If Boston Borough councillors were so distressed at being called dummies why on earth did they spend so much time and taxpayers’ money proving they were exactly that at last week’s special meeting demanding the resignation of Mayor Brian Rush?
Councillor Rush was ordered to quit after being accused of posting offensive and political comments on his Facebook page.
The motion calling for him to go added that he had caused “significant personal distress to those named” and demeaned the great office that is The Worshipful the Mayor of Boston.
As is customary in kangaroo courts such as this, the Mayor was not in the chamber to hear the charges against him – having to leave the meeting that he would normally chair because of what Worst Street termed “a disclosable pecuniary interest.”
Reports of the meeting that followed can be found all over the place – in our local newspapers as well as local radio and television – so we won’t go through it all again.
Some wishy-washy allegations – several made when Councillor Rush was not even the Mayor and another ineptly deemed as possibly racist – set the crocodile tears flowing as the trial progressed.
Aggrieved councillors spoke of their hurt.
We never knew that some of them were such sensitive wallflowers.
And whilst the meeting was ostensibly public, attendees must have been baffled by the proceedings – especially as although little by way of evidence materialised to support the charges against Councillor Rush, the councillors had been presented with a sheaf of allegations for their eyes only.
One of the few voices of sanity was that of Councillor Barrie Pierpoint – who as deputy Mayor chaired the meeting in Councillor Rush’s enforced absence – but who stressed that he spoke as a councillor only.
The motion was proposed by the council leader, Michael Cooper, seconded by Conservative Councillor David Brown with the required number made up of Councillor Alison Austin, a so-called Independent, UKIP Councillor Sue Ransome, the Vice-Chairman of BTAC, and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee, and deputy leader Councillor Aaron Spencer, who is also portfolio older for finance.
Councillor Pierpoint said that there was no supporting documentation in relation to the motion – and asked why this information wasn’t attached.
He said he had spoken to some councillors when the notice came out and most had no real idea what the reasoning was behind the motion.
“Firstly, I was told it was to do with Mr Rush criticising some Lincolnshire county councillors in Boston.
“It looks as though another item was added as an afterthought, to do with supposed racist comments.
“This is all very vague, hearsay and mixed messages.
“To me, this has been handled most unprofessionally and I would like to have seen the motion explained in detail.”
He asked why Councillor Rush wasn’t invited to a meeting with his accusers – adding: “These five clearly lack the guts to tackle Mr Rush directly on these issues, and I am fearful they may have had some other hidden agenda.”
He said that a Facebook article where Councillor Rush was very critical of county councillors being inactive on behalf of Boston borough appeared beneath his own name and not as a councillor, nor the Mayor, and added: “It looks as if the so-called racist item was added to the motion as an afterthought, considering the article was published in 2016, and Mr Rush re-sent it with his own views in the same year.
“Why has it taken two years for this to be brought up now?
“Mr Rush was not the mayor at that time, and as far as I am aware nor did the item mention he was a councillor.”
His conclusion was damning.
“As for wasting taxpayer’s money, wasting officers’ time, wasting councillors’ time, wasting police time… and tarnishing the borough council and the role of Mayor, the actions of these five councillors have demeaned the role of Mayor, Boston borough council and its councillors.
Councillor Pierpoint added: “In my opinion this is not a motion, this is a direct personal attack on Mr Rush.”
And at this point he said that he felt bound to do the “honourable” thing and resign immediately from the independent group and asked all councillors to consider their position, and examine their conscience carefully.
Why then, did it come as no surprise that 21 councillors voted for the motion, only two voted against and one abstained?
Because that’s the way the council works in Worst Street – forget democracy, forget wanting to see the background before you vote.
Just do as you’re told.
From the moment the meeting was called, Councillor Rush insisted that he had done nothing wrong, and that whilst the meeting could demand his resignation he was under no obligation to submit it.
But it was thanks to the wiliness of Councillor Richard ‘Dick Dastardly’ Austin that a mechanism was created to ensure Councillor Rush would still get a rough ride.
Austin proposed an addition to the motion, seconded by Aaron Spencer (what a loyal and trusty deputy that man is) to withdraw administrative support if the meeting agreed the Mayor should resign and he refused – which would leave him without a wealth of essential help and make the job all but impossible.
Presumably, though the people who work for the Mayor will be put on unpaid sabbatical if the idea comes to fruition and their services aren’t needed for a couple of months.
So what about Councillor Pierpoint’s suggestion that there were personal undertones to the move to unseat the Mayor?
We know that Councillor Rush has not been popular with many of his peers in the council chamber, and has also been something of a political chameleon – nor do we believe is he particularly liked by some officers.
You need a very long memory to recall the bad old days of the Boston Bypass Independents – but it is exactly ten years ago that our local “newspapers” reported on a night when ‘unseemly behaviour and personal insults’ filled the council chamber.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Councillor Rush was one of two BBI members to quit the party at that meeting sometime after being sacked from the cabinet after speaking out against the leadership.
