Well, the fact that the first news tonight was that all of the Conservative Questions to Council were sucked into the giant IT black hole at the council kind of set the tone of what was to come.
We kicked off with the installing of Judge Jacobs as an honourary recorder. Cllr Morphew, Leader of the Council, did a very bland speech and Cllr Cooke, LibDem Leader, did an almost too political speech. I feel they should have aimed somewhere in between. However the speech by Judge Jacobs was pitch perfect and brilliant to listen to - actually one of the best efforts in a very long time. If he judges as well as he speaks, then the City has a great new ally.
We then had an interesting question time with the public; a representative from Amnesty really took Cllr Ferris apart over charges for stalls in the City - her defence was pretty poor and it is evidence that the public can really make a point at these question times. My favourite part was one lady who listened carefully to Cllr Morrey's craefuly crafted answer about the danger to cyclings of glass on the road, only to respond: "Errr, does that mean you are actually doing to do anything?"
Then community campaigner Niall Baxter submitted our congestion charge petition. Niall did very well - speaking to council is a nerve racking experience and I rememer shaking with fear when I first used a question to then-Council Leader Ian Couzens about the threat to Ellacombe Care Home in Thorpe Hamlet. So Niall managed to get through his speech with clarity and purpose (which is more than some Councillors do). Some LibDems, accepting the implict criticism of them, didn't manage to stay for the whole thing. I know he's an opponent and I shouldn't say this by Cllr Morrey did a very good job in responding; with one factual slip - the Norwich Conservatives opposed the C-Charge before Labour, remember my motion of June 06? His joke at the end about facing both ways was well timed and really bought the house down. About time Cllr Morrey put in a good performance. It almost makes up for his normal pisspoor efforts at Question Time.
Talking of which ... this was spectacularly dull ... Cllr Wright (LibDem, Eaton) asked about the No. 25 bus stop at Castle Meadow, Cllr Read (Green, Wensum) asked how up to date the electoral maps were and Cllr Jago (Green, Mancroft) asked when the old elections office in City Hall would be re-let. Cllr Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) asked again about the relationship between the UEA and her neighbours. Nothing really to report; sadly.
Then, a really rare sight - the next motion was to make the wonderful Cllr Hooke (LibDem), Thorpe Hamlet's one-vote wonder - the Lord Mayor elect. This movement at great speed and shockingly I hadn't made it from my seat to the water cooler back to my seat in time and totally missed the vote. Bugger! Because I had planned on voting against him! ;-)
Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) then moved a very worthy motion about allotments, which was supported by Cllr Brociek-Coulton (Lab, Sewell) - in remarkable amounts of detail - and also by Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) - in a bumbled speech she clearly hadn't prepared - and Cllr John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) - allotment holder-in-chief of the council who somehow managed to blame the government for overgrown weeds. Well done him.
The up stepped Cllr Morrey to ask us to join the rest of the world in switching our lights off for an hour 8pm-9pm on 29th March (a Saturday). Cllr Cooke (LibDem, Lakenham) made a classic speech urging us to door more interesting activities in the dark - a superb piece of oratory and the like that the council will be poorer for when he leaves. Needless to say it got passed.
Finally the awarding of the Freedom of the City to RAF Marham. Again Cllr Morphew made the dull-but-worthy speech in favour and left the really good stuff up to LibDem Deputy Leader Cllr Watkins (Eaton). Cllr Watkins was passionate, informative and thoroughly decent. We had the pleasure of several excellent speeches tonight and this was one of them. I followed up by suggesting that although this was the FotC for the RAF it should be taken as indicative of our support for all of our armed forces. I suggested that Norwich was proud of the RAF - which didn't recieve support across the chamber. Whilst Labour, Conservatives, LibDems and some Greens voted in favour it was notable that Cllrs Stephenson (Nelson), Llewelyn (Wensum), Read (Wensum) and Gledhill (Nelson) all abstained. Are we not backing the RAF then, chaps?
All in all not the most important meeting and certainly no worlds were set on fire. But we did experience some really good speeches and no real foul ups tonight. Maybe, actually, council at its best?