The news that Hereward Cooke, the LibDem Leader in Norwich, is to stand down next year and move to North Norfolk, is a blow to debate in the chamber if nothing else. Yet the response to this news was different from inside and outside of his group.
Whilst Tory and Labour Councillor seemed genuinely sorry to hear that the council will lose one its better orators (if politically misguided), LibDem wags were less kind. One said (within my earshot) that it was "better to retire than be beaten" - a reference to the fact that Labour have won his Lakenham Ward for the previous two years and Hereward would have the fight of his life to win again. The swing that saw Keith Driver and Mary Cannell win would see Hereward lose the ultra-marginal seat.
However, now the attention will move to the leadership contest. As it was explained to me, the LibDems couldn't go into an election with a Leader who wasn't even standing in that contest. So if Hereward wanted to give his successor a chance to get established, he's have to stand down around Christmas or early in the new year. When he won the leadership last year, a few councillors referred to Cllr Cooke as the Ming Campbell of Norwich ... a safe pair of hands to guide the ship. Whilst Campbell fell by the layside, Hereward continues. But for how much longer? And who'll be in the frame to take over?
Anyway Hereward, you have long been the butt of the political jousting on this blog and in the council chamber, but you are a committed and hard working councillor with Norwich at heart. A real treasure in the council, and I'll certainly miss our political battles. Good luck for the future!