, Michael Palin and Eric Idle dressed as Arthurian knights on the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Picture: John Downing/Express/Getty Images)

Brave Sir Robin ran away, Bravely ran away, away,” sang his minstrel. “When danger reared its ugly head, He bravely turned his tail and fled.”

It appears the new Edinburgh Council may have its very own order of cowardly knights in the shape of the Doubtful Dozen of Liberal Democrat councillors who seem strangely reluctant to strike a deal with the Labour group and offer an alternative to an SNP-Green administration which appears to be getting closer.

With 25 councillors compared to 29 the SNP-Greens can muster, without a Green switch, a Lib-Lab pact would need Conservative support, and while there is little doubt Labour leader Cammy Day would grab any opportunity to stay in power, the Lib Dems appear nervous about implementing the manifesto on which they all stood for election.

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“Our decisions will be practical, will deliver value for money, and will ensure every penny is spent wisely,” it said. Can’t argue with that. “We will focus the council’s resources on what matters most and the services residents want and expect in return for the taxes they pay.” A bit obvious, but good to know.

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They would “deliver a city-wide revolution in electric vehicle charging”, and “work to deliver 10,000 more affordable homes by 2030”. Hunky dory, so why not crack on and make it happen?

So, a fortnight on from the election after which Lib Dems were triumphantly woo-hooing outside the EICC, councillors can’t even elect a Lord Provost because the parties in pole position have yet to reach agreement.

No-one has ruled out working with the Lib Dems, but they have so far given little indication of who they will rule in. Is it because their hands were badly burnt the last time they were in control, in 2007-12? Only their leader Robert Aldridge survives from that era when they copped it for the first tram fiasco, so maybe with the Newhaven section nowhere near finished, they don’t want to risk a re-run?

Perhaps it’s because most of them have full-time jobs and can’t take on the responsibility of administration? In that case, it could be argued those candidates shouldn’t have stood for election at all if they weren’t ready to honour their pledges to their voters.

More likely is a view that they might prefer just to let an SNP-Green minority drown in the mess the SNP at Holyrood has created for local authorities by draining them of cash, but that means spending the next five years tut-tutting about why something should be done while dodging responsibility for making a better fist of it, as they promised they would.

It’s possible some of them didn’t expect to be there in such strength, but now they’re there they’ve just got to get on with it. Or are they bridesmaids who don’t want to be brides?

With the numbers to exert greater control, for the Lib Dems to stand back and let the local SNP try to do its worst looks, like their little bird logo, yellow.

“Yes, brave Sir Robert turned about, And gallantly he chickened out… Bravest of the brave, Sir Robert…”

Go on, Councillor Aldridge, prove me wrong.