There’s been a cultural shift within Rotherham Labour Group in the last few years. Supposedly. But sometimes, change can be more a question of style over substance can’t it? The composition of the Cabinet still ensures that certain sections of the community are over-represented, for instance. And those beyond the inner circle still struggle to get their voices heard if the whispers are to be believed. But the truism that the more things change, the more they stay the same can, in some ways, be exemplified by the rise of Stuart Sansome, the most articulate and charming man to grace the Council Chamber since Richard Russell.
Sansome is being tipped for future Cabinet greatness by some, though I’ve heard that like many of his Neanderthal predecessors, he has a little help with emails, and his pithy speeches. A case of behind every man there is a great woman perhaps?
But others talk of another woman standing in the shadows behind Sansome, whispering niceties in his ears whilst smiling a watery smile. Because this particular woman surely knows that many distasteful boxes needs to be ticked, and many shabby deals done if her ambition to be the next MP for Rotherham is to have even the slimmest chance of being realised. Sansome, you see, is a former big noise in Community Union, the new name of the old Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. The very same ISTC that contributed towards the election expenses of the likes of Peter Wootton, the former Chairman of the Licensing Board, who rumour suggests did the bidding of his former ward colleague Mahroof Hussain, in cahoots with Cllr Rose McNeeley, to ensure that Moofy’s supporters also turned out for them on voting day. And Glyn Whelbourne, the former Chairman of the Overlook and try to look Inscrutable Committee. And of course, Roger Stone, about whom more than enough has been said already. Truly, Sansome stands on the shoulders of giants!
But she who stands in the shadows waiting for a piggy back is sure to know that Community Union has traditionally punched above the weight of its affiliation fee when it comes to selecting the Labour candidate for Rotherham constituency. And so she’s probably also worked out that it might therefore be in her interests if Sansome thinks he has the ear of the Council Leader, because this will make him feel big and important. And then with a bit of luck and good management, he will win hearts and minds within Community circles on her behalf.
Rumours suggest that Sansome struts about the Town Hall as if he owns the place these days. Indeed, some are wondering whether he might have secretly made his own paper crown in anticipation of Sarah Champion’s unlikely abdication. But my understanding is that he hasn’t quite grasped the concept of the All Woman Shortlist yet. When he does, after staring into space for a few moments and blinking a couple of times, he might have to go for a sit down and a little think about the old saying that the higher the monkey climbs the tree the more he shows his arse.
He might also want to reflect on whether she who might be contemplating a quickstep with Community now, was once willing to dance with the devil. Because before appearing on the front page of The Times, having opportunistically scrambled far enough up the greasy pole to attain the position of Deputy Leader of the Council deemed not fit for purpose, she was the Press Officer of Rotherham Labour Group. Someone really should ask her what that role entailed. And whether it meant that she had a hand in activities that attempted to suppress the publication of articles about child sexual exploitation in Rotherham in that very same newspaper. Food for thought indeed.