Swale council has elected a new leader to front its rainbow coalition.
Mike Baldock was nominated by the coalition's outgoing leader Roger Truelove and seconded by Monique Bonney.
There were no other candidates at the extraordinary meeting of the council last night (Wednesday) but he didn't get it all his own way. He picked up 29 of the 43 votes in the chamber at Swale House with nine Conservatives voting against. Five Tories abstained.
The council, which is run by a 'rainbow' coalition of five parties, also voted to abandon its party-led cabinet structure and adopt a new more inclusive committee system.
Cllr Baldock (Swale Independents Alliance, Borden and Grove Park) said it was "an honour" to be given the role because he "cared deeply" about the whole borough.
He told councillors: “Roger has set a very high standard to follow. He showed that differing groups could work constructively together."
He added: “The move towards a new committee system is an exciting opportunity to make sure every elected councillor, regardless of party-affiliation or location, can be genuinely involved in issues affecting their residents."
But he warned: “We all have serious challenges ahead. I believe the best way to approach them is by working together and making sure debates and decisions are fully informed and focussed on supporting people and our local communities."
He confirmed his deputy will be Monique Bonney (Ind, West Downs).
Nominating Cllr Baldock, Cllr Truelove said: "Mike and I go back a very long way. As a schoolboy, he helped me retain Borden for the Lib Dems by running the committee room all day."
He added: "There can't be a more appropriate person to lead a coalition of four or five groups than someone who has been a member of all those groups! He is also the person who has driven us towards the committee system."
Cllr Baldock, 54, leader of the Swale Independents Alliance (SIA), said in response: "There are 47 members of this council. I want to ensure all 47 to feel they have an input and a role to play and their voice will be heard."
He is no stranger to controversy. Apart from his distinctive punky death hawk hairstyle and freestyle use of language (he once called Tory rival Mike Whiting a t***pot), he was also sent home from a Kent County Council debate after admitting he didn't think he had paid his council tax, although he discovered later he had.
The former grammar school pupil has been involved in demonstrations against developers, banned from Swale's own scrutiny committee after taking away secret council 'blue' papers and made national headlines after buying a one-acre field to give to bugs. He has also run rides at a local funfair to help underprivileged children - and will be doing that again on Sheppey this Friday.
He has also worked his way through most political parties, as Cllr Truelove alluded to.
Speaking to Kent Online he said: "I joined the Young Liberals in 1982 and I still think their manifesto was the best of any party I've seen since. But I wasn't keen when they merged with the Democrats. In London, I got involved with the Green Party. I was impressed with what they were doing post-Chernobyl."
In 2004 he joined the Labour Party to support Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Derek Wyatt. He added: "I stayed with Labour until Gordon Brown signed the surrender of Lisbon so I went to Ukip until we had achieved our freedom from Europe. Ukip then became pretty toxic so I decided to represent residents as an independent. I just want to do my best for Swale."
His plan until the 2023 elections is to ensure the new committee system works.
"It's something I have been pushing for a long time," he said. "It needs everybody to work together. The more we put in, the more we will get out. If people want to sit there throwing paper darts and making snide comments they won't get much out of it. I hope we will have good, honest debates."
On working with five parties (Lib Dems, Labour, Greens, Independents and Reform) over the past three years he admitted: "There were a few disagreements. But we tried to concentrate on what we agreed on. And that was more than we differed on. I think we've done an excellent job. I feel deeply proud of what we have achieved so far."
His cabinet remains unchanged for the time being with Tim Valentine (Green, Boughton and Courtenay) in charge of climate change and Roger Truelove retaining the finance portfolio with Derek Carnell (SIA, Kemsley) as deputy.
Angela Harrison (Lab, Sheerness) remains in charge of health with Hannah Perkin (Lib Dem,Abbey) as deputy; housing is led by Ben J Martin (Lib Dem, Watling) with Ghlin Whelan (Lab, Chalkwell) as deputy. Cllr Baldock continues with the planning portfolio with Alastair Gould (Green, Boughton and Courtenay) as deputy.
Richard Palmer (SIA, Hartlip, Newington and Upchurch) remains in charge of community with Elliott Jayes (SIA, Sheppey Central) as deputy; Monique Bonney continues with economic development with Sarah Stephen (SIA, Woodstock) as deputy and Julian Saunders (Lab, St Ann's) heads up the environment with Eddie Thomas (Lin Dem, Watling) as deputy.