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There was just no easy way for Sarah to say goodbye

13 April, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Sarah Hayward

SARAH Hayward would have known that however she handled her decision to depart as leader, the first question buzzing around the Town Hall and beyond would be: What’s the real reason?

Spending more time with my husband, taking a break from politics, passing on the baton, none of these explanations ever satisfy the overworked minds at the council who have been puzzling over why somebody who has shown such enthusiasm about her work at the Town Hall – there’s usually a tweet to wake up with, one for lunch and a nightcap too, all passionately detailing her every move in the job – would suddenly give up the role?

The number of theories doing the rounds could make a good House of Cards thriller.

She would be annoyed by some of them if they were to reach her ears (maybe they already have), but laugh at others. As far as I can tell, she is not going to join the Conservatives.

There were, however, audible gasps in some council offices as the news filtered through close to hometime last Wednesday.

In this small world, it’s big news to say farewell to a leader who has maintained a high-profile – for there’s never been any doubt over who the boss is since her first day, which kicked off with a leaked memo that revealed a member of staff ordering colleagues to address her as “dear leader”.

This was a mix-up, but it played into stories about her forthright, robust approach.

Sarah has talked in the past of being labelled “bossy” and other terms which, she said, would not be used for a male leader. But while there has been post-announcement praise for Sarah from the likes of Sadiq Khan and Frank Dobson, some of those who didn’t appreciate this firm hand have apparently organised an alternative leaving drink for the week she is due to hand over the reins.

Meanwhile, her supporters – 24 councillors sponsored her for leader last year – could be asking themselves: Does a Damehood or a place in the House of Lords await?


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