Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones was dubbed a ‘Poundshop Stalin’ by a Labour councillor who adapted a phrase made famous by left-wing comedian Russell Brand.
Cllr Ben Powell, who aims to follow in Brand’s footsteps by becoming a stand-up comedian, was outraged at Cllr Jones’ successful proposal to remove a section of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct which demands members show ‘respect for others’.
Cllr Jones, who received complaints under the clause a few years ago when he called two constituents d**kheads, succeeded in replacing this section with the Nolan Principles of Public Life. In a paper, he argued the ‘respect’ clause ‘may be difficult to measure and may inhibit vigorous political debate’.
The Tory council leader was also successful in making it harder to get a public petition debated at full council – at the moment it takes 1,500 names but in future 1% of the population would be required (3,310 names) with the council leader/chief executive to decide if it goes to the full council or the Tory executive.
Labour member Cllr Powell, who is packing in politics after the May 7 election to become a comedian, told a meeting of the full council: “This shouldn’t be here tonight. It’s an absolute joke and I’m supposed to be the one who tells them!”
And Cllr Powell must have been watching BBC Question Time when left-wing comedian Russell Brand dubbed fellow panellist and UKIP leader Nigel Farage a ‘Poundshop Enoch Powell’ in reference to the late politician’s anti-immigration stance.
He continued: “I was wondering how to describe him (Mike Jones) and do you know what, I didn’t have to use the d-word to do it, because I believe in respecting other people in this chamber. I don’t know why you’re sighing, Cllr Jones has sworn at constituents in a public meeting and he’s treated people with contempt throughout his leadership. One last word, he’s a Poundshop Stalin.”
Addressing the Tory group, Cllr Reggie Jones said: “I feel this is Match of the Day because this, if you agree, is a spectacular own goal for you lot, with the leader of the council sent off for persistent foul and abusive language.”
Lib Dem member Cllr Bob Thompson was concerned at changes to the rules demanding more signatures to get public petitions debated at full council saying such discussions had ‘enriched’ the chamber and provided a link between the residents of the borough and its council.
Cllr Justin Madders argued the changes would place ‘more power’ in the hands of the council leader. He added: “Why bring this just before the election? Why not go into the election and say we want, as a Conservative Party, to shut down debate even more than we have already. We want to insult people with impunity and see what the public think of you then.”
Labour opposition leader Samantha Dixon commented: “The Nolan principles are already enshrined in the Code of Conduct with the addition of ‘respect’. What you are actually doing is removing ‘respect’ with this motion. There are no two ways about it.”
Deputy Tory council leader Eveleigh Moore Dutton hit back: “When Cllr Reg Jones turned round and pointed his finger and said ‘And you lot’, was that respectful? No. When Cllr Powell called Cllr Jones a ‘Poundshop something or other’, was that respectful? No. We can all take offence endlessly and it simply snarls up the work we need to do.”
Conservative council leader Mike Jones argued the current system was being ‘abused’ by the Labour Party. While not identifying her by name, but clearly talking about Labour opposition leader Cllr Dixon, he claimed she had been ‘completely disrespectful’ towards his colleague Cllr Lynn Riley during a past meeting concerning a decision taken by council management not politicians.
“When I gave the reply, because Cllr Riley wasn’t here, I was then called a she, rather than a he, because she was not able to change what she was reading into something sensible.
“I also pointed out that I’m not sure why she was making it a party political item because it was an officer decision, therefore why make it political, and particularly as she had lost the opportunity to be selected as PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate) for Labour in Chester.
“She then wrote and reported me for not being respectful after she had been so disrespectful to Cllr Riley. That’s the way the Labour Party is using this. The number of complaints by the Labour Party and probably Labour activists against the Conservatives is appalling.
“I think what we should be doing is following LGA practice of sticking to no more and no less than the Nolan principles, it’s as simple as that.”
He ‘reminded’ Cllr Madders the authority was ‘incredibly open and transparent’ and the measures were not about putting power into the hands of the council leader.
“The powers of the leader are very clearly set out by legislation,” he added.