Cllr Philip Mynott: A view on Wednesday's extraordinary council meeting

October 27, 2013 6:05 PM
Cllr Philip Mynott

Cllr Philip Mynott

Cllr Philip Mynott offers a view on a disgraceful night of politics in Brentwood:

The night of Wednesday 23rd of October saw another new low reached by Brentwood Council's Tory administration.

It's bad enough when Conservative members choose to vote like sheep, if they are ignoring their borough residents and their duty as representatives - the very job for which they were elected. This would be unacceptable for any councillor with principles, who would rightly feel that representing their residents (not kow-towing to their leadership's every wish), was what they were there for - and yet we've often seen it. Unacceptable though this is, however, it was surpassed on Wednesday when combined with a blatant preparedness to ignore basic standards of behavour expected of responsible adults, let alone those in public life.

What happened?

Firstly, Cllr. Hirst, as deputy leader, tabled a motion that breached the most fundamental element of the Members Code of Conduct: "you must treat others with respect", since it constituted an open personal attack on Cllr. Chilvers, as Chair of the panel intended to scrutinise the council's affairs.

Secondly, more than one other Conservative councillor, when speaking in favour of this move, again breached the same code, and for exactly the same reasons.

Thirdly, when they had done so (and there could have been no question that they had), they were picked up on it neither by officers, nor by their own leadership. Being Cllr. Hirst's own motion, he might hardly be critical, but Cllr. McKinlay (recently returned from maternity leave and maybe entirely out of the loop whilst it was decided to take this action), could have stepped in with perfect ease. She could have immediately cautioned her members that, whilst the motion was directed at an individual, hostile personal remarks constituted behaviour which was unacceptable to her, specifically forbidden by Brentwood's Code of Conduct, and intolerable in Brentwood Conservatives. She could have asked for a simple retraction of unconsidered remarks made in the heat of the moment, and we need have heard no more of it. But none of this happened - all was apparently acceptable. Fourthly, at the vote, every single Tory present voted for the motion, without any abstentions.

This is a decision taken by each of these members individually which they must have weighed up beforehand. I'll admit (although this might surprise some who heard what I said on the night) that my own assumption prior to the meeting was that Cllr. Hirst's motion would certainly run up against some members on the Conservative side whose consciences would make them far too principled to vote in favour of it; individuals who I have felt respect for in the past and who (as I thought) could not possibly stoop so low. I am devastated to discover that I've obviously overestimated them all, since not even one was seemingly prepared to abide by the basic standards of behaviour that I had (clearly naively) imagined would defeat the motion.

Brentwood under the Tories: rotten to the core ()

Brentwood under the Tories: rotten to the core

If you, personally, have ever voted for one of them in the past then I'd urge you to contact them immediately and demand to know what in God's name they thought they were doing that night, and, unless you get some very convincing reason back (though what possible "reason" there might be for such unforgivable conduct I can't imagine), to refuse, on the spot, to vote for such conduct in the chamber, ever again (as it happens, both of the worst offenders, uncriticised on the night, are standing for re-election next year).

One of the least happy places in Britain? With such standards of behaviour apparently acceptable, Brentwood under the Tories has rotted to the core.