Marlborough’s campaigning journalist reveals the secrets behind the Tory council election despair
Journalist Nigel Kerton, who retired last November after a lifetime serving Marlborough, has lifted the remarkable lid on the Conservative candidates seeking seats on Wiltshire Council at next week’s election.
He claims that both Stewart Dobson and Noel Barrett-Morton, standing in Marlborough’s East and West wards, are both reluctant candidates in despair because the local Tory party’s failure to find willing new talent.
And he says that Stewart Dobson, leader of the Tory group on Marlborough town council, has always been a negative politician, declaring: “He has always been like the buffers on a train – he stops things from happening.
“If ever there is an idea to make the town of Marlborough better or do something positive, then Stewart is a stumbling block. He’s always been that way.”
Sixty-five-year-old Mr Kerton, who is himself standing as an independent candidate against Mr Dobson, does not believe either he or Councillor Barrett-Morton are personally responsible for misleading claims that the Tories have frozen local rates over the past four tough years -- and the year ahead.
They supplied the election leaflet personal details about themselves but, added Mr Kerton: “The rest was written by one of their spin doctors. It is so typical of the Conservatives ‘win at all costs’ attitude and to use an old journalist maxim, why let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
“Wiltshire Conservatives have set out their table and it is clear that they are not concerned with manipulating a few figures in their favour. They are, after all, answerable to their puppet masters at Tory Central Office.”
Yet he remains mystified as to why both the Conservative candidates have rejected requests for interviews made by Marlborough News Online in the run-up to the election on Thursday May 2.
And he added: “I have known Stewart Dobson for the best part of 50 years and I believe he is above deceit and making false claims.
“Yes, his name may be on the front page of this election address, but I happen to know he did not really want to stand for Marlborough East and was parachuted in when no other candidate could be found.”
Mr Kerton, whose Marlborough Gazette & Herald office is now closed and without a locally-based reporter, was himself selected almost a year ago as the Conservative candidate, but he quit the party almost as quickly as he joined it, and decided to stand instead as an independent.
“I foolishly thought it would be nice to join the controlling group on Wiltshire Council as I could get things done for Marlborough,” he explained. “Then I thought, what the hell, I had never been a Conservative and I packed it in fairly soon.
“I realised I wanted to serve the people of Marlborough, not the blue rinse brigade.”
And he added: “On the bottom right-hand side of Stewart’s election address in the tiniest print there is another name. My Tory moles have told me that he is responsible for the ‘council tax frozen for five years’ claim.
“We must remember that Councillor Dobson has been on the town council for some 49 years and served on the former Kennet District Council at some time.
“His claims have been very few and far between in all that time. His role has always been to stop any progressive action proposed by other councillors moving forward.”
Slash the secrecy that ruins local government says Nigel Kerton
Probing the secrecy of local government, cutting out waste and boosting services for residents have always been at the heart of Nigel Kerton’s stalwart career in Marlborough.
“Having been a journalist for so many years and seen so many local government smokescreens and decisions taken behind closed doors, I have said in my election brochure, ‘I promise total transparency in all my council activities’.
“I was awarded the title UK Campaigning Journalist of the Year in 1992 for revealing how officers on one of the former Wiltshire district councils were making illegal transactions for their own financial benefit.
“I believe there is rarely a good reason for councils or committees to go into Part Two for secret discussions unless there is a vital need I will oppose this at every opportunity.”
While out canvassing, voters have complained to him that they are unhappy that Wiltshire is run a cabinet system where one senior Tory councillor can make important decisions. And he has told them: “I believe there are only extremely rare occasions when council business has to be kept under wraps.”
His life in Marlborough – he and his wife Joy have two children and four grandchildren – has been inter-twined with the town. His family has given up Christmas Day for the past decade to organise the OAP’s lunch in town hall.
He chairs the New Road Centre that provides day care for adults with a variety of needs, is one of the founders of the Marlborough Gardening Association, currently its president, and served on the former Marlborough Carnival Committee for 20 years.
“Some of the things on my wish list are simple and will not cost a lot of money, like getting the local buses to drop off-off and pick-up at the doctors’ surgery,” he insists.
“Others like re-opening talks on the North-South traffic that continues to tear the town apart and considering ways of reducing this, could be very costly.
“If the people of Marlborough want positive change, then I am the best-suited candidate with the experience, drive and deep-seated understanding of local issues to bring this about.”