A right unholy spat took place at the meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday night, and it is being suggested that legal action might be taken by two party leaders.
Before proceding any further, can I make it 100% clear, Council leader Mary Mears has no family connection whatsoever to Mears Maintenance Group which has a £200 million contract to provide property maintenance for all City Council housing properties.
Regular readers may have noticed that I am not a Tory but I respect politicians of that party who are competent. Labour and Green activists are known to rubbish, even mock, Mary Mears. More fools are they. In all my time of observing Brighton politics (back to the heady days of Steve Bassam’s leadership of the Council), there have been fewer politicians as able as Mary Mears. Energetic, focused and ruthless, Mary’s leadership will mean that Tory losses in May will not be as extreme as they might have been.
So what happened at the Council meeting? Mary alleged that opposition councillors had been spreading a falsehood that she was connected to the property maintnance company. When pressed, she is said to have named Labour leader Gill Mitchell but later withdrew this counter allegation.
Both are considering legal action, but a more likely outcome will be reference to the standards committee. False allegations about contracts and family connections are serious and potentially very damaging, but you makes them at your peril. Naming a political opponent for spreading falsehoods is not at all attractive, but it isn’t in the same class as alleging corruption. Name calling is an ugly part of the cut and thrust of sectarian discours and Gill Mitchell should treat it as water off a duck’s back.
Regarding name calling, it was a lively Council meeting, as is usual in the run-up to a local election. There were a couple of lovely soundbites, as reported in today’s Argus. Green convenor, councillor Bill Randall (one of the Council’s few heavy weights, politically of course) said: “I do not believe that the Tories are evil but they are happy to do the devil’s work”. In response, Conservative councillor Tony Janio (who is another reason why the Tories will defend key seats in May) described the Green Party as “nuttier than a nutty fruit cake”. And finally, Tory Ayas Fallon-Khan described the Labour Group as “gutless” and “clueless”.