If this is true, then hopefully the chaos that was that last night's (Thursday's) Annual General Meeting of the United Residents' Association of Ivybridge (URA) - which I chaired, at least for part of the time - will not have been in vain.
I arrived at the meeting just in time to fulfil the request of the outgoing Committee that I should chair the meeting and oversee the election of a new Committee. The presence of over 100 residents made it clear to me that there was a mood for change, but the agenda was straightforward - the outgoing Chair would give a report, and then there would be a vote at which a new Chair would be elected for the coming year.
It was during the reading of the minutes of the 2008 AGM that I was challenged by a particular individual, a notoriously obsessive and well-known New Labour agitator - a man who pines even today for a return to the old NITA system of One Labour Party Member, One Vote - who questioned my right to be chairing the meeting. Although I was under no obligation to do so, I called for a vote on whether I had the confidence of the meeting to continue acting as Chair. Sadly, the group of people who had attended with a view to changing the face of the Committee allowed themselves to be persuaded that I would try to subvert the outcome of the election - which I absolutely would not have done - and when the vote was taken the result was perilously close. Although, after two recounts, it seemed I had a slight majority in favour of allowing me to continue, I felt that under the circumstances the agitator and his new very temporary friends should be given the opportunity to find their own Chair, and so I voluntarily stood down.
After some deliberation, estate resident and former Labour candidate Chris Boucher stepped forward (supported enthusiastically by the agitator, whose objection to me had been that I was "political") and oversaw the election of former ICG Committee member Al Ayoby to the post of Chair, a task which he performed admirably under very difficult circumstances. Al then took control of the meeting and a Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary were duly elected. A second meeting will be held next week to decide which 14 of the remaining 23 volunteers will form the remainder of the new Committee, or indeed if a way can be found to include all of them given their willingness to serve the estate.
Whilst the meeting was chaotic the outcome was clearly that a new team had been elected which seemed to reflect very well the social diversity of the estate. Somali residents who had supported the "coup" queued up to explain to me after the meeting that they had sought nothing but fair and equal representation proportionate to their number, an aspiration that they felt, rightly or wrongly, that they'd not been able to realise under the outgoing regime.
Nominations to the new Committee comprise new additions as well as old stalwarts. Ironically, in spite of all the upheaval it will probably, in terms of manpower and ability, prove to be the strongest the estate has ever had.
I would like to pay tribute to the hard work undertaken by the outgoing Chair Tony Smith, former Chair Tina Howe and those other members of the Committee who have stood down. Equally I would like to congratulate Al Ayoby on his elevation to the top job, and to wish him all the very best in his new role.
Notwithstanding recriminations at the AGM it is right and fair that the new team should be allowed space in which to carve its niche, whatever that might turn out to be. I urge estate residents to get behind them and to work with Al - an honest and decent man - for the future benefit of the estate.