So Councillor Peter Box has retired after 21 and a half years, which is a new record for a leader of any party.
Previously the record was held by the great Albert Lofthouse who led the Conservatives in Wakefield for just short of 19 years, before dying at a meeting in County Hall.
On being elected, Peter was surprised when I, as leader of Conservative Group, contacted his secretary to arrange a meeting. This was following a pattern established over all the years Albert served, whereby he had first met Sir Jack Smart, then Roy Widdowson and John Pearman. At these fortnightly meetings in the Leaders office, no minutes were taken, but serious discussions ensued ‘man to man’ on matters affecting the Wakefield Metropolitan District.
After succeeding Albert in 1992, of course I followed this pattern, first with John Pearman and then Colin Croxall, before picking up with Peter. Sadly, when I told my successor how valuable these confidential ‘off record meetings’ had been for the good of Wakefield in 27 years, I was told bluntly he would have nothing to do with them, telling me ‘politics must come first’.
So now I wish Peter well in his new job and sincerely trust Councillor Denise Jeffery will continue serving Wakefield, as she always has done.
Conservative Leader in Wakefield, 1992-2000