They don’t like it up ’em as Corporal Jones eloquently put it in BBC hit sitcom Dad’s Army. And it was true last night at a full gathering of councillors at Ipswich Borough’s Town Hall when Labour’s Cllr Carole Jones marched headlong into a disability row by publicly ridiculing her Tory opponent over his spelling of the word “embarrassment” in his council question to her.
Conservative Cllr Richard Pope, who was on the receiving end of Cllr Jones slur, stood up on a point of order to state Labour’s Cllr Jones knew he was a registered dyslexic and to use his disability to make fun of him at a public meeting was in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. Cllr Pope then demanded an apology from Cllr Jones. She refused. The Mayor also refused to sanction her from his Chairman’s position.
The Labour Party are always banging on about minority rights, as if they have a monopoly for standing up for the vulnerable in our society, but when they slur a Tory they refuse to apologise. You can hear them thinking “We don’t REALLY care about standing up for discrimination, it’s just a cynical ploy to win votes!” “And let’s face it, they’re TORIES – they don’t count!”.
Say what you like about Conservatives, as a political tribe they stand out as showing common courtesy and decency towards their opponents. I suppose you could call it the the best of British that is prevalent within their ranks. But Labour councillors and MPs have no such qualms when it comes to doing battle with their political adversaries. It wasn’t the first time last night Labour had resorted to personal attacks and defamation to skirt around answering the questions put to the Executive. Cllr Ellesmere decided he didn’t like Tory Blogger and former Conservative candidate Kevin Algar’s question on the status of Ipswich as the county-town of Suffolk and so just blurted out he found Mr Algar’s question “bizarre, just like the person”.
Transport chief Cllr Phil Smart’s immediate response to an earlier question – coincidentally from Cllr Pope – was to give his Tory opponent a less in grammar and the use of the word “infer”. He spent more time admonishing the Conservative councillor’s English language skills rather than answer a question about a bus route in his ward.
Once Labour took their personal attacks up a gear with the disability slur against Cllr Pope, several members of the Tory Group had had enough. Cllr Nadia Cenci rose to her feet and told the Mayor she could no longer continue to partake in a meeting under such conditions where personal attacks against a member of the public and Conservative councillors, including possible illegal action by Cllr Jones, was being condoned by Mr Mayor and the Monitoring Officer.
Cllr Cenci proceeded to walk out of the meeting and was closely followed by former Tory Leader Cllr Liz Harsant and Cllr Pope.
Sources tell me a formal complaint over Cllr Jones’ behaviour will be sent to Chief Executive Russell Williams. It is important he orders a thorough review and investigation into last night’s exchange (the audio is recorded by the Council) as from the public gallery where I was sitting it sounded like a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, the Disability Discrimination Act and possibly the Equality Act too.
This blog will be watching carefully for the response from the Council over the next few days.