The leader then was of course none other than ... Councillor Richard ‘Papa Dick’ Austin,
The number of defectors swelled to five during that year – and after that life for the BBI was a slippery downhill slope ending as an ignominious footnote in political history books.
Is it mere co-incidence that two of the most prominent councillors involved in Councillor Rush’s fall from grace are Alison and Richard Austin – and we can also think of another couple within the group who called on him to quit who would be pleased to see the Mayor bright to heel.
Certainly, Councillor Pierpoint has a peer point!
The man who proposed the original motion – council leader Michael Cooper – showed that he has a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with the media.
In an impressively inept radio interview with the BBC he abruptly concluded matters by demanding that the reporter left the room.
Her “crime” was to point out that there were people in Boston who are sleeping rough, and to ask why councillors weren’t as concerned about them as they were about entries on Facebook.
MC: I’m not answering that question because that’s not what we’re here to do.
BBC: I think it’s an honest question in the interests of the public. Do you want to go on record as saying you’re refusing to answer?
MC: No (asks reporter to leave sotto voce.)
BBC: Aren’t you playing into the public perception that this is incredibly petty?
MC: You can leave …
As a one-time radio journalist, I can say that there is nothing nicer than a jumped-up, arrogant, overweening individual who thinks he sits Dextera Domini and treats hacks as lowlife.
When a newspaper reporter is given no comment and asked to leave, the result is an unemotional paragraph.
But when that same interviewee does a Cooper on tape or film we get an entirely different picture – and in this case it wasn’t a flattering one.
Cooper failed to realise that when you talk to a newspaper reporter, or a radio and television journalist, you are talking directly to the man/woman in the street – who in an instant can form a view of the sort of person you are.
And we weren't surprised at what most people who heard the BBC interview told us.
Time for some media training Mr Cooper.
An interesting take on last Monday’s meeting came from former Conservative Councillor Mike Gilbert – now the man behind the new Blue Revolution political party.
He described last week’s meeting as “a sad example of the power of party politics.
“It allowed a range of party grandees to round in his absence on Councillor Brian Rush whose attitude towards his fellow councillors was considered too 21st century for his essentially 16th century council role as Mayor.
“As a ratepayer, I felt like I had financed what at times seemed like a “Kangaroo Court" rather than a council meeting.
“The evidence on the ‘indictment’ was non-existent with various comments relating to feelings of upset, the embarrassment of councillors or the making of inappropriate remarks on social media.
“At no point did councillors make a link with specific wrongdoing being committed whilst undertaking the duties of Mayor.
“I am afraid in the 21st century with the widespread use of social media Mayoral duties have come to the end of their day.
“The Mayor should be judged only on his impartiality when robed or on ceremonial duty, the rest of the time should be considered his.
“Perhaps 16th century expectations are the problem in the 21st century.
“Finally, as a councillor in 2007, I remember the Conservative group objecting to a constitutional change that required the Mayor to be selected by council vote and not "Buggins turn" as was the tradition.
“The Boston Bypass Independents eventually introduced this change, only for the Conservative group to adopt "Buggins turn" again when they returned to power in 2011.
“The Austins were passionate advocates of the BBI approach and cited "the wrong kind of chap" getting to be Mayor under the traditional and Conservative approach.
“Rather than a retrospective attempt to unseat the Mayor or rather get the Mayor to unseat himself, a better debate would have been for the Austins to once again challenge the system of Mayoral selection.
“That would have required some serious, considered and thoughtful debate – and not the collective 'stick the boot in' of Monday 12th February 2018.”
And still keeping in touch from 375 miles away is former Boston Borough Councillor Carol Taylor, who said: “Please allow me to convey my best wishes to the worshipful the mayor councillor Brian Rush. I sincerely hope that he will show the good people of Boston just how vindictive, spiteful and nasty some councillors can be. (I was on the receiving end of this behaviour many times!)
“Councillor Alison Austin has always had a personal dislike of Brian Rush so her opinion is purely subjective.
“As for Aaron Spencer, what a great shame that this young councillor has been taken in by these old school councillors.
“When Councillor Spencer was elected back in 2011 as one of the youngest councillors in the country, Councillor Bedford recognised qualities in him that many of us didn't see and offered him tremendous opportunities to develop his political career. I always thought that Aaron would have been a future candidate for MP for Boston and Skegness.
“I am not so sure now.”
Just a reminder that polling day for the Old Leake and Wrangle by-election is on Thursday.
The seat has become vacant through the departure of Conservative Maureen Dennis who shared electoral honours in 2015 with UKIP-cum-Unaligned-cum-Independent-cum-Unaligned Councillor Barrie Pierpoint. Four candidates fought the seat on that occasion – with the other two being Tory and UKIP.
This time around there are four candidates yet again – but from four different parties.
Local farmer Tom Ashton – who already sits on three other councils – is standing for the Conservatives; Joseph Pearson, also from Wrangle, represents Labour; Don Ransome of Boston is standing for UKIP and Richard Thornalley – also of Boston – represents the Blue Revolution Party.
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