MEXIT - They want to quit Wiltshire - but where can they take the Marlborough Area?
The committee of worthies planning the Marlborough Area's secession from Wiltshire has split asunder in a rather unseemly squabble. It is not an 'in/out' split, not a 'remain/leave' split, but rather an 'out-but-where-to?' split.
Members have clashed noisily on whether to join Swindon or West Berkshire. Apparently there has been much talk of 'frying-pans' and 'fires'.
Marlborough.news has received an audio recording of the committee's most recent meeting. Unfortunately the digital recording is corrupted - a word, of course, that has to be used carefully when talking about local government.
From this dodgy audio recording we can only pick up some hints as to what is behind this campaign - and the split.
The committee call themselves 'The Udists'. With some help from a friendly historian of twentieth century Africa, we have found this name refers to the 'UDI' - or Unilateral Declaration of Independence - planned by Ian Smith for Southern Rhodesia in the 1960's.
Smith's plan ended in international sanctions. Our historian warns the committee that their plan has more in common with Biafra's attempt to leave Nigeria - and that ended in a brutal civil war. But still this is - or was - Wiltshire - or part of it. And in England civil wars are, as Marlborough knows, just part of history.
There is one audible part of the recording that gives clues as to why the committee wants to secede from Wiltshire. It is all about Wiltshire Council's 'camping policy'.
Frankly we do not believe there ever was a 'camping policy' - the word on the recording is most unclear. It may involve a cat too...
Whatever. It seems that someone in Trowbridge has been showering money onto Corsham and Melksham. It is alleged this was because the citizens of a Wiltshire constituency had the brass neck to elect a LibDem to the Sovereign Parliament. And hey-presto, the generous spend on 'camping' won the constituency for the Tories in 2015.
However, what is clear from the recording is that committee members were incensed that when it came to Marlborough's turn to be 'camped' Wiltshire Council simply said they had run out of money. "But then," one of the committee members can just about be heard saying, "Marlborough sits in the midst of a safe Tory seat."
One crystal clear part of the audio recording includes the arrival of a very loud new recruit. She is incandescent at Wiltshire Council's apparent policies toward Marlborough - citing their quashing of the Community Market by levying charges for stall-holders on days when the part of the High Street the stalls occupied usually had free parking.
She alleges that a councillor suggested the wheeze to council colleagues as a way to kill off any unwelcome signs of 'leftie community activity'. She can also be heard letting fly about plans to build luxury flats on the site of the Youth Centre...the recording then ends in a burst of static. Nothing stands still in Marlborough.
The committee also discussed the strange case of the missing highways contract. It appears that last year when the Highways Agency became Highways England several files were mislaid. Among them was the contract passing the county's stretch of the A4 to Wiltshire Council to look after.
Unless this can be found, it is quite likely that at least ten years worth of parking charges on the A4 - aka Marlborough High Street - will have to be returned by Wiltshire Council to Highways England. Ouch.
In a counter-strike, Wiltshire Council is planning to charge Highways England, who have responsibility for the M4, for use of the A4 whenever the motorway is closed and traffic is diverted through Marlborough. Again, ouch. The marketisation of our roads is underway.
Marlborough.news plans to put this whole amazing saga to the Udist committee when they hold their next meeting on April 2 in a restaurant somewhere in either Swindon or West Berkshire. So as soon as April 1 is over we will not be relying on dodgy audio recordings and should be able to get to some truth about this bizarre tale.