Lynda Hyde’s ‘jokes’ no laughing matter

While I was away a leading Tory councillor, Lynda Hyde, was accused of, and apologised for, sending offensive jokes to members of the public. They included a number of jokes about non-English speaking doctors and pantomime actors being sexually abused. Nice one, Lynda.

Councillor Hyde explained her actions to The Leader (the newspaper, not Geoffrey Theobald): “I get many emails sent to my Council address. Some of these unfortunately contain inappropriate material and when I become aware of this I always delete them. From what I remember of this particular email, it contained a long list of jokes, not all of which I read. A couple of the jokes at the beginning of the email were quite amusing and so I forwarded them on to a few friends and colleagues. We often share jokes like this, and I view it as a bit of harmless banter.

“If I had been aware of the nature of the jokes further down the email I would have deleted the whole thing and would not have forwarded it to anybody. I regret this oversight on my part and if it has caused offence to anybody then I sincerely apologise.”

Labour and Co-operative councillor, Warren Morgan, has called on councillor Hyde to consider her position. He is quoted as saying: “There is no place for this kind of racist, homophobic, disrespectful and divisive material in today’s society, not least at a troubled time when we are trying to bring communities together. No elected politician should be associating themselves with this kind of material and if they are they should consider their position.”

Councillor Hyde is definitely guilty of one thing, foolishness. If she did not know the content of the email she should not have forwarded it. Ignorance is no defence.

Whether it was from a council email address or not is not relevant. Telling an offensive joke in the privacy of ones home is as bad as telling such a joke in public.

There is now the question of a referral to the Council’s Standards Committee. I hope she is not referred. The Standards Committee is a costly and undemocratic arrangement that allows politicians to sit in judgement on their opponents (and enemies in their own party). I opposed the action taken against Jason Kitcat (for posting video clips from a Council meeting on You Tube), the referral of Dawn Barnett (for her political stunt of referring travellers to Green-held wards), or Lynda Hyde (for distributing offensive jokes). No panel should have the right to suspend a councillor from representing their constituents.

There are three groups who could stand in judgement on the actions of councillors:

First, the councillor’s own political group which is judged by it’s membership. If a councillor’s actions aren’t supported or cannot be defended by the majority of that group, he or she should have the whip withdrawn, temporarily or permanently (or in the case of the Greens, expelled from the Green group, with or without their protracted mediation processes).

Second,the full Council who should remove a councillor from representing the Council in an official capacity or serving on a particular or all committees.

Third, the electorate, the most important judges of elected representatives. If the good folk of Rottingdean Coastal are happy that councillor Hyde has circulated offensive material, even unknowingly, they can support her at the ballot box. Labour and the Greens should make this an electoral issue.

Of course it would be best of all if the electorate had the power of recall, but that is debate for another day.

7 Responses

  1. I fully agree that the Standards Committee is an unecessarily beurecratic way of dealing with this dismal story. Let us hope that all of the Cllrs recognise this as a warning and should any of them do similarly that the full Council acts appropriately.

  2. Just to make a couple of things clear; I was shown the jokes by The Argus and asked to comment on them without being told which councillor had circulated them. Cllr Hyde has apologised and I won’t be referring her to Standards.

    I’ve been accused, rather predictably, of lacking a sense of humour, largely by people who haven’t seen the “jokes”. That’s fine, but I stand by my comments. Humour is a vital but difficult thing, and the context, intent, origin and audience for jokes are important Everyone should be able to laugh at themselves, but offensive and disparaging “humour” directed at other groups in society is wrong and dangerous..

    The Standards Committee is imperfect, but the current government is abolishing the requirement on councils to have one, as well as the Standards Board for England to which serious cases of misconduct are referred. After the issues raised through the MPs expenses scandal, I wonder how the public would feel if they knew that beyond the law there are now almost no constraints on the conduct of councillors or mechanisms by which to hold them to account?

  3. “Telling an offensive joke in the privacy of ones home is as bad as telling such a joke in public.”

    I think you need to reconsider your logic here BPB.

    If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

    If a joke is told and no-one who hears it is offended by it, can it be an offensive joke? If not – then you are simply wrong, if so then who is the universal or global arbiter of what is offensive and what is not?

    • I don’t agree. It is as bad because it is hypocritical. The personal is political. If a person thinks they can get away with something because if is said or done in private, but they wouldn’t do it or say it in public for fear of criticism, then they are hypocrites. It you in you public UKIP capacity wouldn’t do something in the hope UKIP might appear respectable, but behave in such a way in private, you would concede that that would be hypocritical, wouldn’t you? BPB

      • There are many jokes that might offend one of my maiden aunts, jokes that I would happily tell in other company. Hypocritical? I don’t think so.

        If someone showed my maiden aunts a video/email of a joke I told and the aunt was offended by it – then the ‘someone’ is guilty of offending them – not me.

        After all if the ‘someone’ isn’t guilty then neither am I – it is surely the original author of the joke who is to blame – I only repeated it, just as the innocent ‘someone’ did.

        You might judge people on the jokes they find funny, but not by the jokes they tell/pass on. People tell jokes/pass them on in the hope/expectation that the audience will find them funny – a reflection of the tellers judgement of their audience (if that) – and only if they have actually read them, and know what they are…

  4. I think a lot is being written about a little. I’m sure she meant no offense and regrets it. That is all that matters.There are more important things to worry about. I’d like to know who felt the need to make it public anyway. A quiet word is all that’s needed.

  5. Agree that essentially there doesn’t seem to be much to see here. But I am intrigued that, apropos of his opposition to the Standards Committee, the blogger does not mention the case of Peter Willows. My memory fails me on this -did the Conservative group suspend him or not?

    Of the alternative sanctions the blogger mentions, they are only going to work if the group/council/electorate involved are of a political mind to act. In practice, when are the electors of Rottingdean ever going to not elect a Conservative? And when is a political group with a narrow majority going to suspend a councillor?

    I think recall (‘ree-call’ – ugh!) elections would be considerably worse than the standards committee – and certainly more expensive, which was one of your objections. Look at the one that happened in California with Arnie – very, very politically motivated, and Grey Davis (the sitting governnor) was never found guilty of corruption. It is a system open to all kinds of abuse that has unfortunately become fashionable, simply because it fits the bill for being seen to do something.

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